20240319 – San Sebastián, Tarbes, Carcasson and Port Vendres


Lazy start to the morning followed by a trouble free, 5 hour drive down to Plymouth.

Hotel’s quite quaint, in a big old house, only 24 rooms but spotlessly clean, comfortable and cheap.

Being poor tea consists of roast beef butties for me and a trout salad for Wendy, started off by some smoked salmon and topped with


Well I start my French trip with good intentions. At least one “Wave” entry – something good every day.

Today I celebrate the screw top wine bottle, none of the difficulty of the cork so beloved by the French. Just easy on a road trip. Screw open, no need for a corkscrew. Drink. Screw bottle top with the remnants, assuming of course you’ve not managed to swig it all down.

Topped off by todays useless piece of information:

The best known brand of wine screw caps is Stelvin. The caps have a long outside skirt, intended to resemble the traditional wine capsule (“foil”), and use plastic PVDC (polyvinylidene chloride) as a neutral liner on the inside wadding.

The Stelvin was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by a French company Le Bouchage Mécanique at the behest of Peter Wall, the then Production Director of the Australian Yalumba winery. In 1964 Peter Wall approached Le Bouchage Mécanique. The Stelvin cap was trialled in 1970 and 1971 with the Swiss wine Chasselas, which was particularly affected by cork taint, and was first used commercially in 1972 by the Swiss winery Hammel.[6] From about 1973 Yalumba and a group of other wineries – Hardys, McWilliams, Penfolds, Seppelt, Brown Bros and Tahbilk – were involved in developing and proving up the concept and began using it commercially in 1976.

Wow, what a surprise, developed by a Frenchman. To this day some appellations ban the use of screw caps.


On our way to the delights of France.


Up early’ish for a traditional English breakfast. Traditional boarding house style breakfast, no buffet, just cooked on demand.

Have a wander around Plymouth. What a depressing place. Main shopping all second hand / charity shops, all the big stores are in a modern shopping precinct. Just another typical downtown city. Almost as bad as Blackburn.

Then stroll up to Plymouth Hoe, so much history there.

Well that’s enough Plymouth for one lifetime, drive over to the port. Usual queues. Security are having a fun time stopping nearly everyone, searching old ladies handbags and checking there is an engine under the bonnet.

Goodbye England for 6 weeks.

At least we board early. Pretty nice two bed cabin with settee (AKA sofa) and a porthole – it doesn’t open so any puking will be inside. Pretty good tea (AKA dinner); watch some downloaded Netflix; wine and then time for bed.

trivia header


Is this his bowling club?

Popular legend has it that it was on Plymouth Hoe, on 20th July 1588, that the Elizabethan Sea-Captain Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls when first news of sightings of the invading “Spanish Armada” was brought to him. Thereupon Drake ostensibly signified his wish merely to continue his game of bowls undisturbed, a cool reaction fabled as an act of English heroism. In reality, however, Drake and his fellow captains probably knew full well that the wind and tide conditions at that particular moment precluded the English Fleet from putting to sea immediately from Plymouth!
When he eventually went out to sea, he defeated the Spanish Armada and this is what possibly he is best known for.


A visit to Plymouth Hoe. Francis Drake finishing his game of bowls before setting off to defeat the Spanish Armada. And I’ve just seen to most beautiful Spaniel ever, a black and gold sable cocker spaniel. I’m so annoyed I didn’t get his photo. When I retire I will just have to have one.



Where have all the toilet seats gone? There must be a shitty trade in stolen seats.


Islams war on freedom


Not even in French terroratorial waters and French chauvinism / stupidity strikes an annoying blow. Half bottle of wine in the self service restaurant has a cork rather than screw top. Unbelievable. Scrat around for a cork screw, you’d at least think there’d be one chained to the wine racks. Alas have to join a serious queue and cashier has to open the bottle – adds to the queue. Stupidity reigns yet again.


This is Wendy’s cruise for the year. Complete with formal night photo, obstructing the the main staircase of course.

Reasonable nights sleep, crossing the dreaded Bay of Biscay was as smooth as the Southport boating lake.

