Day 3/11: The Houghtons are here!

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We woke up on our first morning back here full of purpose and determination and believe it or not we actually cracked on quite well with setting up. The first big nervy job was to move the caravan into its correct position on the pitch, requiring a 90 degree turnaround and a fair bit of wiggling into just the right spot. It meant I had to reconnect the battery, hope it was still full of juice (it was!) and for the very first time use the remote device to fire up the mover and slowly shift our ton plus, 7 metres plus caravan into position. I am pleased to report that we succeeded far more easily than we had anticipated! Quel relief!

Once it was balanced on its legs, again without too much hassle, water and electrics were taken care of before we launched into the second major task of the day which was putting up the awning. With a bit of help from Scouser Carol (very willing but makes a leprechaun look tall!) we only took a couple of hours to complete the job, although as usual my Dutch pal Walter from Rotterdam came round to inspect that we had put the thing up straight. As a reward for a job well done, he let me have a go on his new mobility scooter which turned out to be quite nippy and a delight to zoom about on as you can see here.

Born to be Mild!

Born to be Mild!

In the late afternoon we were surprised and delighted when our good friends Fred and Jeanette suddenly appeared at the pitch. It was brilliant to see them again but how’s this for a coincidence: having arrived late the previous evening, a couple of hours after we did, that made it 2 years in a row Fred had arrived the same day as us with no prior contact or arrangement, even though the dates were 13 months apart. Cue spooky music. Either that or he’s stalking us, but that’s not really Fred’s style. Later he was keen to show off his brand-new Italian motorbike which he got as a replacement for his beautiful yellow Honda from last year, claiming it was just too slow at 160 mph!!

I’m glad we fixed up the awning and its flooring when we did because that night we were treated to one of those dramatic thunderstorms which deny you any sleep as regular claps of crackling thunder just overhead punctuate the constant drumming of ferocious rainfall on the caravan roof. What a spectacle! All was fine in the morning though and everything had passed the meteorological test with merit. We were now free to descend on Simply, our favourite supermarket, and stock up for the following few days. That Saturday evening we snuggled down to watch Disc 1 of the Scandinavian crime series “The Killing” and it got off to a good start in the first 2 episodes before the Sandman came calling.

The classic arrival photo1

The classic arrival photo1

Sunday was a day for getting tidied up in preparation for the arrival of Mary’s sister Alison, her husband Dave (he shot the back cover of “Wee Georgie”) and their 2 teenagers Sarah and Steven. I duly picked them up at El Prat airport on Monday just after one o’clock and they were soon settled into their Eurocamp chalet about 250 metres from our pitch. We showed them round the campsite, took them to Simply for their week’s shopping then left them in peace to get to know the place. Tuesday was a stroll around Vilanova and an evening barbecue at their place followed by a brilliant family game of Switch, the best card game ever! Yesterday was a day at the upstairs pool and then the Wednesday meal up at the restaurant where they met many new faces and got their eyes opened in places! They’re down at the beach today enjoying the wonderful sunshine and 25 degrees we have been promised for the rest of their stay and beyond. That’s Vilanova news up to date.

Happy Holiday!

Happy Holiday!

George, Fiona, Daniel and Ben appear to be having a great time on their holiday to Florida so should come back to their busy lives at least a wee bit refreshed and in fine spirits. I’m so glad Ben seems to be coping with the flying and the new locations: he’s that bit older now (almost 3!) and is probably having a ball. We saw loads of Ben this summer and he was an absolute gem from start to finish. We are really missing him this trip as we are our wee darling Artemis who came to visit Granddad George and Mary (she refuses the Granny epithet!) just before our return. We’ve had no panic calls from Gavin in Arbroath, Greg in Montrose or Scott back at the flat so we have to assume they are surviving after a fashion. They’re all good kids and never fail to make me prouder and prouder of them.

Well, that’s about it for the moment, readers. Keep in touch one way or the other and don’t be frightened to send us texts as they cost us nothing to receive. God bless!

Arry at granddad's.

Arry at granddad’s.

Ben at the Ouch Tree!

Ben at the Ouch Tree!

