Barcelona & Beaches

We have crossed the border into Spain! Apologies for the delayed post but since getting to Spain we've been on the move nearly every day, with a large distance to cover in just one month. 

Firstly we decided to stop in Barcelona to meet a friend Georgia from a previous workaway, and we loved the city when we visited it 3 years ago. We explored the Gothic Quarter, marvelled at Gaudy architecture and revisited the musical fountains at night.  A highlight was finding a local tapas bar on the outskirts of the city where we got free tapas with every beer for €1.80! 

From Barcelona we had one week to drive over 700 miles, down the coast and inland to Murcia where we had arranged for some volunteering in the Andalusian mountains. 

The first day we drove 6hrs to just outside of Valencia, parking for the night by the beach in Bennacissim. From there we had another long day on the road to Javea where we had read up on the best beaches in Spain. And we were not disappointed with our second stop at La Granadalla Beach.

With so many beautiful coves to see and such little time we skirted round the coast enjoying the vista's, warm weather and bracing ourselves in the Mediterranean Sea. Happy with our decision to be in Spain for November!

Cala Granadalla Javea 

Cala Granadalla Javea 

En route to our workaway we met up with a reader of the blog, Phil, who happened to be in Alicante. We had a great night with a beer and dinner at the marina before heading off to Murcia. Thanks Phil! 

Landscaping in a beautiful landscape at Los Gazquez. 

Landscaping in a beautiful landscape at Los Gazquez. 

Our workaway was in the remote Andalusian Mountains, the nearest village of Velez Blanco being nearly an hour away. We spent 2 weeks here helping with a permaculture project for one of the artists. The place was an Eco art retreat with beautiful landscape to inspire its resident artists, and we got to share their inspiration and had a great time with them which we won't forget.  

With the weather still hot and sunny we couldn't resist another trip to the coast to check out a 'pirate hippy bay' recommended to us by our friend in Bordeaux. We had to see it with our own eyes to believe that there were a group of hippies inhabiting an abandoned pirate cove since the 60s. Not only this but that the only way to get three was by boat, or an hours trek over the mountains...We were excited. 

Abandon fort at San Pedro 

Abandon fort at San Pedro 

We learnt several stories about San Pedro's history; it being abandoned by locals moving to the larger town nearby, or a fishing village hit by a devastating storm,  or a safehaven for pirates to launch their attacks! (this is the one we liked the best). What we found was today a truly unique community of people are living a simple life in abandoned caves and ruins and even some in tents, with a natural spring for water and a secluded cove for their doorstep...Paradise?

San Pedro Pirate Hippy bay

San Pedro Pirate Hippy bay

As much as we would've loved to stay, vans not allowed so we had to find our own slice of paradise around the next bay with our own ocean doorstep. 

Parking on the beach at Playa del Playazo

Parking on the beach at Playa del Playazo

Green Horizons

Our next stop was at 'Green Horizons' in Puivert with our Workaway host Ruth.  We ended up staying for over a week and helped by buildIng a sheep fence and shelter and completing the finishing touches on the polytunnel.  Ruth is a great host and follows the practices of permaculture and sustainablity.  Her place is really beautiful and we had a great time going on walks, helping with the animals and learning about the rich local history of The Cathar's.  We even took a couple of days out to sightsee in the local area and goto a county fair, which was great fun, more wine and food!

The new sheep shelter in place

The new sheep shelter in place

Montsegur.  I left my camera at the bottom, so this ones courtesy of Google images. 

Montsegur.  I left my camera at the bottom, so this ones courtesy of Google images. 

Montsegur is an incredible place, and where The Cathar's had their last stand.  A must see if you're  in the area! 

Montsegur is an incredible place, and where The Cathar's had their last stand.  A must see if you're  in the area! 

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After Ruths we made our way west to Seres-Sur-Arget to another Workaway host, an Australian woman called Cat living alone in the French countryside.  Cat runs a small holding and teaches yoga and circus classes.  Her place was a very different Workaway experience with no hot water, shower and basic meals.  It was intresting...The work included Lime rendering some walls and also basic tasks like collecting wood, mulching fruit trees, fixing a fence and preparing meals.

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Runner ducks

Runner ducks

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Designing a poster for Cats circus classes. 

Designing a poster for Cats circus classes. 

After a few days at Cats we drove west again to St Girons to goto the great market we had heard so much about.  It was definitely our favourite market so far, so much variety and a real sense of community.  The town is also very picturesque.  At the end of the market we asked any stall holders if we could have any food they were going to throw away, we ended up with more then we could carry and it lasted us another three or four days!  After St Girons we headed South and up the mountain towards Oust to visit a couple of friends, Bill and Susie's,  holiday home for a night.  Thanks Bill and Susie, your place is stunning!

