Tag Archive: friends


I had a big ah-ha moment on Friday when I realised that I was resisting blogging about coming home because I was so reluctant to come home. Then I ended up getting out of bed at 1.30am to write the darned thing… and then I left it another couple of days before I could bring myself to tackle my late night ramblings and make them a little more coherent… So here goes:

It was a bittersweet homecoming indeed. Whilst it was wonderful to see so many of our friends at the rally and to be greeted with a wealth of warmth and hugs, it was sad to know that we were nearing the premature end to this first chapter of our travels.

We were asked the first of many questions along the lines of, “Hey, it’s great to see you, but what are you doing back here? We thought you were going away for years!”.

This was something we were to get used to hearing a lot over the next few months.

The rally itself was great fun, but also not without its ups and downs. As so often happens in early October, the weather was surprisingly warm and sunny. It was also seasonably windy, very windy, which meant that the huge bonfire that was usually lit at around midnight on the Saturday could not be – the club running the rally made the sensible decision not to light it as the wind would have blown hot embers straight over the tents in the camping field, which would have been less than ideal.

It was a great shame as one of the joys of this rally in the past had been to enjoy a good old sing song around the campfire with friends. The upside was that we had a slightly earlier night than we would have had otherwise, so every windy cloud has a silver lining.

We were slow to pack up on the Sunday (that reluctance was manifesting itself again), and we ended up with the last tent still standing. The club were busy with clearing and cleaning the site, and a couple of them stopped by for a last natter.

Finally we dragged ourselves away and headed for home.

We had been away for 2 months, had ridden 3,354 miles through 5 countries and 2 principalities, enjoyed countless twisty turny roads, and more ups and downs than you can shake a stick at.

Our trip may have been temporarily delayed, but boy, what a ride so far!

Photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

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We had been looking forward to visiting Carcassonne for quite some time. The fascination with the place started a few years ago when Sarah had a regular Games night with her friends Pam and Ari. As three is an awkward number, she went to a local specialist games shop looking for a game that would be fun to play with only that number of players. They recommended the award winning (yes, they have awards for games!) tile building game ‘Carcassonne’, which fast became their favourite.

Next we both read an excellent historical fiction called ‘Labyrinth’ by Kate Mosse, which is set in Carcassonne and the surrounding area.

Because of all this, Carcassonne had featured as a definite destination in our travel plans from the start. We were over the moon that our first view of it was magical, with it looking as splendid in reality as we could have hoped for.

Sarah found a campsite called Camping La Cite within sight of the old city walls, which had plenty of space and was quiet as it was approaching the end of their season. We booked in, and it was good to be able to hand in my RAC Camping Carnet at the reception instead of having to surrender one of our passports. We picked a spot amongst a stand of walnut trees near to a stream, set up the tent, and settled in.

That evening we received a telephone call from our friend Rob, who was in Bordeaux with his girlfriend Martina. We had previously talked about the possibility of meeting up, and they now decided that they would travel south and meet us at Carcassonne. I was blown away as they only had a few days of their holiday left and we were quite a distance further south than they had been planning on travelling, particularly given that their ferry back to the UK was sailing from Calais.

They were tired of camping, so we decided to ditch the tents and share one of the mobile home type units that were available on site. The fact that the mobile home had heating was a big decider as the nights were definitely turning cool! They arrived early the next evening and we all chatted and caught up over a meal.

We had heard mixed reviews of Carcassonne, with some saying it was wonderful, and others saying is beautiful but over commercialised, being full of bars, cafes and souvenir shops. We decided to walk there along the riverbank and find out for ourselves.

As we approached the old city of Carcassonne my first impression was one of awe, as the fortified city is huge, very imposing and in excellent condition. It is obvious that various parts have been renovated, but I found it to be impressive and beautiful. Yes there were a lot of businesses inside that were aimed at the tourists, but there were also normal shops, and to my surprise some private houses. I had no idea that people actually still lived inside the walled city. We had the benefit of seeing the place out of season on a weekday, but I can imagine that our impressions would have been quite different had we been there on a busy Sunday in August.

After we had looked around a little, we headed for a bar. How unusual I hear you cry, but for once it was not just our desire for a drink, but a rather more sad occasion. Wayne, a friend of ours who had celebrated with us at the Wed-n-Fled rally (amongst others) had been killed by an allegedly drunk driver who failed to even stop at the scene. Whilst I would like to rant on about the sort of despicable person who would do that, I had better not as this is really not the time nor the place and the matter has yet to go to court. We coincided our drink with his funeral so that we could be there in spirit to celebrate his life. Ride free Wayne!

Of course one drink led to another, and after we had polished off a couple of bottles of wine I had my first taste of Grog, a drink made with rum, hot water and sugar. I think that interesting is the best way for me to describe it, needless to say that I won’t be rushing to order it again. Martina had moved on to Irish Coffee, which was like none I have seen before. It came in a large glass and was multi layered, with hot whiskey and brown sugar at the bottom, espresso coffee in the middle and cream on the top. It came with a straw so that she could sup from any of the layers at will! A better choice than the grog, methinks.

After we left the old city we decided to finish off the day with a BBQ and made use of the one of the communal BBQs that were scattered around the campsite. It took some time but was delicious!

On our way to Carcassonne a couple of days previously, we had passed a very picturesque marina on the canal du Midi, and as the next day was beautifully sunny, we decided that this would be a good place to visit. We parked up near to the marina and walked, as the road that ran down the side of the canal was closed by an armed Police officer whilst workmen were tarring and stone chipping patches of the road surface. Hot tarred and chipped feet anyone?!

As we approached we saw a number of the boats which had “Le Boat” written on the side, which I thought was particularly helpful for the landlubbers amongst us.

We made enquiries and discovered that Le Boat was the name of the local boat hire company, which prompted us to go for a pleasant and relaxing boat trip along the canal midi.

Our final full day in Carcassonne was rounded off with another very pleasant evening at the campsite.