 

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Day 3/10: A New Beginning

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The third year of our Great Adventure almost didn’t get started last Monday when we prepared to leave Dundee before ten in the morning. Goodbyes to Scott, breakfast taken, snacks prepared, bags packed by nine-thirty seemed promising enough and, with the help of the lift and the Audi parked at the back door to the block, we were in the car with fifteen minutes to spare and I proffered our now traditional quote “Let’s go to Spain”. But when I turned the key there was nothing! Unbelievably and for the first time since I bought her almost 3 years ago, the Audi failed to start!
Even more worrying were the flashing symbols on the dashboard telling me my “Electronic Stabilization Programme” was goosed as was my ABS and my particulate filter! This was indeed Armageddon! Back up in the lift we travelled with faces like torn scones and help was sought from Mr. Google. There was a suggestion that it was only a flat battery causing all these alarms to go off but we were nothing if not pessimistic as we agreed to call out Saga rescue in the form of the AA, the first time in our driving life we had ever had to do so.
A yellow angel appeared within the hour and quickly confirmed the problem was not terminal but merely battery level too low. You could have heard our sighs of relief over here in Spain. The AA man assured us that the fault lights were not reporting major malfunctions but just responding to lack of juice, so he wished us “Hasta la Vista” and sent us on our way only two hours behind schedule.
Despite the false start we made excellent time southwards and, thanks to the lovely Victoria whom we once again pressed into service to keep us right, we reached RVI (the Royal Victoria Infirmary) in Newcastle in time to have a blether with Uncle Brian who has been poorly of late, before he was discharged back home with Auntie Pat. We were absolutely delighted to have seen them and have the opportunity to wish them well in the weeks to come. Back on the road, it took us another hour and a half to make it to Terry and Ellen’s in Leeds, our regular stopover when driving to the continent.
As always, the family hospitality was first class and my Dad’s brother and his wife were wonderful to us. We had a great catch-up before retiring for the night and Ellen sent us on our way late on Tuesday morning with a full English designed to keep us going for the whole day. It did! Thank you both for your unfailing kindness. We took the A1M down to London, snaked over the Dartford bridge and cruised the M20 to the Tunnel at Folkestone, although Victoria was naughty and took us initially to the International station at Ashford. Please note that, no matter what your Tom-Tom may advise, only leave the M20 at junction 11A and absolutely nowhere else: if you do so, you can’t go wrong, I promise.
With the usual smooth, simple and trouble-free crossing, we were speeding through the countryside of north France by eight in the evening (their time) and reached our first stop, an Ibis Budget hotel in the wee town of Laon just before ten o’clock. Two minutes later we were sound asleep, slept like the innocents we are (!) and were up and ready to rock and roll at nine the next morning. Except that the Audi decided to repeat Monday morning’s performance, leaving us trying to roll-start the car in the car park without success in the torrential downpour written into the script by a God with a weird sense of humour.
Seeing me come close to drowning, a cleaner came out and marched me 500 metres to the equivalent of our Kwik-Fit/Halfords and got me a loan of a pair of jump-leads at the price of my driver’s licence. We finally got the Audi running again and took it back to the car shop where they gave it the once over while Mary and I sat a few metres away in a McDonald’s having cheeseburger and chips for breakfast! Quite tasty that was as well. The diagnosis was as expected and I had to stump up £100 for a brand-new powerful battery which will reputedly outlive both of us. We’ll see!
The rest of Wednesday was a long drive round the bottom of Paris then down the A10 to Clermont-Ferrand our second stop. Motorway tolls came to 40 Euros on this stretch so don’t forget to factor those costs in when planning your route through France. We stayed the night at another Ibis Budget hotel in Sud-Aubiere to the north of Clermont-Ferrand (the third time we’ve stayed there) and found it as before perfect for our needs. We can recommend this chain of budget hotels to all you Francophile travellers: 40 Euros a night, en suite facilities, TV, vending machines for tea/coffee and snacks and free Wi-Fi.
The last leg was similar to last September, a long but easy drive down the A75 (toll-free), over the spectacular Millau Viaduct, downhill to Béziers, west to Perpignan, then through the Pyrenees to Spain, an hour and a bit to Barcelona and a final half-hour to our second home, Vilanova i la Geltru. Victoria displeased me a tad by insisting I drive through the centre of Barcelona at rush-hour instead of our usual route round the back of the hills via Vilafranca en Penedes, so here’s another Tom-Tom alert to ignore instruction if your setting is “fastest route” as you approach Barcelona from the north. Where the carriageway divides, stay right in the direction of Tarragona and you’ll avoid Barcelona altogether and you won’t lose any time either.
Excitement peaked as we turned into the drive of Vilanova Park campsite and found ourselves expected and welcomed by familiar faces at reception. When we reached our pitch on F block, there she was, our lovely new caravan, facing the wrong way but still looking great. We quickly levelled her off, spoke to a couple of old friends who came down to welcome us back, then it was early to bed with no intention of rising before 10 the following morning. We discovered we could sleep for Scotland!