Great smells and tastes at St Girons market. 

Great smells and tastes at St Girons market. 

St Girons

St Girons

Bill and Susie's  

Bill and Susie's  

More delicious bread and incredible views on route.

More delicious bread and incredible views on route.

Col de Port viewpoint  

Col de Port viewpoint  

Our next stop was Ax Les Thermes. On the way we stopped off at a viewpoint 'Col de Port' and took a hike up the mountain to witness some More incredible views.  A few hours later and after getting a bit lost we made it to the top.  The views really were breathtaking!

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360 degree views from the top

360 degree views from the top

And the views kept coming! 

And the views kept coming! 

That evening we made it to Ax Les Thermes.  Ax Les Thermes is a ski resort town, and even though it is out of season it still had a really nice feel about it.  We splashed out for a dip in their famous hot baths, Including sauna and steam rooms, a real treat and a great way to spend €8 I highly recommend it if your in the area.  The next day we made our way to Andorra, a tax free country.  Andorra is a bit of a strange place, but worth visiting just for the very cheap fuel and alcohol. €0.84 a litre of diesel and around €4 a litre of any spirit imaginable straight out of a barrel and into a plastic jug!

We filled up with cheap diesel!
We filled up with cheap diesel!
They sell this in the supermarkets... 

They sell this in the supermarkets... 

You can even buy Duff beer! 

You can even buy Duff beer! 

We passed back into France through snow capped mountains!

We passed back into France through snow capped mountains!

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After a night in Andorra and stocked up with cheap spirits and fuel we made our way back into France to a place called  Thues Entre Valls to spend the night and to try and find some free hot springs a friend had told us about.  After another epic 4 hour hike up a mountain and no luck we realised we had gone the wrong way and had to turn back and ask for directions, trading the sale of a couple of beers at a local bar for information. 45 minutes later we finally stumbled across the hot springs. A great way to finish the day.

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Views on the walk/hike

Views on the walk/hike

Chilling in the hot spring after another EPIC hike #thevandiaries #vandiaries #pyrenees #travel #andorra #hotsprings #photograhpy #views #markets #food #stgirons #greenhorizons #axlesthermes

Chilling in the hot spring after another EPIC hike

#thevandiaries #vandiaries #pyrenees #travel #andorra #hotsprings #photograhpy #views #markets #food #stgirons #greenhorizons #axlesthermes

Further South

After Carcassonne we headed south to Cailhu to meet Paul and Hedy, a very kind couple who follow our blog and invited us to come and stay. Having spent time traveling in a motorhome around Europe themselves they knew only too well the need for a break and generously offered us a place to to rest and refresh for a couple of days. After almost 11 weeks on the road we happily accepted. We enjoyed the luxury of a comfy bed, warm shower, home cooked food and great company. They even lent us their mountain bikes to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside. We are eternally grateful! Thank you.

View of Cailhu village with it's striking church with green tiles

View of Cailhu village with it's striking church with green tiles

A short stop at the top of the village to look at the amazing views.

A short stop at the top of the village to look at the amazing views.

Another viewpoint where we could see the start of The Pyrenees and Andorra.

Paul and Hedy

Paul and Hedy

Our resting place in the mountains, aptly named Pilgrim's Nest

Our resting place in the mountains, aptly named Pilgrim's Nest

A climb to the peak where we could see Eddy's Nest in the distance

At the market with Eddy

At the market with Eddy

An awesome band playing at the market

An awesome band playing at the market

Delicious local treats and lots of interesting things at the market

Delicious local treats and lots of interesting things at the market

From Paul and Hedy's we drove high into the mountains to meet a guy called Eddy. A pilgrim, photographer, musician and nature lover who loves to bring people together by generously opening his place to all 'pilgrims' on the road. We spent a couple of nights sharing meals and conversations and exploring the surrounding forests. Then visited a local renowned Sunday market at the village of Esparaza. Here we sampled local meats, cheeses, olives and bread. It felt like a home from home with similarities to Stroud's Saturday Farmer's Market. 

Quillan

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#vandiaries #vanliving #travel #pyrenees #esparaza #carcassonne #vanlife

Toulouse to Carcassonne

We have finally sorted out our Mifi dongle from Three so can hopefully post updates more easily to the blog.

After 5 weeks of work we finished the vendange In Sauterns and headed to Bordeaux to meet our friend Jules and also get our van painted by a couple of graffiti artists we had previously met.  Alber V Times and Zarb Full Color.  

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We were picking the mouldy grapes known as noble rot to make the speciality sweet wine the region is famous for. 

