Welcome to the August edition of the newsletter.
The busy times (thankfully) continue this month with a trip to the Norfolk Motorhome Show (welcome if you signed up last weekend) and with our Sweden Tour heading off tomorrow. Last month's edition was more packed than the Conservative leadership race, which is why we saved the Idyllic France Tour review for this month. Read Sue's report later.
We also have another of our 'Spotlight on...' series as this month we focus on our "Pyrenees: Biarritz to Barcelona Tour".
In other bits of news, we have a bit more good news about the further lifting of Covid restrictions. We have also updated the website with the full itineraries for 2023 now available. We also have our brand new brochure ready to go and you can view these as PDFs on each of the tour pages on our website.
As usual we have another great one-pot recipe and the motorhome/travel tips this month is about working out how much gas you have left in your bottle.
Further lifting of COVID restrictions in France
Very hot off the press is the news that from 1st August France has lifted all remaining restrictions with regard to entry rules surrounding Covid. You no longer need to prove that you are vaccinated in order to enter the country. France were the last of the European countries that still insisted on proof. Now that this has been removed it means that none of the countries that we visit on our tours have any requirement for you to be vaccinated or prove that you are vaccinated. This is great news and just speeds everything up a bit at the port!
Idyllic France Tour Review
They say that variety is the spice of life and there was certainly no shortage of variety on our recent Idyllic France tour. It was a first run out of this new tour and during the 18 days we were away the temperatures ranged from 41 degrees to 14 degrees, we experienced bright blue skies and sunshine, heavy grey skies and rain and a sprinkling of torrential thunderstorms in between.
The first couple of days of the trip, as we headed south from Calais were pleasant, easy drives with temperatures in the low 20’s. By the end of day 4 the figures had shot up to a stifling 41 degrees and the only way to keep cool was in the superb swimming pools on our site close to Tours. Some of the guests bravely cycled into the city and others visited the beautiful Chateau Villandry, enjoying the shade of the carefully manicured gardens, whilst others took a gentle walk around the nearby lake.
As we headed further south towards Bordeaux it had cooled to a more bearable 29 degrees. First stop on this leg of the tour was a trip to the nearby vineyard and a fascinating talk from the owner followed by the inevitable wine tasting session. A very enjoyable evening. Over the next few days we had chance to explore the beautiful city of Bordeaux and the nearby town of Saint-Emilion. Saint-Emilion has over 40 wine shops within its compact town centre so there were plenty of opportunities to try and then buy!
Heading west on our tour we followed the route of the Dordogne River, driving through mile after mile of vineyards and Chateau (wine growers). Exploring the area around our next campsite included visits to the Castle set high on the hillside and an opportunity to canoe or take a leisurely boat trip down the river, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the countryside.
A highlight of our stay in this area was the sight of six hot air balloons floating serenely across the campsite, looking down over the river on a warm summer evening. It seemed that everyone on the site came out to have a look.
Next stop en route was the volcanic area of central France, close to the source of Volvic water. An interesting visit to nearby caves told the story of how and when the water was discovered and why it was so important to the region. A train ride up the highest volcano, the Puy du Dome, was unfortunately marred by low cloud so we missed the stunning views. However, we still enjoyed finding out more about the “Temple de Mercure” which was constructed at the top of the volcano in 2 AD and is currently the site of an archaeological dig and restoration work.
Heading north again we settled for a few days on a peaceful site on the banks of a river. The site was close to a pretty French village and the local train gave easy access to the towns of Auxerre and Avallon. We were once again in a wine growing region but this time the white wine region of northern Burgundy. The site was a perfect way to relax and enjoy our last couple of days before we headed north and back towards Calais.
As we made our final journey to our stopover site the fields were ablaze with colour from the
sunflowers which were in full bloom – a sea of yellow, reflecting the lovely sunshine we’d had for most of the trip – Idyllic France certainly live up to its name.
