Posted by: nobletravels | July 14, 2013

Descending the Ardeche Gorge

From Carcassonne we traveled a little further north about 2 hours from the south coast to an area called the ardeche. Along the way we picked up a hitch hiker, Amelia, and the kids got a bit of French language training. It reminded me of 20 years ago or more when my dad picked up a pretty Dutch hitch hiker in France with Simon and I in the car. I can remember thinking how cool my dad was getting a new hot girlfriend for us.

We chose a plush campsite but picked a pitch too close to the entertainment area so have been kept awake by a 60 year old French granny singing frank Sinatra classics! She is like the phillipino elvis impersonator who entertained us on the Barcelona underground.

Our reason to come here was for a two day river trip descending the ardeche gorge. We booked an English guide, Danny, to help us safely negotiate the many deadly rapids. We were very glad we did as we watched boat after boat get sucked in and spat out by the river.

The main draw to the area is the river and there were hundreds if not thousands of kayaks doing short day trips down the gorge. There was never a time when we had the river to ourselves but it didn’t matter as we were either focused on the rapids or gazing open jawed at the thousand feet cliffs on either side of us.

We camped out at an official bivouac site as wild camping is not permitted in the gorge park. Sleep didn’t come easy especially with the raucous chorus of frogs down on the river. Probably a protest to protect their legs!

So many ill prepared, careless and or wreckless paddlers descend the river that at certain particularly dangerous rapids the French pompiers are positioned in the river to help rescue capsized paddlers. We managed to skilfully (or luckily) get through all but one rapid without incident. On the toughest rapid ( but not the most dangerous) dad, holly and Megan never made the turn in time and hit the rocks side on. We ended up in the river with most of the others attempting the rapid.

We took lots of opportunities for swimming in the warm water which cooled us down from the intense heat in the gorge and the effort of our paddling. The kids jumped off high rocks, we swam into underwater caves, drank cold fresh spring water pouring out of holes in the rock walls and caught little hungry fish. Even smaller and hungrier fish nibbled the skin off heathers feet as we took a lunch break.

At the end of the two long days we had covered 32km and our muscles ached. We all snoozed on the 45min coach ride back to the start.

The two days was our best ever canoe trip and we really want to come back one day and try it without our guide.

Our guide took photos for us with his waterproof camera so we can’t post good photos now but there are some to give a flavour.

Today has been a day of rest trying to ease our muscles by soaking in the pool. Oh and also working on our tans. Tonight we go to watch a firework display on the river bank to celebrate Bastille day and tomorrow we head to Paris.

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Posted by: nobletravels | July 14, 2013

Horizontal changing room

To use the words of the genie in disney’s Aladdin … Twenty one nights camping … gives you one serious crick in the neck! This post is dedicated to the moans and groans of camping.

First from me… We are using little tents so we can’t stand to changed hence the horizontal changing.

Holly… Flies and ants. We had 4 tiny holes on each tent for a piece of string to pass through. The ants quickly found these and trains of ants poured in along the string.

Emily…no loo roll in the toilets! We have to bring our own loo roll but imagine what happens when you forget too late.

Megan…rolling around on the tent floor when sleeping. I end up in all sorts of weird positions.

Heather….mossie bites! No explanation needed.

Nathan…..I just love it.

We went on an overnight canoeing trip and slept in different tents and mats without pillows. We were actually glad to get back ‘home’ the next night for a good nights sleep!

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Posted by: nobletravels | July 11, 2013

Carcassonne

At home we play a board game called carcassonne where you have to build fortified cities to score points. The game is designed after the medieval French city of carcassonne. Our visit here was to be a trip highlight for the kids and we were not disappointed.

We had a brief walk around the old city (cite) on the evening we arrived at our 4 star camping (however still no toilet roll provided). Nathan and dad replenished the armouries ready for the following day. Then back to the campsite for a swim.

The next day we went to a medieval tournament to watch jousting and sword fights. The show lasted an hour and had a plot line to tell a story. What the plot or story was we have no idea cos nous ne parley pas francais! But the fighting was great. Nathan was dressed for the occasion with sword, shield, spear and tunic. Heather made the tunic from a pillow case! She is even talented when she is camping.

A game of carcassonne was played on the city wall, very nostalgic.

We had dinner at a restaurant in the square: moules et frites! Check out Emily eating mussels.

A really magical couple of days.

