it is difficult to get away from it all when you work on a holiday park. i’ve been saying to steve for a while that it would be good to get away on my own for a couple of days but i didn’t mean like this.

i was checking the luxury caravans on friday at around 1.30pm when i suddenly found myself on the floor at the bottom of the steps of caravan 2. i don’t know how i fell but all i can remember is landing on my left foot really heavily and then ending up with all my weight on my right foot. with both i remember thinking ‘this is really going to hurt’. i pulled up my right trouser leg and half thought the bone might be sticking through the skin of my ankle. thankfully it wasnt but my inner ankle wasnt in the right place at all.

before shock could set in i pushed the ankle back into place because it felt so wrong. then i used my mobile to calmly phone my manager bev in the office. i didnt know if i was going to faint or not but having put the call in it was fairly certain i wouldnt remain undiscovered for days. actually bev was there in about 30 seconds and the decision was made to call an ambulance. it seemed like a long wait but i was thankful for the comforting comments from bev and tarn and from community support officrs martin and rob. they did all the right things in not moving me and not letting me have any water to drink.

the paramedics, steve and steph (also pronounced steve) ,were a couple of cards as you would expect. they recommended i took plenty of gas and air before they even tried to move my foot. i was dubious at first as, strangely, i didnt have any real pain. steve assured me i soon would when they tried to lift me onto the stretcher. they made me take about 20 breaths on it before they would even touch me. suddenly you are at the best party going. i was keen to find out more about the guys and i suddenly realised (or so i was convinced) that i had seen the pair on a recent tv documentary all about paramedics called steve.


Party time (Gastes to Mimizan Plage)

Monday January 25 to Saturday January 30

Sunset at Mimizan Plage

We had met David and Anne briefly a couple of weeks ago – they are travelling in an RV with a little Fiat in tow. We had kept in touch by text and finally, it seemed, we were going to meet up. They recommended Mimizan plage because there was electricity, water and good facilities in general.

It was so different to the places we had stayed before, more like a campsite with many other British vans. The beach, just over the sand dunes, was breathtaking. We walked for miles and Jack absolutely loved it.

I don’t think either of us intended to stay quite so long there but we must have just felt like chilling out. No more searching for water or a place to dump the toilet – it was all here.

We got chatting to Lynda and Ken from Manchester and they invited us round to their RV for a drink on Wednesday night. We had such a laugh. They have been living in their motorhome full time for six years now and been all over Europe and beyond. What a place – it has a separate bedroom and a bath!

David and Anne

Steve, David and his little French bulldog Louis

Me with Lynda in the background

Lynda's husband Ken

Lynda informed us that they had had a problem with processional caterpillars a few days previously. The creatures can seriously harm or kill pets if they inhale the spores and they can also be a danger to humans.

They nest in pine trees so at least we are on our guard now.

By Saturday, January 30, we really had run out of excuses for staying at Mimizan Plage. We are supposed to be here to explore so must move on. We left at around 1pm and drove straight down the coast to Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains. We camped among the pine trees (after checking for caterpillars!) with an electric hook up for £5 a night. The beach was just across the road but the weather wasn’t great so we just had a quick walk around the town. It looked like it would be a lively place in the summer. We felt we were lucky to find a supermarket that was open.

That night I felt really homesick. I don’t know what brought it on. Maybe it was having such a lovely time with Lynda and the gang that reminded me of how much I miss everyone back home.

The next best thing to flying (Dune of Pilat and Gastes)

Sunday January 24

Dune of Pilat

Family day out in the dunes

The dune goes on and on

The long walk back

The Dune of Pilat was a fascinating place and such good fun. I was expecting a massive sand dune but I didn’t realise it was made of beautiful, clean sand, just like a desert. I thought you would walk up it, look at the view and come back down again. But when you are up that is only the beginning. You walk along the top for a good hour before you finally get to the highest point. In Shropshire we have the Wrekin to walk up on a Sunday afternoon and in these parts they have the Dune of Pilat.

It was certainly a great place to take children, although the adults seemed to be having just as much fun rolling down the banks. One group had even taken skies up.

The sun came out and the views were incredible, but it wasn’t until I came to descend the sand dune that the fun started. I think it is nearly 400 feet high and it is really difficult to walk up because for every two steps forward you take one step back.

On the way back down I ran really slowly and it was like a cross between flying and skiing. I could have gone up and down all day.

I didn’t want to spend the night in the dune car park as I thought it would be a bit too quiet when the crowds of daytrippers had gone home. I prefer to be away from the trees with a view of the water.

We headed to the lake at Gastes, just down the coast and the view was perfect. We didn’t want to risk parking on the allocated spaces on the grass incase it rained and we got stuck. We finally parked up on a concrete car park nearby and nobody seemed to mind.

