So, we’ve been in France more than a week already. The time has shot past. We love France as it is sooooo motorhome friendly. We had a couple of days of relaxation before we were due to arrive at our next Helpx. We headed straight for the Pays de la Loire region as that is the area we’ll be volunteering in until the middle of October. We parked up in a little aire just a stones throw from the river Mayenne in the little village of Grez-Neuville just twenty kilometres north west of Angers.
The aire was free, the sun was out and with a cycle path along the river in either direction it was the perfect place to wind down after our few months working at the campsite.
We have visited the Pays de la Loire region several times over the years and really like it. Away from the cities it’s a tranquil place to be.
We took a leisurely bike ride north along the river in the direction of Château-Gontier.
Within minutes of starting our cycle we were waylaid by these guys.
Oh, how happy was I to get some hands on donkey time again. There must have been about twenty or so of them. The couple that own them make and sell soaps, shampoo and cremes from the milk of the donkeys.
We first came across this breed of donkey, les baudet du Poitou, when we were visiting the Ile de Ré in 2016. They are an endangered breed and the couple, when they created their business, chose the Piotou to help to save the breed.
Anyway, as the title of this blog post hints at we are back at Chateau de Jalesnes for a few weeks.
Some of the long term readers may remember we spent a few weeks here in May 2016. It was the second Helpx of our trip and we’ve been meaning to come back again but have never quite fitted it in. Well, now we are back and we are really pleased to be here. It’s like we have never been away.
There have been some further improvements and the chateau now has about seventeen apartments and is becoming established as a popular wedding venue. A couple of years ago it was featured on the Channel 4 series ‘Escape to the Chateau’.
We were fortunate to be a part of the last wedding of this season over the weekend. An English couple commandeered the whole chateau for the weekend with just over one hundred guests.
The chateau can accommodate fifty or so guests so some were staying in the local area. It was a lot of work.
Rooms to prepare, lawns to mow, bars to be set up, chairs and tables to be put out blah blah blah.
Alex (a helper from Brazil) and Tim manned the bar on Friday and Saturday night.
Everything went according to plan and it was great to be involved. A three minute deluge of rain in between the cheeses and the dessert where everyone got soaked didn’t seem to matter and I expect everyone will remember it for a long time to come!
We finally got into bed at 4.00am on the Saturday night. It’s the latest I’d been to bed in a couple of decades that’s for sure!
So, I’ve finally sat myself down, given myself a stern talking to and got on with writing a blog post. To say the blog has been neglected in recent months is an understatement. When we arrived back in Spain from Morocco, urm, five months ago I had decided to have a break from the blog for a couple of weeks or so. Mmm. Oh, it’s been in the back of my mind all along. Way back. But I’ve never quite managed to update it. Until now. I should have known myself really. Give myself and inch……
So, what’s been happening chez Bonvanageblog?
Well, first and foremost we are well into season four of our midlife crisis decision to turn our lives upside down and try something new. I will write something fairly soon on our thoughts after three and a half years of living differently. It would be a stretch too far to expect that in this blog post though. Instead, I’ll get us up to speed on what we have been up to, where we are now and what our plans are going forward.
After spending nearly three months in Morocco we landed back in Algeciras, Spain and of course headed straight for Gib. The pull of pork pies and fish and chips was just too much to ignore. It felt both bizarre and freeing to be back in Europe. Bizarre to be back to all things familiar and freeing to know I could wander around by myself without attracting any attention.
Our final stop at Chefchaouen before we left Morocco brought it home to me that I take my freedom to roam at will, on my own, wherever I want in Europe for granted. Admittedly Chefchaouen was the only place in Morocco where I felt a little uncomfortable but looking back it was the only place really other than a bike ride that I’d gone out on my own without Tim.
Women out alone in Morocco are not really a thing or part of the culture so being back in Spain felt a bit liberating for me. Tim just had his eyes on the pork pies! Gib did let us down on the fish and chip front though. Batter the texture of inner soles. Soo disappointing.
The Cabo de Gata National Park, east of Almeria, is somewhere we’ve been meaning to visit for ages so we headed there from Gib with the intention of exploring the whole area for a few weeks. We didn’t spare the horses and took the quickest route along the E15 to get there. What we saw along the route is all a blur in my memory until we got into the province of Almeria.
Plastic greenhouses. As far as the eye can see. We knew they would be there as we’d been told about them from other travellers. But. It is vast. Just vast. Vaster than vast. So vast you can barely take it in. One hundred and sixty five square miles of them. Whole towns are swallowed up by them.
Here are a few images from Google to give you an idea if you’ve never seen them before.
And an article here if you’re interested. The Cabo de Gata is a protected area but that pesky plastic has edged right up to the boundary.
We arrived in the pretty whitewashed town of San Jose not really feeling the love for the area. In truth, we were a bit travelled out after Morocco and needed a bit of downtime. We stayed on two different aires for a couple of weeks. And did……………nothing. Rien. Nada. We just didn’t have the enthusiasm. Travel is tiring and we’d peaked in Morocco. Our heads were back in the UK even though we had another three weeks left in Spain. It’s hard to shake that feeling when it arrives so we just accept it. Instead we enjoyed the sunshine, did a few easy walks here and there and not much else.
We found our mojo again taking a week or so to drive up through Spain following more or less the same route as 2017. Ubeda, Toledo, Avila, Palencia. Each day provides a different landscape. Olives. Prairies. Mountains. The roads are toll free and quiet. It was all stress free. Well it was until we got a text to say our ferry from Santander had been cancelled. Oh joy.
The ferry had something wrong with it and was going to be out of action for a couple of weeks so revised plans were drawn up. If we still wanted to travel back from Spain we would have had to wait a week which would have been a bit inconvenient as we’d already planned our itinerary back in the UK seeing family, friends and dentists etc. So, we hoofed it up through France in a couple of jumps and came back to Portsmouth via Caen.
With family and friends and appointments done we headed back down to Lanyon Holiday Park in Cornwall at the beginning of June to help out during their busiest months.
We slotted back in as if we’d never been away.
The weather didn’t let us down. June was cold, July was not bad and August was hideous until the bank holiday. The same as last year really!
What did make our lives much easier this year were our bikes. Our bikes are no longer just bikes. They are e-bikes. Ah, what a difference they’ve made to us this summer. We’d ummed and ahhed about going electric for several months looking at all the different options. Do we sell ours? Buy electric specific bikes? Get ours adapted? Long story short we had our existing ones adapted and they are just Fab. With a capital F. Fab.
They’ve made such a difference to our time in Cornwall and I can’t wait to get them out in Europe.
Plans for this year? Well, we’re currently sitting at the ferry port in Plymouth awaiting the ferry for France. We’ll be spending at least a month in France. We’re going back to one of the places we volunteered at in 2016. Then………. Portugal. It’s going to be an experimental year this year. We’re going to spend four months in Aljezur, Portugal from the beginning of November. We’ll be renting a house there to see how staying put for the bulk of the winter works out.