Here we are, after five days’ travelling across France and Spain, finally arrived in Casa Campestre. It’s so good to be here, despite torrential rain beating at our windows, in the midst of the biggest thunderstorms you could ever imagine! The weather forecast said it would stop raining at 11am, and it is now 11.30 but the skies are still a uniform dark grey, and I am looking out on our garden that’s loving all this water. Thankfully, the weather changes very quickly around here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if before the end of the afternoon we are back in shorts.
Meandering through France
It’s been great to take our time to meander through France, and it reminded me how much I love this country where, as a child, we always had our family camping holidays. I vividly remember the beautiful countryside and villages with ancient churches and chateaux. On our journey to Casa Campestre, we stayed overnight in two places in France: Arnay-le-Duc in Burgundy and Bordeaux in the South-West of France. They couldn’t be more different. The streets in Arnay were quiet, pace of life was leisurely, there was one restaurant (an excellent one) open on a Sunday, none on Mondays! We stayed in a Gite de France, with a very warm and welcoming host, who baked a plum tart for breakfast and gave us home-made cakes for on our journey. We walked in the countryside, alongside canals and visited some beautiful villages.
In Bordeaux we stayed on a boat, in an up and coming docklands area, which was an interesting mix of highly modern and old-style buildings, with a slightly edgy feeling. Strolling along the river Garonne, city life is all around, with restaurants and cafes lining the streets, and lots of really interesting shops, including some fabulous brocante and antique stores. Price of food and drink about double what we paid in Arnay, and no home-made cakes. But what a city! Vibrant, exciting, cosmopolitan, with historic buildings all around, and two cruise ships moored just by the city centre.
French property prices
As ever, Hilary and I looked at estate agents’ windows both in Arnay-le-Duc and in Bordeaux. Not because we want to buy a property in France, but because we like to look! We simply drooled over some very lovely village houses in Burgundy with unbelievably low prices. In sharp contrast, properties in Bordeaux were priced much like you’d expect in the UK. I guess the reason is that there are many more jobs in the city, and so increasingly young people move away from the country to urban life. As a result, the villages are left empty, with lots of properties for sale. Very tempting all these lovely houses, but we are on our way to live in Spain, and buying another property – however amazing – is definitely not realistic.
Spanish rural life – San Carlos del Valle
And so we drove on, and into Spain. I pride myself on finding really cool, and inexpensive places for our overnight stays. And our stop-over in Spain definitely fitted the bill. San Carlos is a small town, in the middle of Castilla la Mancha, that couldn’t be more different from either of the French places we just visited. We felt as if we’d arrived in the middle of South America, with wide tree-lined streets flanked by small houses, and then in the village centre an amazingly beautiful church and square, strongly reminiscent of Cusco in Peru. The square was decorated with flags, and – as is so often the case in Spain – it was time for a local fiesta, with bands, sporting competitions, and a religious procession thrown in. This time, though, we were out of luck, because the weather turned and festivities took place indoors. But the people were friendly, the food was excellent, and the hotel delightful. We are very happy to be back in Spain once again.
Home before the storm
We arrived at our house just before the big storms came down on us. The news reports of flooding all over Spain are harrowing, and we feel lucky to be safe. Going out in the car today was a bit of an adventure, because mud slides had covered our track and it was slippery. But weather changes quickly here and the sun is shining, the mud is drying, and our one-year adventure really has begun. It still feels a bit unreal, but I guess reality will come with time. Hasta luego!