View over the lake at Gastes

The Aire at Gastes overlooks the marina

A fine dinner (Blasimon, St Emilion and Branne)

Saturday, January 23

I woke up with a bit of a hangover to be honest. Drinking rose wine in the sun is all very well but it goes down a bit too easily.

We went to St Emilion, described in the guidebook as an open air museum with ramparts, seven medieval town gates and winding, narrow streets. Most of the shops where wine-related and many of them were open. I was interested to read that the town was also known for its macaroons. They were pretty good but I’d sooner stick to the wine tasting.

A fine wines shop in St Emilion

You can just see Steve waving from the bell tower.

The town square in St Emilion

There is a special place for motorhomes to park but we didn’t find it until afterwards. It wasn’t very busy when we went so we just parked in a normal pay and display car park.

On the way back we parked up at the Aire in Branne. It was fully functional with water and electricity so we recharged everything, both had a shower and then filled up with water. I had to fetch the two Euro tokens from the Boulangerie.

Waiting for dinner was a bit of a strain as she invited us to come for aperitifs at 8pm and we are used to eating at between 6pm and 7pm. Still it would be worth the wait.

M Benoit was there to greet us in the dining room with the big open fire. We met two other couples, both French, who were staying in the bed and breakfast accommodation. It was good to be with other people and everyone had to make more of an effort than usual with us being English. M Benoit offered us rose or Bordeaux Superior Moelleux. Most of us had a glass of Moelleux and we sat around chatting for what seemed like a really long time. I was so hungry. If this was England we would have ended up really tipsy as everyone kept filling up their glasses, but not here. We just had the one small glass and made it last an hour. It was hard.

Then we all sat round the table and the soup was served – very welcome to have all those chunky vegetables. Througout the dinner M Benoit kept appearing with a different wine for us to try. With the soup he offered Bordeau Superior 2007. It was just great to have some more alcohol. Everyone was sniffing and rincing it around their mouths, as they do. I am quite interested in wine tasting so thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, but Steve was missing his real ale. When one lady asked him if he like French he replied that he preferred beer!

Next we had a salad, along with a taste of Bordeaux Superior 2000. Yes, we could all taste the difference. If you went back to the first one after trying the second one it tasted really sour or ‘young’. Wait until we tried the St Emilion, said Mr Benoit.

The main course was stuffed squid, which I loved, but I had no idea what it was stuffed with. M Benoit was kind enough to offer us a white wine to go with our seafood, the Entre Deux Mer. That was a lovely wine, but again we just had a little taste.

Just as the cheese and salad course was being served, Steve made the mistake of trying to top up his red wine just as M Benoit walked back into the room. He started waiving his hands around, saying: “I am the wine grower.” He was ready to serve the St Emilion. It was good with the cheese and richer that the previous wine I suppose, but if I had to choose one to take away, I would choose the Bordeux Superior 2000.

After the cheese we had creme caramel and then M Benoit opened a sparkling version of his Entre Deux Mer.

I felt really good by the end of the meal – not too full and not too drunk. I slept really well that night.

Would you like to come back to my place? (Bergerac to Blasimon)

Friday, January 22

Fishing by the bridge on the river Dordogne at Bergerac

Antiques shop in Bergerac

Back from the market in Bergerac

It was a fine day and we got up reasonably early to head back to Bergerac. We parked up on the Aire and walked along the river and into the old town. We just had a general wander about with Jack and it was very pleasant. This town is just the right size for me. Some friends had said there were 250 parking spaces at the Cathedral and it was a great place to stay the night. However, we didn’t manage to find that area. We crossed over the bridge and came across a little market where we bought prawns and salmon for dinner and a baguette. We really needed some red wine as well as we only had Mr Camus’ whites and a rose.

We headed for the Aire in the little town of Frontenac, east of Bordeaux, which was about an hour and 40 minutes away. Before long we were driving through Bordeaux with vines everywhere we looked. Frontenac was a little village which seemed to have a couple of shops. We checked out the Aire and both the water and electricity were off. That wasn’t really a problem and we could have still spent the night there but we both felt is was missing a certain something. We backtracked to a vineyard we had seen up the road with a sign that welcomed motorhomes. We came to some big iron gates and could see a long drive leading up to a house. There was a intercom on the gate but nobody answered. It was 2.15pm so maybe it was still lunchtime.

Then, by chance, a woman in a car pulled up alongside us as we had stopped at the recycling bin to dispose of our empty bottles. She asked if we were looking for somewhere to stay the night and invited us to her place – the Domaine de Grand Homme. She said her husbands would be in and mentionned France Passion. I was quite releaved to find her details in the France Passion book because the property was really out of the way, along many winding roads. I don’t think we would have found it if we had been trying to.