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Posted by: nobletravels | July 7, 2013

Barcelona and the costa brava

Had a busy couple of days at Barcelona. One day we spent at a water park, Ille Fantasia. Lost track of the number of different slides and tubes. It was overcast so we were able to stay out in the sun all day without getting cooked. Probably one of the kids’ favourite days so far. Even Nathan, who would normally shy away from cold water, really took to it.

Another day we took a train into the centre of Barcelona. We visited the cathedral, the gothic quarter, the harbour front with the billionaire yachts and an aquarium (with billionaire entrance fee!). A couple of underground trains took us to the sagrada familia, a funky modern art cathedral designed by gaudi. Strange stone, wacky windows, peculiar pillars and crazy carvings, the guy must have smoked some weird stuff. It is only half built after 200 years.

We took some more underground trains to a famous fountain in a large park. We exited the subway to the deafening roar of thousands of Harley Davidsons. The area had been renamed Harley village for the week! Nathan and Megan got to sit in a big thee wheel bike.

We got a great seat on a wall behind the fountains and waited for nightfall. The fountains came alive at 9pm with music and lights. It was quite a show, almost disney-esq.

A late night train took us back out to our campsite and a well earned rest.

The committee met again and based on some travel tips from a French American campervan neighbour we headed up to the costa brava.

I sit now on my sun lounger on the beach with the sun beating down on my milky white flesh, the Mediterranean waves lapping on the sand. We had planned to be in France today but the committee voted for a beach sabbatical. We will probably head on tomorrow as 2 days of lounging on the beach is probably our limit. But heather wanted sun and sun is definitely what she got this weekend, she is a very happy camper.

Ps. She also wanted paella, she got it but too much weird fishy stuff, she is not a happy eater.

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Posted by: nobletravels | July 4, 2013

Holy Pickpocket!

On Wednesday we drove about 4 hours to Barcelona in line with the committee’s request for more sunshine. The kids played silently on their new tablets giving us no grief. Heather successfully navigated despite both the sat nav and our AA drivers atlas being woefully out of date.

For the first two hours we skirted along the shore of Embalse de Mediano, another turquoise lake. The waters were so inviting, how we wished we had our canoes.

Just on the outskirts of Barcelona we stopped at the mountain top sanctuary of Montserrat. For centuries Catholics have built various hermitages and chapels amongst the rocky peak. Many take a pilgrimage up to the basilica to touch a statue of Mary.

We took a little train, a funicular, up a dizzy steep slope above Montserrat to get a spectacular view of the surrounding area and to visit a tiny hermitage used by monks in the 14th century.

Upon our return back to Montserrat we stopped into the souvenir shop. A tesco super store for catholic statues, pendants, crosses, candles and rosary beads. Whilst checking out which Virgin Mary statue we would buy for my mother I felt a tug at my shorts. At first I thought it was one of the kids but no, it was a crack hot team of interdenominational pick pockets! They managed to get the zip on my pocket open but my wallet stayed put. They split and we left with a grateful prayer in our hearts. Perhaps we should have lit a wee candle in the chapel as a mark of thanks!

We had a warm stuffy night in our little tents at our new campsite. It has an ambitious 2 star rating: we have to provide our own loo roll!

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Posted by: nobletravels | July 3, 2013

Pyrenees Paradise

We took a scenic drive on Monday through parts of the Ordensa National Park. A single lane track led us up a stunning canyon hugging the cannon wall, in parts with the road having recently collapsed. It reminded me of the top gear episode where they drive along a canyon road inches from certain death. My mother in law would not be pleased with me taking her grandchildren there (sorry Lilian)! A thunder storm rolled in when we were half way up the canyon. The thunder and lighting added to sense of ominous danger.

At the top we took a hike to see one of the countless waterfalls. Stunning!

We visited an old hilltop village, Ainsa, with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. We were given a tour of the raptor visitor centre by a Spanish speaking ballymena woman. Ole hey.

The travelling for the kids is made easier by the vulture spotting. Just enormous birds ready to rip the flesh from our bodies should we not make it back safely from a hike (sorry again Lilian)

Back to that thunder storm, the same one that must have passed through our campsite before it got to us in the canyon……. umm heather,
yes my stunningly handsome husband,
Oh sweet kind forgiving wife… I thought it was a good idea to leave the outer tent door open to let the tents air out,
Arghhhhh!!

We arrived back to the campsite to wet sleeping bags and sleeping mats! We couldn’t just hang them out to dry because the biggest, baddest storm I have ever seen blasted us all evening. The kids were in awe. The lighting blew the electric so we had to wait till we could get the tumble driers going. We spent most of the evening cowering in the laundry room eating supper and playing cards.

