Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Las Vegas, New Year's Eve.

Happy New Year!

We left at lunchtime on the 28th December for what is proving to be our most hectic and expensive travels to date. We travelled with two good friends, as a group of four and stayed overnight in an airport hotel at Manchester in anticipation of our 6am check in for our United Airways flights to Las Vegas via Newark New Jersey, a total of nearly 14 hours in the air and 21 hours in total travelling to our destination, the Luxor Hotel and Casino. I have to say that our United Airways flights were excellent, with complimentary alcoholic drinks service on the international flight as well as full internet access, allowing me to post this image to Facebook while at 36,000ft over Canada.

The Luxor Hotel and Pyramid.

They don't have cops like this in Manchester!

We arrived quite exhausted, but we have one of the most comfortable rooms we have ever stayed in for our three night stay here.

We wasted no time to start exploring the city the next day, and this is just an awesome place with fabulous sights, but now having the experience, have now concluded that it is possibly not our thing. We have though now done it and got the T shirt and had a fabulous time in the process, but probably won't return. It is full on in your face hectic, surreal, and expensive.

Yesterday we met Margaret's sister and her husband at the Bellagio buffet ($37 pp if taken before 3pm), before going on to take our 6 pre booked seats at the Jersey Boys show across the road at the Paris. That show was just fabulous.

Above is the Bellagio Hotel lobby.

Today, New Year's Eve, we wandered down to the Venetion Hotel, also spectacular, but have now made our way back to the Luxor early afternoon as the crowds start to gather on the strip for the celebrations, which could be up to 300,000 people out at the same time.

Tomorrow, we are off to New York City for a few days. How I will cope I have no idea, we are exhausted.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

High Days And Holidays

Since arriving home from Spain in early December we have been busy catching up with family and friends, as well as experiencing some of the worst winter weather that Britain has experienced. However, we have been lucky enough not to have had the miserable experience of flooded homes that many from this area have had to endure, and our thoughts are with them.

Now it was the run up to Christmas proper, and we were joined by our daughter for the holiday period, with plans to visit our son and his young family to share their Christmas festivities which were to be much more exciting than ours. This is their Christmas Eve fancy dress.

Our own Christmas Eve was spent with a baking session following recipes that friends had shared on Facebook.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day were hectic family events, with an explosion of Christmas wrapping paper as usual. I'm sure we used to be content with a few tangerines and some shiny new coins.

And trying out my new selfie stick, one of my own Christmas gifts.....

Now that all that is over, and the tidying up is done, we now approach the exciting prospect of spending New Year's Eve in Las Vegas. We have never done that before, and it could turn out to be one of those love / hate adventures.

Come back soon to see how we got on!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Manchester Christmas Markets.

This weekend had been planned to visit the Christmas Markets at Bath using a rail tour on a vintage train. The start from Horwich was to be early, so we had arranged to stay overnight in a Premier Inn just 5 miles from home so that would be easier, and we could make the most of the weekend with a Friday night out in a classy restaurant also nearby.

However, as it turned out, and due to unforeseen overrunning works to the rail tunnels at Bolton, the planned rail tour could no longer pick us up from Horwich, and the hotel booking was non-refundable, so we chose to cancel the tour and visit the Manchester Markets by train instead.

Again, unfortunately for us, the British weather lived up to its current reputation and the forecasted heavy rainfall came in abundance during both Friday and Saturday. And it was also cold!

We didn't allow that to dampen our spirits though, and a great time was had by all. We left for Manchester on the line from Wigan to Piccadilly, which remained open and wasn't affected by the electrification works on the other line that disrupted our original plans. We left the train at Deansgate, and then made our way on foot across Manchester, visiting the markets and shops on our way, and calling for coffee at Costa off Albert Square.

Exhausted, we returned home on the same line, but this time from Manchester Victoria. We are now looking forward to our Christmas with the kids, and then our next big adventure which will take us to distant lands for the New Year, before returning to Spain to complete our winter in warmer weather after that.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Aftermath Of Storm Desmond

We flew home from Spain on the 4th of December to spend Christmas with the kids, and during that weekend Britain was hit by a further quick succession Atlantic storm named Desmond. It deposited a month's average rain for the north of England on northern Lancashire and Cumbria over a 24 hour period on top of weeks of "normal" rain that had already fallen. This meant the water dispersion arrangements could not cope, resulting in serious flooding once again. Lancaster, Kendal, Keswick, Carlisle and surrounding areas have all suffered devastating flooding. The last serious flooding in this area was in 2005 and was then supposed to be a "once in a century" event. After countrywide flooding last year flood defences had been strengthened, but once again failed after this unprecedented event.

