So we are back on the road again. The last few weeks have just flown by. We initially spent some time in Yorkshire catching up with Steve’s parents and Sarah’s mother, taking in some of life’s luxuries including a bath and an armchair! We then moved onto the brilliant New Forest in Hampshire to house, dog and cat sit for our friends, Karen and Graham, while they were away on holiday. They have a lovely working Cocker Spaniel called Rupert who has endless amounts of energy and a cheeky cat called Bailey both of which kept us highly entertained. We spent over two weeks walking and cycling in the New Forest and Steve took Rupert on some great long runs. Being so close, he also couldn’t resist a cycle over his favourite route through the South Downs. We also took the opportunity to catch up with loads of friends, in fact it got so hectic Sarah created a spreadsheet for all the dates and times we had booked (she is sooo organised)!
After our time in Hampshire we moved on to Cardiff to catch up with our friends Jamie and Lisa who we met on a surf and yoga camp in Kerala, India a couple of years ago. Steve went running with Jamie while Sarah caught up on her yoga moves by attending one of Lisa’s classes. Very kindly they invited us to travel down to Pembrokeshire with them for the weekend and stay with Lisa’s family. What a fabulous part of the country. Luckily we had pretty good weather and enjoyed walking along the cliff tops (and as expected… Steve sneaked in a quick cycle). We are very appreciative that we were able to spend a couple of days in such a wonderful location.
Next it was back to Yorkshire to enjoy some more time with family. Steve’s parents have kindly allowed us to live with them when we are back in the UK and store our belongings when not in use, and Sarah’s mother has been looking after our car. Without being able to do this we would not be able to fullfil the 5 year plan, as it is currently, and we thank them very much for putting up with us! This time in Yorkshire allowed us to have some chill-out time but also help with some DIY. Steve will admit his DIY skills are minimal…. but even Sarah was impressed with the paint job in the kitchen! Steve also started to build up his cycling by doing some really tough routes in The Peak District and realized he had been cycling in four National Parks in a month. Very lucky boy.
Before we knew it, it was time to load up our car in preparation for our trip to Europe. With some very careful packing, use of space and a few tips from our last trip on “Didingo” the overland truck we managed to get 2 bikes, 1 inflatable tandem kayak, our tent, sleeping bags, 2 stoves, clothes for 3 months, 3 large boxes of food, training gear for 3 months, 2 wetsuits and, of course, the scrabble board! all inside the car!
After a visit to Sarah’s father in Kent, we boarded a ferry to France with no plan other than a target destination of Tuscany in Italy by Sarah’s birthday at the end of May. The weather was forecast to be pretty poor in Northern France so we hit the road through Belgium, turned South and skirted around Luxembourg before ending up in Strasbourg on the French/German border. We knew a little about Strasbourg, with it being the home of the European Parliament, Brexit and all that! What we didn’t know was how beautiful the city centre is. It has really well maintained German Gingerbread style buildings and an unbelievable gothic style Cathedral. When you travel around the World you come across many Cathedrals and places of worship, some are fantastic, Saint Peter’s in Rome and The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi spring to mind and some not so fantastic, Rio cathedral springs to mind! Strasbourg is definitely one to visit if you are in the area.
From Strasbourg we moved a few miles down the road to the wine region of Alsace. We stopped at the local Decathlon sports store. We have been using these stores for a few years (they are a bit of a French institution) and seem to stock everything sports based from skiing to horse riding and everything in between. It used to be Sarah’s favourite lunchtime visit whilst working and she was getting withdrawal symptoms, so we decided to stop for camping supplies and Steve needed some new tyres for his bike. We stocked up with a few essentials and went back to the car to squeeze them in. “Don’t worry Sarah you will be fine sat on those canisters of gas for 3000 miles, you’ll have a great view out of the window!” It wasn’t until we got to the campsite and unpacked for the day that Sarah said “Steve where did you put the new tyres for your bike”? “S#!t” came the reply “They are still rolling around the Decathlon car park” “You Muppet, only a few days in and you’ve already started losing things, you can sit on the gas canisters on the next leg”!
We then spent a couple of days cycling along the wine route of Alsace through great undulating countryside and picture-postcard villages before heading South towards The Ardeche, an area we have both wanted to visit at various times but for one reason or another never got there. After a long day on the road (sat on gas canisters) we stayed overnight in the City of Valence. In the morning Steve went for a run along the banks of the Rhone and saw that something was being set up in the centre of town. We both went in to investigate and found that a Road Show was in town promoting the French Formula 1 Grand Prix. A street circuit had been set up and thousands of people had gathered along the route. A Le Mans style touring car was being driven around the circuit at high speed impressing and deafening the crowd, earplugs were being handed out but Steve had said it was loud but not that loud. Then the star of the show was produced. A Formula 1 car was brought out, fired up and ripped around the city at a ridiculous speed. Neither of us had experienced anything like the noise of the car as at sped past, it was ear splitting and made your chest vibrate! “Where is the woman with those earplugs”?
We have now arrived on a great campsite in the Ardeche, right at the entrance to The Gorge with brilliant scenery all around. We intend to stay here for about a week to explore the area. It has been really good to spend some time catching up with family and friends but it also feels great to be back on the road exploring new places.