M Bertrand Benoit was indeed back at the house and he gave us a guided tour. There’s a little shop selling mainly wine, a few rooms for bed and breakfast and a big dining room with an open fire. They serve dinner to those guests who would like to join them but we needed to eat our seafood while it was fresh.

We got the deckchairs out for the first time and drank rose wine in the sun. Jack made friends with their massive dog Tao, which I think was some sort of a mountain sheep dog.

I was still keen to try out Mme Benoits cooking so we asked if she could book us in for Saturday night. It would give us a chance to explore the area and come back to a home cooked French dinner.

A day out at McDonalds (Bergerac, Monbazillac)

Thursday, January 21

The good thing about today was that we had two good walks with Jack. We didn’t really do much else as I spent four hours in McDonalds updating my blog. We looked at the Aire in Bergerac with a view to staying the night there but it was on a really busy road and we wouldn’t have got much sleep. As we left that morning Mr Camus said it would be fine if we wanted to sleep there again. We decided to keep thing simple and return ot the Domaine de la Lande in Monbazillac, it was only about twenty minutes away.

Wednesday, January 20

We had to wait for Steve’s computer to be ready so we spent the morning exploring Saint Cyprien, which basically involved walking up to the Abbey and continuing up the hill as far as we could go.

When we got to SOS computer services it wasn’t good news. They hadn’t been able to retrieve anything and the hard disk was caput. Steve phone Hewlett Packcard as it is still under warranty but couldn’t get any sense out of them. He got through to a call centre where they were only trained to reply to a set number of scenarios, and ‘I’m travelling around France with my computer’ wasn’t one of them. They just kept saying ‘Dixons’ and ‘PC World’.

Next stop was Monbazillac, just south of Bergerac. I looked in the France passion book and there was one vineyard which appeared to be open to motorhomers at this time of year. It was Domaine de La Lande owned by Cecile and Fabrice Camus and, for once, it turned out very well. On arrival, we were greeted by Fabrice’s father, M. Jean Camus, who explained to us that the business had been run by four generations of his family. He was now retired but lived next door and still helped out. He is a motorhomer himself and a thoroughly lovely and jolly chap.

In fact, this was the best evening of the holiday so far. Of course it was – he invited us for ‘an aperitif’ at six o’clock, which involved tasting all the wines made on the premises.There’s a dry white, a rose, a moellux, a Bergerac rouge, a Monbazillac and a special Monbazillac.

M Jean Camus hosts an impromtu wine-tasting session for us

Everything is done on site, growing, picking, bottling. M Camus explained that all of the family business was conducted here, on this six- hectare site. They do not sell to big chains or supermarket and make all of their profits from selling the wine directly to the public, including one thousand motorhomers which passed by in 2009.  They make 12,000 bottle a year and last year they had run out of dry white and rose by mid-September. We could see from the photos on the wall that it was a fun and happening place to be in the summer.

Monbazillac is famous as a dessert wine or the perfect accompaniment to Foie Gras. Luckily, M Camus was able to sell me a locally-made Foie Gras to go with the Monbazillac. We also loved the rose and Steve particularly like the Moelleux.

Our parking place on the vineyard at Monbazillac.

Tuesday, January 19

Poor Steve wasn’t in the best of moods after the laptop incident and he went to the tourist information office early. They sent us a few kilometres way to Siorac en Perigord. We manged to find the tourist office to our surprise it was open! I explained the situation and the guy handed me a leaflet and gave me directions to the computer shop, which was just round the corner. We left it there with Dennis and he told us to call back the following afternoon. Steve doesn’t hold out too much hope and the best he can hope for is having his computer fixed and losing all the data, including some valuable photographs. Thankfully, he is writing his blog on his ipod so will still have all the words. I quickly backed up my data onto a memory stick.

We headed for the town of Sarlat La Caneda, which Steve had heard was worth a look. It did look like there was plenty going on there but they hadn’t made it very easy for us motorhomers. The Aire was a way out of town and the whole place seemed just a bit too big and busy for us. The car park wasn’t in a particularly nice location and there was a barrier system. When we first arrived in France I would probably have been happy to go to so much trouble to visit a town. But so many of the towns and villages have provided lovely little Aires within one or two minutes walk of the town that we are a bit spoilt now.

The best of it was that on the way to Sarlat we stumbled across Beynac-et-Cazenac, north east of St Cyprien.It was breathtaking with its Chateau on the hill and so many other historic building. I had quite a headache when we got out of the van, but we wandered round taking photographs and after half an hour of breathing in the cool, crisp air I felt much better. The sun was shining and it was just like walking through a fairytale. This has to go right to the top of the list of beautiful villages – there’s so much to see and do even though the shops were closed.