Above is the Waterhead Coffee Shop, which has again become part of Lake Windermere.

Roads have also been blocked, or even washed away. Above is a road at Thirlemere, partially washed away and blocked by landslides.

Bridges that are hundreds of years old have been washed away. The one above is historic Pooley Bridge on the northern side of Lake Ullswater. Immediately after the event west coast mainline trains could not go further than Preston for several days.

Today the forecast is for yet more rain in significant quantities. Please think of the residents of this area who have lost everything once again just before Christmas.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Stage 2, Plan A.

Here we are on the 24th November, and still enjoying very warm sunshine throughout each day, although the evenings have now chilled off a little, and we used the van's central heating for the first time yesterday during the evening.

Our plan continues to work, and at the end of next week we will fly home directly to Manchester from here to spend Christmas with the kids and grandkids. This is the first time recently that Monarch Airlines have continued their direct flights to Manchester over the Winter period, and we have taken full advantage of this to book our flight in advance at just £29.99pp! Compare that to the £430 cost each way of shipping the motorhome and both of us here on the Santander ferry, and then you have to fuel it for the 600 mile trip from there to here as well.

We have tried to live as much as a normal life here as we would have done at home, with just a few lunches out - but the menu del dia in local restaurants averages just €9pp, so no drastic costs there. The big difference of course is here the weather is consistently pleasant, while back home the daily wind, rain, and even snow continue in their normal way at this time of year. At home I would have to motivate myself to get out of the house for even a short walk. Here we just wander out to the beach in shorts and T shirt. All the below images were taken during the last few days......

Almeria City Centre
San Jose Marina

This site has "bungalows" to rent at an average rate of €425 per calendar month on a long term basis. There are also many cheap alternatives in apartment accommodation to rent long term in some beautiful places such as Mojacar, San Jose or Cabo de Gata itself. I know of a beach front apartment at Cabo that is available right now at just €325 per month. Add to that the £30pp flights and car hire from €10 a day or even less with negotiation for long term hire, and a Winter in the sun is a cheap and viable option to living through it in the UK. Daytime temperatures continue at around 23 degrees at midday.

Almeria City beach and promenade

During the last week we have visited the city centre for lunch, (€6.40pp, 3 courses including a beer at a city centre Chinese restaurant), and also visited Bar Alba also for lunch at €9pp, also 3 courses including a beer, near to San Jose. After that we visited the marina at San Jose to reminisce about the time we used to own just such a boat before we landed ourselves with what turned out to be a very costly narrowboat experience. Enough said about that though.

Cabo de Gata Saturday market
The deserted beach at Cabo de Gata
Have a look at what this area has to offer here:

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Real Cabo de Gata.

Today we again woke up to more stunning weather. It just goes on and on! We decided to take the scooter out through the Sierras, and along the coast road to Faro de Cabo de Gata - lighthouse to you and me. There is much evidence of beach wild camping on the road approaching the mountains.

Faro de Cabo de Gata
Taken into the sun on an iPhone 4S
Almeria Province is what some might describe as "blighted" by plastic greenhouses where the world's tomatoes are produced. If you take the trouble to get out into the Parque Natural proper though you are rewarded by the most stunning scenery, along with the very best beaches in Spain. A guide to the natural park can be found HERE.

Today's trip took us through the village of Cabo de Gata itself, before climbing up into the Sierras, where the road becomes narrower and steeper. The road to the lighthouse itself is good, with a high quality asphalt surface. You can choose to go further down the coast road from there, but this becomes dirt track, steep and narrow very quickly, and I personally would not recommend taking a vehicle other than an off road bike along there. The coast road would get you to San Jose, passing the deserted and spectacular beaches of Genoveses and Monsul first. As I have described before, Monsul is the movie location for the scene in the Indiana Jones film where Sean Connery opens an umbrella to scare a flock of gulls off the beach and into the path of a WW2 German fighter plane, which subsequently crashes into the mountain. (The birds were actually trained pigeons, which were later "converted" into gulls during editing).

Monsul and Genoveses beaches are best accessed from San Jose itself, using the main roads to get there first. The track to them is then still corrugated dirt from the roundabout on the outskirts of the village but is flat, unlike the way from Cabo.

The coastal track to San Jose winds its way up and over the headland in the distance.

We have now done more miles on the scooter in Spain than we have in the UK since we bought it to use with the motorhome this time last year. It is certainly a much more pleasant ride here than in the UK due to both the weather and the road conditions. Today's maximum temperature as I write, is around 24 degrees.