Spotlight on...Pyrenees: Biarritz to Barcelona
We continue our series of Spotlights, this month looking at one of our newer tours down to Northern Spain. This is not the first run-out for this trip, with Colin and Sue doing the inaugural trip way back way back BC (Before Covid).
All of our tours start and end in the UK (even when they go along way) and we endeavour to pick an interesting route to get to and from our destinations. This tour is no exception as we spend time in the Loire and on the Atlantic Coast as we meander down through France. We have extended stop overs in the elegant city of of Bordeaux followed by another one in the glamorous town of Biarritz famed for its sandy beaches and art deco buildings. This has long been a playground for the royals and the rich and famous looking out on the Bay of Biscay.
From here we cross the Pyrenees for the first time (at its lowest point) around San Sebastian, where we dwell for a few nights on the northern coast of Spain. Here you can expect cobbled streets, picturesque promenades all framed with a mountain backdrop. This is the heart of Basque country.
From here we head east spending several days skirting the southern slopes of the Pyrenees. We spend time in Pamplona, with its network of narrow streets and imposing buildings. It is best known for the running of the bulls although this will NOT be on when we are there allowing us to enjoy the history and sights.
From here we head into the rustic and unspoilt area around Huesca. Here you can expect hilltop medieval towns, historic abbeys, Gothic cathedrals and stunning views of the mountains.
We continue to head east to Catalonia and onto the Costa Brava - specifically to Spain's best-known city, Barcelona. Famed for its (still unfinished) Gaudi cathedral, Las Ramblas shopping street and markets, some football ground (?!), dozens of museum, thousands of bars and restaurants, and the coast - Barcelona really has something for everyone.
We have a change of pace then as we head through the Pyrenees via one of Europe's smallest countries (they all count), Andorra. Here you can see the mountains at their best and also stock up with cheap(ish) fuel and other essential liquids.
Our route north takes us through some of France's prettiest scenery in the Ariege Valley, with some time spent around Foix with its historic castle and lush mountain pastures. This area is often overlooked despite containing many quaint towns and villages that are quintessentially French.
Our route home takes in Limoges (famed for its art and architecture) and Tours (capital city of the Loire) before heading back to Calais.
This is a 25-day tour with a bit of everything - we have famous towns and cities, the French and Spanish coast, mountains, hilltop towns, history, art, architecture, excellent cuisine and great wines. There is currently availability of this tour for 2023 if you would like to join us. Full details are here.
Coq au Van (the amusingly titled recipe feature)
Mixed grains with greens, smoked trout and yoghurt
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
80g unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 eschalots, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch kale, stems finely chopped, leaves roughly chopped
2 1/2 tbs ras el hanout (Moroccan spice mix), plus extra to scatter
3 x 250g sachets microwavable mixed grains (from supermarkets)
1 head broccoli, florets roughly chopped
1 cup (250ml) good-quality vegetable stock
3 x 250g hot-smoked ocean trout or salmon fillets, skin removed, flaked
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Heat oil and butter in a large deep non-stick frypan over high heat. When the butter begins to foam add the garlic, eschalot and kale stem, and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until the eschalot has softened. Add the ras el hanout and grains, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes until grains are toasted. Stir in the kale leaves and broccoli florets with the stock. Cook, tossing in the pan, for 2-3 minutes until kale has wilted and broccoli is tender.
Season to taste and stir in half of the trout with the lemon zest and juice. Transfer to a large platter and scatter with remaining trout. Sprinkle over extra ras el hanout and serve with yoghurt alongside.
This month's tip is a simple one to help you work out how much gas you have left in your Calor gas bottle (other brands of gas are available and this will work on them too).
Remove the bottle and put it on the floor. Get a jug of hot (not boiling) water and pour it over the top of the bottle. Use your hand to feel where the temperature of the bottle changes from warm to cool. Where it start to go cool, this is the top level of where your gas is up to. You're welcome.
Keep in touch
Please feel free to contact us at any time. When we are away, calls will bounce to our mobiles at no expense to yourself.