On the way back from Sarlat we stopped at the Aire at La Roque Gageac. You could park right next to the river and the town behind looked like it had been carved out of the rocks. Again we walked around and enjoyed the views.

We probably would have stayed the night on this Aire but the workmen were trimming all the trees and it was making a right racket. I’d recommend it though and it had water and electricity. I just wanted to get some peace and quiet. We returned for another night at St Cyprien.

Monday, January 18

We wandered into town with Jack and it was a hive of activity as the truffle market was open. They are obviously very big on truffles in these parts as there is a special building in the centre of town called the truffle market. I will get to the bottom of what goes on but it seems that they all get together with their truffles and maybe have them judged for quality. Then at 10am the doors open to the public. Presumably, if they score high with the judges they can sell them for a top price. I had a quick look round and saw one for £30 euros. Like I said, I presumed that was what was going on. It’s really annoying not being able to Google things.

There were also some general market stalls in the square and we got drawn in by one of them who sold us a saucisson (4 euros) and some cheese (6 euros 50). The cured sausage was black pig and tasted pure and fresh. The hard cheese, he told us, was made of only the finest ingredients and had no additives and certainly no water added. He said they would last a good six months in the cupboard and you wouldn’t find any mould, not on any of his products. It’s all too good to resist and I’ll just have to try not to catch anyone’s eye next time I’m in a market.

I’m not even supposed to be eating cheese! I try to walk past it in the supermarket but always end up going back to buy some. Of course, we’re getting through loads of red wine, as well as a baguette a day. I might have to start keeping a note of how much I am consuming. I haven’t brought the scales with me so I’ll just having to keep an eye on my belt holes.

We went to the tourist office to ask about the electricity and she said there was a technical problem and it couldn’t be turned on. She said to try the next town along – Le Bugue.

Back at the motorhome there was nobody about so I got my yoga mat out for the first time. Steve had a shower and Jack lay in his bed in the glorious sunshine.

Out comes the yoga mat - working off those baguettes!

We headed for Le Bugue, which was only a few kilometres away, and couldn’t even find the Aire, let alone electricity. However, it was a beautiful little town and we got our first view of the massive river Dordogne. There’s a spectacular double bridge and it’s such a shame we couldn’t stay. We moved swiftly on to Tremolat and stopped for lunch (baguette, cured sausage and cheese, with a salad to try to balance it out a bit, and, of course, we had a little glass of red wine.)

Young men were playing boules in their lunch break just in front of our motorhome. We had a walk around the village before moving on again. The Aires book described the village as ‘really worth a visit.’ It was lovely but I think I preferred Le Bugue and Ste Alvere.

Young men playing boules in their lunch break at Tremolat

I had found another Aire in the book, yet further away from Bergerac, at Saint Cyprien, which was listed as having electricity. The Tom Tom us round the town a few times down some horribly narrow streets before we finally found the Aire. I like this one a lot. It has water, electricity, quite a picturesque town and a supermarket opposite. I had a Euro Relais token in my purse which had cost 2 euros. You usually get an hour of electricity for one token but this machine offered 12 hours! Perfect – we could charge everything up fully.

Steve’s laptop crashed later that evening and he was not too impressed. He could have lost all this pictures from Oradour sur Glane and other stuff.

Sunday, January 17

The rain had stopped and we were all ready for a good walk. The Chateau was closed until February now but it was still interesting to walk around the outside and back through the old town. This is one place I would really like to go back to one day when it is open.

We set off for Perigueux which was 43 kilometres away. The Aire is right on the riverside and close to the town centre, but I didn’t really want to spend the night there. There were a few motorhomes lined up but maybe some of them were living there. I’m sure we would have been fine there but the town was just a little bit too big for us and we were happy with a good walk round. Anyway there was no water or electricity.

We set off again for the village of Tremolet, which is described in the Aires book as ‘worth a visit’. It sounded nice and quiet and had a water supply.

I was really enjoying the views and when we were just a few kilometres away the Tom Tom took us through the little town of Ste Alvere. We saw a sign to an Aire and decided to take a look, even though it wasn’t mentioned in the Aires book. It was absolutely lovely with space for many motorhomes in a community recreation area including a boules pit, tennis courts, picnic bench, football field and plenty of other open space.

We couldn’t believe our luck when we found out the water was on. We thought for a minute that it had electricity as well, but that was off. The sun was shining by this time and the temperature had gone up to 13 degrees so we decided to set up camp for the night.

The village is well worth a look as well and I look forward to going back tomorrow when the shops are open. We also plan to go to the Mairie to ask them to turn the electricity on as Steve needs to charge his computer up. If they do that we might stay another night. We’re never going to get to Spain at this rate!