49 South Western Europe

SOUTH WEST EUROPE                                                                    April – June 2014

Journey as planned in 1998, completed

 

7 months in South Africa with family and friends was wonderful. Trips from home included an amazing expedition to Wankie Game Reserve in Zimbabwe.  Jan also finished D2, Dipli’s twin. 

With a gas stove in our baggage we reunited with Dipli in Aachen on April 14. The whole kitchen unit had to be disassembled to build it in; and to fit (only just!) a new fridge.

 FRANCE.

The many special overnight facilities for motor homes (“aires”), along highways and in villages, were welcoming.

On our way south we saw The Metz Centre Pompidou, a building resembling a giant gliding manta ray. We tasted at a nougat factory, walked on a Roman aqueduct and got technical at a Nuclear power station.

In an area with old-world villages, orchards and cultivated fields we visited friends on their farm and met a whole community of English-speaking expats. (Some ex SA).


  
Back in France later, we stopped at beaches and revisited the sights of Paris. In the Loire valley we saw the castles, including Chateau du Clos Luce where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last days. There are models and full size replicas of his many inventions in the garden.

 

           

              12 June 1969


ANDORRA

There was still deep snow on the pass when we ascended to the tiny country.

Diesel was cheaper and everything else genuinely “duty free”

 

SPAIN  (ESPAÑA)

In Madrid, Toledo and Seville we saw the plazas, galleries, gardens, churches, and a castle. At the Royal Palace we were impressed by the chandeliers and a set of decorated Stradivari: 2 violins, 2 cellos and a viola. We snacked at tapas bars and enjoyed a flamenco show.

The crowds and congestion in Granada around the Alhambra palace was repelling.

 

As the vehicles nosed their way to the border of Spain with Gibraltar we checked where our guidebook stated that South Africans do not need a UK visa. ¾ hour later the bobby said: “That changed 18 months ago. Turn around!”

 



40km from Algeciras, at Tarifa, we reached The “Furthest South in Europe”. It is where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Oceans meet. (Furthest North was at Nordkap, Norway).

 




The Costa del Sol alias Costa del Golf has courses and condominiums cheek-by-jowl.

Once we were on our way west, the resorts disappeared and unbelievably, there were the wild beaches of the Costa de la Luz.

We parked by the seaside and watched multi-coloured kite surfers.

A guide at the Sandeman sherry cellars in the town of Jerez de la Frontera, explained that only 3 cultivars of grapes are ever used in the making of sherry

 

Northern Spain 

Jan detoured for Leone to yet another natural thermal pool in the outdoors. Soaking was under the stars next to the river, near Ourense.

 On the north coast of Spain the road reaches pretty beaches intermittently.

Comillas village has one of the architect Gaudi’s first buildings; a bachelor’s house built in 1883. The exterior walls are covered with glazed tiles of orange sun-flowers..

 Altamira cave paintings of horses, deer, goats and bison still retain the ochre colour with charcoal outline. They date from 22 000 to 13 000 years ago.

 

 PORTUGAL.

On the Algarve coast we joyfully reunited with a tennis-friend of Leone’s from Randburg.

From Dipli’s 6 square meters to a villa with 5 bedrooms and 5 baths, terraces, pool and tennis court! (We even hit a few shots!). We met folks who had lived in and around South Africa. Local fare included British fish and chips & Portuguese grilled chicken.

 

Cromeleque dos Almendres, is Portugal’s Stone Henge. Here, surrounded by cork trees, are 95 large oval granite monoliths as they were placed 7000 years ago.

 

Lisbon’s monuments are along the wide River Tao. Among other discoverers, Vasco do Gama is honoured for his journey to India via Southern Africa in 1497.

Typical of Portugal are the varieties of exquisite ceramic tiles. We admired them in all the churches, palaces, on some houses and at the Museo do Azulejo. (Tile museum)

 



Above the steep cliffs of Cabo da Roca we reached the “Furthest West in Europe”. (Furthest East was the Ural Mountains, Russia)

     

 

With bell towers soaring above, Porto’s buildings cascade down to the Douro River where the scores of port cellars are. We gained knowledge of “Reserve”, “Vintage”, “LBV” (late bottled vintage). There is “ruby”, “tawny”, “white” and now also a “rosé” port.

 

 




BELGIUM  (BELGIË)

111th country and the planned journey completed!

We arrived very early on a Sunday morning in the middle of Brussels. Vehicles are forbidden in the Grote Mark but we followed a service truck into the central square, for a photo shoot of Dipli.

 




Antwerp

The campsite was ideal to get the motorhome cleaned and secure for shipping to Halifax, Canada. After delivering Dipli at the port, we dashed, in a hired car, to the Antwerp central station to meet our daughters, Liesl and Ingrid, who had flown in from SA that morning. What a delight to explore Antwerp with them!

We relished the coffee and the divine Belgian chocolate. At the Fashion and Design museum we girls saw a magnificent exhibition of modern and historical garments adorned with plumes and feathers. (Birds of Paradise).

 

Then it was Jan’s 70th birthday for the four of us to celebrate. A luxurious hotel breakfast, then to Antwerp’s main square and many Belgian beers to choose from.

Later Champagne, biltong and gifts and video clips from the grand children.

The celebratory dinner was at a World Kitchen buffet.

 


From our centrally located hotel in Ghent we found the best cappuccino bars and tracked down the carts selling the unique purple Cuberdon sweets. A canal cruise was the languid way to see the charming city. St Baafs Cathedral displays the exquisite painted altar piece which was hidden and found after WWII in an abandoned salt mine. (Film: “Monuments Men”) One evening we enjoyed an organ recital in that church.

 




Brugge On a rainy day we had bagels, croissants and coffee in a funky café in a hidden alley.

Choco Story is the Museum of Chocolate. It depicts the history of chocolate from 2000 years ago. There is a demo, tasting and a tempting shop.

 

NL

After quaint Delft we took Liesl and Ingrid to Amsterdam. They were to fly home from there after a day with friends - and with Vincent van Gogh!

 

We drove back to Brussels for the flight to Halifax, Canada, to wait another week for Dipli to arrive and then continue our travels in the USA again.

 

This journey up to June 2014:

Time on the road (excluding home visits): 7 years 5 months

Kilometres driven: 298 000       Countries visited: 111 (with Dipli).         US States: 49


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