It is a double-edged sword with a happy ending, probably. Spain, our escape from the long winter in Blighty, and NbDolcieBlue in England for the short 3 colour filled seasons. It sounds like a dream and I am often told that but.....
I am happy getting from A to B in a direct fashion wearing the same clothes so to speak.
Between our bases it is a long drive 2 days direct but we spread it over 5 days. There is a cost to that but I find it a boring slog avoiding the péage in France. I don’t think the countryside, we drive through, is scenic at this time of the year, early spring...it still looks and feels wintery. And I do not like the million roundabouts we drive around. SatNat pre roundabout build up “Drive over the roundabout”, I can imagine driving straight over the ‘round’. That is because my cognitive function runs on literal. What you say is what you get. Over the years I have managed to bend literal where my reaction is not always as written. But at the end of the day I’m a Kiwi and it takes far more time for my mindset to absorb into another culture. I digress, I’m good at that.
Spain, on the other hand, has great roads and driving distances diminish along the desolate countryside except when Sat Nav has other ideas and we follow her. In our road trips late last century I was the navigator, I could read road maps and we ventured far and wide, a lot being off the main route. The Bartholomews book was the best I used for hardcopy navigation of the Iberian Peninsula but now SatNav is confounded with new roads forever in progress. Our SatNav tells us, fairly often, “Off course. Turn around.” We have a SatNav that was purchased with lifetime updates guaranteed. Lies damn lies. It is not the end of the world but it puts stress on our relationship. We count our way around roundabout exits.
Our first day on the road from B to A we leave Los Montesinos at 1000hrs. Today’s journey is anticipated to take 4 1/2 hours. SatNav finds the back of beyond roads and we make little progress snaking our way towards the Spanish plateau. The first place we saw for breakfast had a bus turning in and we imagined a long queue of people so we drove on. We were now driving along almost empty roads and there are no fuel stations/roadside bars until 2 hours later. The food was basic, a tostada with packet mashed tomato and self serve drizzle of Ext. Vir. Olive Oil. At the service station, Chris checked the tyre pressure and I went and asked for the road to Zaragoza. The guy was helpful but his directions were not. I should have said Tureul and we may have had a chance but his way to the Z place was motorway to Valencia turning in the direction of Barcelona. No way...7 hours if we took that route.
The trip started going downhill and we needed to about turn off the motorway. We purchased a Spain road map 2018, a hardcopy that should help us and it did, when I remembered to refer to it. Four hours to destination Calatayud . There were still a couple of blips to happen in our ‘perfect’ life on Day 1 but my whole attitude to this trip got so negative and I unhappily carried the freaking SatNav that day and the next. The SatNav holder had lost its Velcro attachments! My patience level had lost its reality attachment!
Phew, we arrived at 1900hrs and the hotel was comfortable. As a mood booster Chris suggested we eat out and have the Menu del Dia at the Hotel Restaurant, a couple of floors below our room. Before we’d taken our seats at our table we could hear the sound of beating drums outdoors getting louder. Looking out the window we saw a parade of drummers. They were dressed in the same blue robes with blue cone hats.... well we named them the ‘Blue Klux Klan’. Google reveals it is part of Santa Semana (Easter). Unexpected religious evening action and I felt like a stranger in a foreign land on this day.
Driving has been part of our life together. It feels like we’re driving each other crazy now. The last 4 years we have driven England to Spain return. Last year I missed out on the back to Blighty trip by land, I did the long haul flight to NZ return. It is always getting to the destination that keeps my spirit lifted. Hey and back to long drives together, we started in 1992 and that was England to the Algarve, (Portugal) return over a number of years before SatNav came in to our lives. Here’s a photo of what happened in 2004 as we were exiting Europe for the last time..... It wasn't my fault
Now SatNav is the nonhuman involved in our megadrive. Utterances along the way from me (M), him (H) or it-that-has a woman’s voice (SN).
SN “Off route”
H “She’s worthless, she doesn’t know”
M “Change it to a bloke’s voice”
SN “Go over the roundabout”
H “She always screws up”
M “Let’s get a new SatNav”
SN “If possible turn around”
Blue sky with patchy clouds above and I look to the snow covering the Pyrenees. It is cold outdoors. It could be Winter but the calendar says it is Spring and we are past the Spring Equinox. The SatNav is held in my hand or rested on my knee which mutes that voice. We know we will get to the Somport Tunnel soon and feel confident that we know the way without SN. Then, out of the blue comes HiVis and road works, big road works. It’s ok, a bit of stop/start and then free flow until a few kms away from Jaca. We see a sign saying Somport Tunnel, Françia and then a dreaded roundabout approaching and I see no clues as to which exit to take. I didn’t see Françia or Tunel de Somport. SN made no comment. We take the first exit onto a new dual carriageway. It was probably the right route but we thought it was probably not so we turned back and took the other road to Jaca. (I use a lot of ‘we’ in this navigation thing). I should have looked at the hardcopy map but I keep forgetting it is there! The dual carriageway was the right road, of course, and we met up with it again as we got closer to Jaca. Are you readers still with me?
We took the turn to Tunel de Somport. We were in the tunnel. Chris thought I had told him the tunnel was 80km long, I don’t remember saying that. It is 8.6 kms long, no hardship and we exited into falling snow in France, slush slush.
I have noted, on my calendar under November, the names of the small villages (Urdos is the closest one...) and N134 in France near the Somport Tunnel. Twice we have tried on our November drive to Spain to go under The Pyrenees through the Somport Tunnel, and twice we have failed to find the Tunnel! Third time should be lucky!!
Lots of roundabouts to Dax but we were there in good time.
Il pleure encore plus the day I took control of the wheel and drove the Motorway to Bordeaux did the ring road and the N10 (free motorway) to Poitiers and continued on some cute roads to la belle Gite rural DUNAND in a small village Tournon Saint-Martin, near Poitiers. France is very pretty in the country off major roads, especially when driving through old villages. But early spring, for me, is dismal particularly this spring where winter was hanging in the air. The gîte was beautiful, a memory of the place in France that we once shared with friends. (French France, another story 1997 – 2001). The gîte had the solid oak beams, I was in heaven! We’ll stay there again one way or the other.
Our final day in France and a 4 hour drive to Dieppe. That went well. Yay it was nearly the end of our mega journey. Chris arranged accommodation about a 5 minute drive from the Ferry Terminal. It was perfect, brand new fit out and comfortable in every way. It is an ideal location for the Ferry port. I was tired and we had a 530 am wake-up. I woke during the night, thirsty, and reached for my small bottle of water on the bedside table. I blindly opened it and went to take a gulp but was awake enough to know that the liquid closing in on my tongue was not water. It was the other bottle I had put on the table, Della’s hypoallergenic dog shampoo!!! My words are clean in this story.
The bulk of travelling was on the DFDS Ferry to Newhaven. It was a calm uneventful cruise and 4 hours later we were in Newhaven and the rain was pissing down. Back in Blighty and it was yuck and I almost brought an end to my 'Dream life with the Yorkshireman'.
I’m going to end this adventure on a light note and will begin DolcieBlue 2018 soon. I discovered in Spain the answer to the question below.
Q. Why do chickens cross the road?
A. To get taken out!”