Heading South … 15/10

Leaving Bagnoles De L’Orne fully loaded with apples we headed south to the Loire to a little place called Avoine where we stopped on a tranquil Aire by the side of a lake (4 euros for 24 hours, plus 2 euros for each electric and water. GPS n.47,21292 e.0,17702). After a walk round the town and an impromptu investment in a bit of local wine we settled back at the motorhome to finish the last phase of our apple production line….. Spiced Apple Muffins which we hadn’t made before but were delicious – thank you Delia) Not too sweet and enough apple chunks for the texture and flavour to come through. The silicon muffin tray was a good investment last year …. we will definitely be doing those again as they appear to have evaporated!

Talking of which – recipes, not evaporation – as everyone knows we are doing our best to eat our way round Europe, I have decided to add a new ‘Recipe’ page to our Blog as several people have asked for recipes. I plan to add some of our frequently used recipes over the next few days and then going forwards, each time we make something that I haven’t added the recipe for I will update it and add the link to the blog … nothing fancy I am afraid but quick and easy and hopefully full of flavour!

After a tranquil night in Avoine we headed off walking through the vineyards into Chinon a pretty town which is on river Vienne, just 10km from where it joins the Loire.

Chinon is apparently known as the ‘Garden of France’ not only for its food but also for its red ‘Cabernet Franc’ wine. It is a historic town dating back to prehistoric times. The castle, which is quite imposing, has a lot of history itself. It was home to Henry II who was crowned King of England in 1154, but was later lost in 1205 to King Philip II Augustus of France, later serving as a prison….. it certainly holds quite an impression on Chinon itself.

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After our trip to Chinon and as the weather was looking nice (that means dry in our language) we decided to stay another night in Avoine and take the bikes along the Loire. We did a nice 2hr30min route of about 50km, cycling to a pretty little town called Langeais and back. Contrary to the forecast, the weather was a bit ‘moody’ although it still enabled us to remember why we like the Loire so much … there is something about a wide shallow river with all the contours, shapes and colours.

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We woke to rain which wasn’t part of the plan but as we had both been kept awake by a noisy mosquito we dozed a while longer than planned and as if by magic, 45 minutes later the rain had stopped…. perfect and just enough time for a quick round of hiit, shower and breakfast before hitting the road to Cognac where we had found a nice little Aire 5km North in a little town called Cherves-Richemont (GPS n.45,74032 e.0,35594) After parking up we had a nice little walk to admire the views over the valley before settling down for the night.

How is it that with seven high level cupboards in the motorhome we have only ever had one hinge go … twice? I wouldn’t say that we use that cupboard much more than all the others and before you ask, yes – it was replaced with a new one from the manufacturer last time ….. just odd, but yes we are grateful that only one has ever gone in nearly four years – we shouldn’t really complain!

The following morning, with no sunrise to mention, I had a rather fresh run through the misty vineyards. Thankfully there were some good rolling hills which helped get a bit of a sweat up as I needed a bowl of porridge to help me warm up by the time I got back … who said that it was going to be 25 degrees this week????

Warmed up but still no sign of the sun, we set off on a lovely walk through the vineyards into Cognac which I hate to say it, was a little disappointing. It has a lovely park in the centre with the ‘Hotel de Ville’ and a beautiful walk along the river, but as neither of us are fans of Cognac and the old town was a bit average there isn’t a huge pull for us to come back.

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With nothing else to do on a hot afternoon (or perhaps just because we had run out of snacks),  I set about making some Chocolate Sienna cake, a recipe that my mum dug out while we were home over the summer. It is a bit of a weird one and you need to like nuts and dried fruit but we think it is really tasty, not too sweet but with a nice chocolate hint …. its like a protein bar I guess although it wouldn’t have ever been made as one originally. It was the first attempt in the motorhome and despite looking slightly darker round the edges than I had hoped, it tastes the good, although Keith has cut fairly good sized portions so it won’t last long!

In the morning we both set off on our Saturday morning run’s in different directions; Keith got the ‘Morning Mist’ and I got ‘Burning Cognac’ as the sky behind Cognac looked like it was on fire, absolutely stunning sunrise….. I still love my morning runs!

After a bit of deliberating we decided that we would head over the boarder this weekend. Initially it was due to the rain but the forecast appears to have changed for the better and we have decided to continue with the plan anyway. We wanted to cross through the Western Pyrenees this time – hence wanting the weather to be clear if at all possible – so our last stop in France was Camping Vieux Plantain in Dax (10 euros plus 2 euros electricity GPS n.43,70161 w.1,01443). A lovely quiet campsite 3km outside Dax with excellent facilities. The only downside was that we had additional guests who decided to join us for our Bar B Q – whoop whoop …. so, nice to be able to cook outdoors – the uninvited guests however were tiger mosquitos …. the little buggers. The Bar B Q was tasty and apparently so was I….. 😦

Thankfully we either managed to kill any remaining mosquitos before we went to bed or they were so fat on my blood that they didn’t stir during the night as there wasn’t any buzzing…. nor any additional bites.

Despite a mildew on the ground it was far warmer this morning so we took the call to start the day in shorts ….. the right choice! As we headed towards the Pyrenees the temperature rose and even as we climbed up it didn’t really fall below about 20. A beautiful and easy journey enabling us to stop briefly just before we entered the Sompard Tunnel leaving France to admire the view.

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Once through the tunnel and into Spain we headed to Jaca where we had stayed previously. Unfortunately as it is a warm weekend it appears that many a Spaniard had had the same idea and the Aire was full. Although we know many Spanish leave after lunch on a Sunday …. that could mean waiting for four or five hours (Spanish Sunday lunch can go on into early evening!) and rather than risk it, we stopped, ate our lunch and moved on to Sabinanigo 24kms further along the road.

Upon arriving at Sabinanigo we found that the Aire which is alongside the police station is closed for Firework preparation – just not our day today, so we moved onto Huesca which was another 60km away with continued beautiful montaineaous scenary.

Despite thinking that we haven’t been here before we worked out en route that we had, roughly 18 months ago but they have added a service area since we were here last time and unsurprisingly there were quite a few motorhomes here. (GPS n.42,1353 e.0,420295)

Last time we were here I went for a lovely run out into the countryside which was a designated walking/cycle route …. quite unusual for Spain so we set off to explore a bit more and walk the 10km circular route to stretch the legs a bit on Spanish soil.

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