Tuesday we woke to a bright dry morning ready for a new day of adventure.

We took the park bus into the centre of Odessa Park, out of limits to private cars. We hiked up the valley flanked on either side by 1000m cliffs. The path followed the glacial melt river, a beautiful turquoise blue, past dramatic waterfalls up to the foot of mount perdido the largest of the plus 3000m peaks. It is the Spanish answer to the Grand Canyon.

We left early in the morning hoping to avoid the worst heat of the day but it took us over 6 hours so we were hiking right through midday. We were all completely whacked at the end and collapsed onto the bus dreaming of our beds.

More thunderstorms that afternoon but it dried up enough for us to sit out at a restaurant in Torla, the local hill top village, to enjoy a late dinner with the mountains we hiked as a backdrop.

The traveling council met and duly voted to fly south to find the sun and leave the thunderstorms behind. The weather forecast was for more of the same.

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Posted by: nobletravels | June 30, 2013

Hola Espania

We arrived safely at Santander on Saturday afternoon. The ferry drip was a breeze. We had been warned about rough seas in the bay of biscay but there was hardly a ripple. Waking up on Saturday morning I could have been mistaken for being on terra firma at some 3 star hotel.

We all had a dip in the salt water swimming pool on the open deck. We were swimming alone as the temperature of the sea air was exactly inviting!

The boat had 2 wildlife spotters on board to help find whales and dolphins. We didn’t need them as we have our own in house Attenborough: holly. She can spot a bug on a mountain top or a dolphin in a vast ocean.

Our first campsite was only about 30 mins of right hand driving from the port. The weather was grim and the receptionist at the campsite wasn’t too optimistic!

Our first night of 21 camping! The kids slept great but I reckon I have a few too many pounds above the weight limit for my sleeping pad.

Today was my birthday and like many others we got to celebrate it on holidays. The kids made impromptu decorations using sweetie wrappers. The aftershave gift will be useful to mask the eau d’camping.

Close to our campsite we stopped by a unique transporter bridge and had ourselves a little ride.

We had a lengthy drive to reach our first main destination: torla. The town is perched up on the mountain side deep in the Spanish Pyrenees. We are camped at the foot of some stunning cliffs and snow topped mountains. The summer season hasn’t started here yet so the campsite is almost vacant, just silence except for the roaring mountain river and the chorus of crickets. Lets hope at least one of them stops.

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Posted by: nobletravels | June 27, 2013

Life on the ocean wave

Living on an island off another island means it is quite an odyssey to get to off it. We are on our third ship so far. We sailed last night to Liverpool and tonight we are on Brittany Ferries to Santander in Spain. The extra ship came when we had a little diversionary nautical visit to HMS Victory in Portsmouth historic shipyard before we boarded this evening.

Victory was the flag ship of the British during the battle of trafalgar with Lord Nelson onboard. Seeing how 820 men squeezed into every inch of the ship hanging in tiny hammocks gave us no excuse to complain about our cramped cabin onboard tonight.

The driving today was blissful peace with not a murmur from the kids. They each got a new tablet as a surprise and heather and I expect tranquil driving for the next few weeks.

Hopefully, wifi depending, we will try keep a wee blog of our travels for the next 3 weeks as we travel through Spain and up through France.

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Posted by: nobletravels | August 1, 2011

Scotland 2011

This year’s summer holiday is a trip to bonnie Scotland. We have quite a road trip planned just hope we haven’t over scheduled things. We will try to keep a bit of a blog going but as we are camping we may struggle for internet access.

Posted by: nobletravels | April 8, 2010

UShaka Marine world

Just a quick post while I am in this shopping mall with free Internet.

The weather down here in banana beach is amazing. We are having a blast playing at the beach.

Yesterday we drove up to Durban to visit ushaka marine park. It’s a huge water park with plenty of slides, shoots and pools combined with a seaworld. We watched a dolphin show set to Zulu drums (this is Zulu land here). We watched sharks, played for hours in the pools but best of all we snorkelled in an enormous open tank crammed with thousands of beautiful fish. The snorkelling is one of the highlights of the trip for me.

We visited the Bowens great granny last night. (granny to don , great to jess and claudia)

Today we chilled at the beach, played in the waves and swam with the fish in the rock pool.

A visit to milky lane now for another icecream and then a braii again tonight. What stress!!!

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