Posts tagged sport

The BIG 30!

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I was spoiled as my closest friends made the trek to France for a week of fun in the (well mostly anyway) sun in the Lot valley.  The venue was a fantastic, a modern house conversion with a pool and a huge ice maker for all those bottles of champagne.  The nearest town was Cazals, a sleepy place packed with UK emigrants.  It had a charming restaurant, the Auberge with fabulous steak frites for only €8.  The nearest large town was Cahors, famous for deep, robust red wines and its medieval bridge.

One of the highlights of the week was canoeing along the Dordogne.  The river (or at least the stretch we visited) flows slowly in high summer, and magnificent chateaux are visible from every bend .  However, it is clearly a popular holiday outing as we dodged and weaved with masses of canoes as if fighting the M25 rush hour.  It was smooth sailing (or paddling to be exact) until I decided a water fight would be a good idea. David and I lent over to one side of the canoe, trying desperately to shower each other with our paddles. The next thing we knew there was a big splosh as we toppled into the river, our canoe overturning and dispersing all our stuff into the murky water. I then discovered that the river was flowing a lot faster and was a lot deeper than I thought.  I tried to put on a life jacket, but was told by David that they were needed to help keep our now almost submerged canoe afloat.  So much for river safety!

At the house we made a makeshift water volleyball court across the swimming pool using a badminton net, and a table tennis table from various household bits.  This provided hours of endless fun and much competitive posturing between us all.  The sparkling wine and other lubricants helped too!

My birthday dinner arrived and we decided to walk to the restaurant 2km up the road and, also up a rather steep hill.  Armed with some wine for the walk it was easy going.  I wasn’t quite so easy going when we arrived, only to find that they were closed. So much for my reservation made in ‘French’.  We made a plan (true Zimbo style), and went for dinner in the town down the road which was fabulous.  Thanks to everyone for coming, I had an amazing time!!!

Le Tour

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We drove into Rodes to check out the terrain the day before the Tour de France came through town.  A fantastic park along the river and walkway provided a stunning backdrop for our picnic.  We explored the area and eventually found a great freecamping spot lakeside along with 35 other motorhomes.

We got up at the crack of dawn for the Tour de France, and spent 6 hours waiting at the roadside for the cyclists, who, when they finally arrived, flew past us in less than a minute. However the floats that preceded the riders were worth the wait and we left loaded with various goodies including some sexy spotty Carrefour caps : )

The rest of day was spent driving eastwards and we free-camped at a wild spot with stunning viewpoint.  A windy night meant we closed all the windows for the first time and only left one of our vents open. We were rudely awoken at 2am when our carbon monoxide alarm went off. Although it was loud enough to wake anyone within a ten mile radius I still took it upon myself to shout in David’s ear and shake him vigorously. 🙂

We have deduced that the van doesn’t have enough of an air flow to clear the gas from our fridge and therefore need to leave both vents open.  If you are travelling in a motorhome with gas then get an alarm, it is well worth the small cost.

Bridging the Gorge

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We awoke early for our drive along the Gorges du Tarn.  It’s a busy road in summer and we were unsure about how easy it would be to navigate. The drive can be a bit nerve racking in a motorhome, especially when trying to avoid crashing into overhanging cliffs on one side while minibuses , hauling a bouncing trailer stacked with canoes, charge towards you on the other. Luckily, as it was Bastille Day, the roads were relatively quiet, keeping cries of “watch out!” to a minimum. We were hoping to do some canoeing along the river, but were thwarted by a nasty parasite that lurks in the poisonous Tarn River. It is fatal for dogs so, with Odie’s health in mind, we ambled leisurely along the road instead, enjoying the prolific birdlife and views of climbers scaling the heights.

A visit to Millau is not complete without seeing the bridge; a thin gossamer thread across a deep valley.  It is a beautiful sight and we chose to enjoy it from the road at the nearby Aire which has a view point.  It costs €11.80 to cross and includes a display on how it was built.

Millau is a bustling place and we arrived just in time for the fireworks and celebrations for Bastille Day, although an hour of rain threatened to ruin any celebrations. Once the downpour had settled to gentle dripping we took a walk into into town to enjoy the festivities. It didn’t take many bangs or bass noises to send Odie into a panic so Christine took him back to the campsite, leaving me behind to take photos. What happened next turned out to our worst travel experience so far.

Some enterprising pick pocket made off with my mobile phone and wallet. As if that wasn’t bad enough I missed one of the river crossings on the walk back and got hopelessly lost in the dark. It took several hours for me to find my way to the campsite, and when I eventually got there my heart sank. The van was gone. In its place was a note under a rock. “Dave, have gone to police station and hospital to look for you, reception can help”. So, off I went to reception to try and contact Chris. The campsite owner was anything but helpful, refusing to let me use their phone. I even offered to pay her twenty euros to send Chris an SMS, but that was turned down. “It’s not my problem”, she said, “you’ll have to walk to the hospital, maybe she’s still there. I’ll draw you a map”.

After a considerable amount of begging she eventually relented and arranged for Chris to be told to come and fetch me. We were both incredibly relieved to see each other again. As bad as the experience was it had a positive side – we learnt some valuable lessons, the most important being to appreciate every moment we have together!

Padel

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Spain has educated us, we have learnt a new sport whilst we have been here. Popular in Spain and Latin America Padel is a cross between tennis and squash. Played with smaller raquets, on a smaller court and with a smaller bouncy ball than tennis. The court has a wall to the back and side of the court which you can play off just like squash. It is easy to get the hang of and is less intensive than playing tennis.

Here’s a little snippet of how the pros play, unfortunately we don’t look like that!

All the campsites in the South of Spain that we have stayed in have Padel courts. Most don’t charge for use of the courts. The bats (cheap wooden cut, probably meant for the beach) cost us €5 for a pair and you can play with a tennis ball if you have one handy.

Tennis

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Tennis can’t be all that big in Spain. We were keen to watch the French Open Final and as Rafa was playing we thought it would be showing at a local bar. We arrived to see the end of the MotoGP and requested the tennis. After some animated discussion, much consultation of the newspapers eventually the channel was found. They may not have known a Spaniard was playing but the rest of the bar got very involved and we were questioned on who we were supporting! Passed that with flying colours and settled in for the match.

A few minutes later one of the Dutch campers arrived to announce that Odie had decided the van was no fun by himself, he had scratched his way through one of the fly screens and was now camped out on our clothes airer 5 foot off the ground. A rescue mission ensued and he has now let himself in for a life tied up outside bars with any future sporting events.

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