We were picking the mouldy grapes known as noble rot to make the speciality sweet wine the region is famous for. 

Alber VTimes

Alber VTimes

Zarb Full Color

Zarb Full Color

We made our way to Montauban near Toulouse to try and find some work picking apples, but unfortunately found out that the season had just finished.  

The next day we drove to Toulouse and caught an underground metro into the city centre and had a look around.  Toulouse had a very different feel to Bordeaux in terms of the architecture and style.

The bridge over the river La Garonne

The bridge over the river La Garonne

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Place du Capitole

Place du Capitole

Basilica St Sernin

Basilica St Sernin

Inside the church

Inside the church

Today we headed to Carcossonne, a mix between Game Of Thrones and Disney Land.  A very beautiful walled city just south of Toulouse.

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Lots of shops selling sweets, souvenirs and tat to tourists. 

Lots of shops selling sweets, souvenirs and tat to tourists. 

#GOT

#GOT

Carcassonne at night

Carcassonne at night

We are now looking to find some Woofing or Workaway work in the Pyrenees region over the next couple of weeks, next post coming soon!

#thevandiaries #AlberVTimes #Zarbfullcolor #Vanlife #Toulouse #Carcassonne #vandiaries

Let there be light

We had a couple of days off work so drove back to La Reole to try and find someone who might be able to fix our solar panel, but instead we randomly met a really cool guy called Franciose who helped us fit a new window to the side of the van...

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The new window in the bed area. 

The new window in the bed area. 

An upside down rainbow shone upon us whilst we worked.

An upside down rainbow shone upon us whilst we worked.

Hopefully the window will improve air circulation during the hot weather.

Hopefully the window will improve air circulation during the hot weather.

Franciose Is very generous and we somehow even ended up with a new surfboard!  

Franciose Is very generous and we somehow even ended up with a new surfboard!  

He even gave us some homemade sushi!

He even gave us some homemade sushi!

His back yard is a boy's dream.  A REALLY cool tree house with a zip line across the land, lots of broken down cars, vans, motorbikes and even a speedboat.  There are pigs and chickens mixed with antique furniture and over 100 broken flatscreen TVs (that are apparently being repaired)...Franciose is a bit of an eccentric character, but very kind and was extremely happy to show us around. 

His back yard is a boy's dream.  A REALLY cool tree house with a zip line across the land, lots of broken down cars, vans, motorbikes and even a speedboat.  There are pigs and chickens mixed with antique furniture and over 100 broken flatscreen TVs (that are apparently being repaired)...Franciose is a bit of an eccentric character, but very kind and was extremely happy to show us around. 

La Reole at night, a really beautiful medevial town.

La Reole at night, a really beautiful medevial town.

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We stopped off at a great food market in La Reole and a really nice lake on the way back to Sauterns for a long walk and picnic lunch.

We stopped off at a great food market in La Reole and a really nice lake on the way back to Sauterns for a long walk and picnic lunch.

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Fresh coffee at the market. 

Fresh coffee at the market. 

Everyday we are trying to improve at least one thing in the van to make living more comfortable and it's beginning to feel like a real home.  Today, I made a fold out table in the kitchen area for some extra worktop space.

Everyday we are trying to improve at least one thing in the van to make living more comfortable and it's beginning to feel like a real home.  Today, I made a fold out table in the kitchen area for some extra worktop space.

I also made a shelf to keep our bits and bobs out the way whilst cooking. 

I also made a shelf to keep our bits and bobs out the way whilst cooking. 

Back to Bordeaux

Sorry for the late update.  Due to some mechanical problems and the French taking August off for holidays we ended up staying in Bordeaux for a lot longer than originally planned!  However, it gave us the chance to really explore the city and outskirts, goto some free music concerts and festivals and make some new friends. 

Bordeaux is a really beautiful city and has some stunning architecture.

Bordeaux is a really beautiful city and has some stunning architecture.

We spent the day slack lining at Lake Blue. About 30 minutes drive from Bordeaux. A beautiful blue lake with sandy beaches, but sadly no swimming! 

We spent the day slack lining at Lake Blue. About 30 minutes drive from Bordeaux. A beautiful blue lake with sandy beaches, but sadly no swimming! 

Relach festival was really fun, its a free music festival in different areas of Bordeaux city centre and has a variety of music.

Relach festival was really fun, its a free music festival in different areas of Bordeaux city centre and has a variety of music.

Garage Modern. A really cool place that allows you to work cheaply with a mechanic to learn how to fix your vehicle. Sadly they don't take campervans, but a really cool idea and building!  We were hoping to get another window fitted.

