The Secret to Life…

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(Here’s our spot today, can you see the orange cable running to a box on the left? That’s the free electricity)

Good Morning! Good Morning! Ok, so I asked about sharing the details from our new friend from Ireland…you’ll have to wait for the book, his book, I mean. That could take a while though because he’s going slowly. Denis shared with him the Andy Weir (writer of The Martian) story of getting writing done – send chapters out to readers weekly/monthly/at regular intervals, it puts a bit of pressure on you because you can’t let your readers down! In the meantime I want to share our new friend’s secret to life… enjoy every minute. Every tree, every place to park or sit or stand, every beautiful building, every nice person you meet, enjoy it all. You’ll understand when you read his book why this man might be worth listening to. For now, trust me, he knows what he’s talking about.

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(Here’s the rules and regulations. One I didn’t mention… we can stay three days maximum)

We’ve moved on today, just a few kilometres north of Honfleur. We’re at a very pretty aire with free water and electricity. It’s a popular place but our timing was just right and we got the last spot, campers keep coming in and have to reverse back out again. We feel a little sad for them but also happy for us. I’ve explained aires before but I think there’s no harm in repeating and I’ll take some pictures today to make it clearer.

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(Here’s where you empty the toilet cassette – on the left and on the right the drinking water. Not sure if you can make out the writing on the right panel in white? People sometimes get mixed up and use the drinking water to clean out the toilet cassette – yuck! Here someone has written instructions to make it clearer. We like it best when the drinking water tap is far, far, far away from the toilet cassette disposal!)

In France an aire is a rest area, you see them on the motorways, at home we might call them lay-bys but here they are much bigger, where cars and trucks can stop for a break. They usually have toilets and picnic tables. There are also aires at the motorway services where you get petrol and diesel (and sometimes cafes and restaurants). All that is similar to what we have in Ireland. Camping Car Aires are something new, they are specifically for motorhomes or camper vans and when I say we are staying in an aire for the night I mean a Camping Car Aire. At their simplest there will be spaces long enough for motorhomes to park in a section of a normal car park. More elaborate ones will have a pedestal thingy where you plug your hose in to get drinking water, empty your toilet cassette and dispose of grey water and get an hour of electricity all for a small charge (€2 to €5 typically.).

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(Forgot to mention, rubbish and recycle bins are always free. Thank you again France! Tip: Yellow lid = plastic and tins. Blue lid = paper and card)

The one we are in today has everything, space to park, space to put out a deck chair, drinking water, toilet cassette empty station, grey water disposal drain, electricity and even little hedges between the motorhomes! Sometimes you will have to pay to stay, sometimes you will have to pay for water and usually you will have to pay for electricity. Today, here, everything is free. Thank you, France.

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(Home for tonight looks nicer than some campsites we’ve been in)

Last month we added a couple of solar panels to the top of the camper. I say we because yes I did get up the ladder and help Denis with the installation. As I am generally very afraid of dangerous things (like falling from the top of a camper van) I surprised myself and a few of the passing neighbours. Having the panels means we can survive longer without having to stay in a campsite where electricity is always available. The cost of a night in a campsite can range from €20 which we would rather spend on delicious French food. Also as we travel in off-season, it’s unlikely the campsite cafe or restaurant or swimming pool will be open plus the locations are often far from villages, towns or cities. So all in all being able to use aires most of the time works very well for us.

Again, thank you, France! Mairead.

Watercolour Clouds

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(Look at that amazing fluffy cloud!)

We stayed a second night by the sea and now we’re at a different aire with electricity. The rain stopped, long enough for me to take some pictures, well of course it did. Every now and then it comes back with a heavy downpour and it stops again… the circle of rain. This morning is very bright with lots of blue sky visible between the fluffy clouds. There are also some dark blue clouds and one black cloud. It’s 14℃ outside. Nice.

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We’re all alone at the electricity place and it’s very peaceful, just the odd bird tweeting. We can see for miles across what looks like marches. I think I read somewhere that being able to see for miles to the horizon is very calming. I do feel very calm. There’s a kind of harbour too with strange-looking boats. They remind me of gondolas in Venice. I get the impression this land may have been reclaimed from the sea.

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(Clouds last night at sunset… doesn’t it look like paint in water?)

Did I mention we haven’t found a laundry yet? Fortunately we have been able to stay up wind of people we encounter… so all good. Some of the supermarkets do have a laundry set up with huge washing and drying machines in the car park but so far none at the ones we’ve visited. Our parking app mentioned one about an hour south from here, Denis promises me we’re going there tomorrow.

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(The colourful boats)

Normally by this point we would have stayed at a campsite with a washing machine because aside from the need to have clean clothes I generally want a break from the constant moving. (Denis loves driving and never wants a break.) But this time I’m really enjoying the short stops. I also like the fact that we are making much more use of the aires and so we are seeing far more little towns in Portugal. You can be lucky and unlucky with the aires, when you’re lucky it’s beautiful. But even when you’re unlucky it’s still free and you can leave straight away or the following morning. Unlucky in relation to aires only means you are not surrounded by beauty.

There’s a lot of beauty in Portugal, Mairead.

We have electricity!

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(Just as the sun was rising at Ortiguera. Can you see the fishing boat coming home?)

We have moved from our lighthouse location overlooking the Bay of Biscay, but before we left I took some pictures as the sun was rising. Now we’re at a new location on the edge of a small town called Ourol, it’s further west and inland a little, there’s a map below. The lovely people of the town provide free electricity, free wifi and free water!

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(The little beach this morning)

This is our first time this trip availing of free electricity and it means we could stay here a second night. Normally we generate our own electricity, by driving. It’s not enough to run a heater or the blender or the coffee machine but it’s plenty to charge our laptops and phones for the day. Depending on how far we have driven the previous day we could possibly get a second day’s worth of charging. We’ve been travelling short amounts so we keep moving to keep generating.

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(Huge tourist map)

Free wifi on the other hand is unheard of, except for that time last year in France when there was an aire beside a McDonalds and we were able to reach their wifi. Of course the smell of the frites was too great a temptation. Because we have wifi here there’s a project I would like to do.

Map 23rd Feb

(The red marker shows where we are now, the black circle where we were last night. Map from Google Maps)

We have a camera on the dashboard all the time as we drive and I thought it might be interesting to put a few clips of the roads we travel each day so you can see how beautiful (and sometimes scary) it is. The wifi means I will have enough “power” to upload the video. (I will put a link here where you can watch it.)

Now I’m really looking forward to coffee for breakfast, Mairead.