Garage Modern. A really cool place that allows you to work cheaply with a mechanic to learn how to fix your vehicle. Sadly they don't take campervans, but a really cool idea and building!  We were hoping to get another window fitted.

A great read at Garage Modern. 

A great read at Garage Modern. 

There's a lot of really good graffiti and artwork over the river in Darwin. 

There's a lot of really good graffiti and artwork over the river in Darwin. 

Just because we live in a van doesn't mean we don't eat well! 😄 

Just because we live in a van doesn't mean we don't eat well! 😄 

Parked up in La Reole for a free music festival with our new French friend Jules, his 2 dogs Mishtor and Niggin and his 7.5T live in truck. 

Parked up in La Reole for a free music festival with our new French friend Jules, his 2 dogs Mishtor and Niggin and his 7.5T live in truck. 

We are now parked up about 45 minutes from Bordeaux in Saulterns, working picking grapes for a Chateaux making sweet wine.   There's a lot of different languages spoken at work, which makes it pretty interesting and it's a good mix of people.  We are currently parked up with a lot of Spanish also living in vans in a camp on the outskirts of the village.  Hopefully we will have work for about a month.

Vineyards for as far as the eyes can see. 

Vineyards for as far as the eyes can see. 

The camp..A lot of vans and even more dogs!

The camp..A lot of vans and even more dogs!

P.S We have currently had some problems with our solar panel and charge controller, so if anyone knows about these or have any contacts in France we would love to hear from you! 

P.S We have currently had some problems with our solar panel and charge controller, so if anyone knows about these or have any contacts in France we would love to hear from you! 

Bordeaux-Biscarrosse

We have spent over a week in Bordeaux now with a couple of days camping at Biscarrosse, a beautiful huge lake with sandy beaches about an hours drive from Bordeaux.  Sadly we have had some gearbox problems on the way, and an English mechanic called Andrew has suggested we might need a new gearbox as its leaking a lot of oil.  Unfortunately it turns out that almost every garage in France is away on their annual holidays at the moment and we will have to wait around until the end of August to hopefully get it seen.  At least it has given us a good chance to practice our French, experience the sites of Bordeaux and of course sample some of its wine.  Bordeaux is a beautiful city with some really stunning architecture, great markets and Quirky shops.  We hired bikes using the city's equivalent to 'Borris Bikes' which was a great way to explore and get around.

We have now also signed up to a website called Workaway (a woofing type site) and are hoping to get some work in the area in return for food and a place to park the van.  We are also looking into some grape picking work as soon as the season starts.

...Almost

...Almost

The Mirror, a clever public art installation down by the river. 

The Mirror, a clever public art installation down by the river. 

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A rather impressive statue  

A rather impressive statue  

Bordeaux is great for transport and really easy to get around with the tram system. 

Bordeaux is great for transport and really easy to get around with the tram system. 

Levitating street performers! 

Levitating street performers! 

All sorts of shops full of colourful cakes and deserts. 

All sorts of shops full of colourful cakes and deserts. 

The indoor food market. Everything looks so tasty. We bought some fresh tagliatelle for dinner and it tasted amazing!

The indoor food market. Everything looks so tasty. We bought some fresh tagliatelle for dinner and it tasted amazing!

All sorts of fish at the market.

All sorts of fish at the market.

The antiques market.  I bought a great poster/print of an underwater scene for the van, lightweight and a nice memento.

The antiques market.  I bought a great poster/print of an underwater scene for the van, lightweight and a nice memento.

A cool little bar we found on our bike ride on the other side of the river that has performances and music in the evenings. 

A cool little bar we found on our bike ride on the other side of the river that has performances and music in the evenings. 

Biscarrosse

Biscarrosse

#thevandiaries #france #bordeaux #vanliving #biscarrosse #vandiaries

Caen - Messac - Bordeaux

After making the ferry crossing safety from Portsmouth to Caen (apart from their computers going down and none of the tills working, meaning the bar was shut) we had a night at an Aires site and then headed straight down to Messac to meet up with Beth and Kieran for a couple of days on their families river boat.  We were soon greeted with lots of bread cheese, salami and beer in the sun, surrounded by sleepy French countryside. Tres bien! Next stop Bordeaux.

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Uttapams for breakfast. A southern Indian style pancake. 

Uttapams for breakfast. A southern Indian style pancake. 

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Bourg Des Comptes

Bourg Des Comptes

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Tintern Abbey

This weekend we took the van to visit the stunning Tintern Abbey, situated on the Welsh bank of The River Wye.

We have also finally booked the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen and leave on the 4th of August!

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

We stopped off for some lunch with a view. 

Viewpoint from Birdlip, Gloucestershire

Viewpoint from Birdlip, Gloucestershire