Fairly mediocre breakfast, avoided the croissants and like a condemned man stuck to my last traditional English breakfast.

Arrive on time.

Just a short 2 hour drive to our first overnight in San Sebastián. Driving along the auto routes in Spain and France is so much more relaxing than motorways in the UK. There’s no one on them. Mind you that’s not surprising considering you have to stop every 200 yards for yet another toll plaza.

What a dump this place looks. Masses and masses of tower blocks as far as the eye can see. Our hotel is in the midst of them. OMG what have we let ourselves in for. Turns out to be a very modern and trendy hotel. A superb 5 star amidst these ghettos. We upgraded to a suite , free. Only downside is that dinner is not served until 20:00. Do they not realise we’ll be asleep by then – bloody foreigners!

Suites lovely, but no one mentioned that the water doesn’t flow unless you pop your key in the slot. Bizarre!

There’s free parking in an underground maze. I’m sure that there will be cars down there with skeletons in of the drivers who never found their way. No one mentioned you need to be in an open top car as the spaces are that narrow you can’t open the doors to get out. Unbelievable.

Research local restaurants, but as they mainly seem to have 3.5 stars and it would involve walking through the ghetto we give them a miss.

By 19:30 our stomachs are of the firm believe our throats been cut, could demolish a bear fur sandwich with gusto. Go down to the bar for pre-dinner drinks, all very civilised. Then Wendy goes and swigs down a 15 euro brandy – I need resuscitating.

Wendy’s meal is disgusting, fewer chips than a macdonalds kiddy fries portion and a few anorexic mini lamb chops. A shame because this is a lovely modern hotel, all very trendy.


We were one of the last cars off the ferry so I was dreading and expecting a 30 to 60 minute immigration queue. Wow, it was amazing must have been all of 4 minutes. So damn efficient it makes me start to wonder why we left the Evil Union. Nothing like the horror queue stories propagated by the lying English press.



SO many toll booths.


How much energy will the World need?



Thankfully breakfast is better than last nights dinner. A great buffet continental selection.

Set off on a two hour drive to Tarbes.

Arrive in glorious sunshine 75. Sit in local park to have our gourmet lunch, a mandarin for me.

Good to see my French still just about works as I ask for the toilets. In typical French fashion it’s hidden behind a Photo Booth that you have to squeeze past. The good news is that the seat thief hasn’t been but expecting a toilet roll is excessive.

Hotel’s ok.

We try to find a restaurant that’s open, most seem to have a lazy opening on 19:00. Find one; waiter screws up order; slanging match ensues with owner; I refuse to pay for my food order; pay for drinks and that’s it. End up getting a selection of desserts from Intermarche. Nothing like desserts for tea.


Awesome sat in a sunny park in Tarbes, with flocks of peacocks. For the first time get to see a white peacock. Then watch a rampant pigeon trying to mount a female who in typical female fashion is having none of it, headache and playing hard to get. The male’s fascinating as he stalks after his prey, but still sates his hunger by pecking food from the ground as he follows her.






Drive over to Carcasson. The castle looks amazing. It’s a warm sunny day, but a tad breezy. Check into nice hotel and then have a stroll over to the castle.

Wander around the shops and restaurants inside the castle walls. Stop for a beer and sit and enjoy the sun. Then it’s back to the hotel to await another late tea, 1900. A strolling minstrel stops by to entertain us. the couple at the next table offer to pay him to stop with the infernal racquet he’s making. He’s dressed like a Middle Ages plague doctor, terrifying, there will be adults and children having nightmares tonight.
Tea is good, I enjoy a lovely cassoulet followed by tradition bread and cheese. And so to bed.


This castle is amazing. Just strolling around, enjoying the sun and warmth, and imagining how life used to be.



Yes, we nearly forgot they’re never open.


I always thought America was bad for the exhaust bandits driving up your backside to see what’s inside your exhaust pipe, but France is so much worse. The safe stopping distance in France is 50 metres. I blame the EU using the metric system as the stupid ones are confused my metres and centimetres so they assume it’s 50 centimetres.

Some famous geezer once said it is better to travel than to arrive. Utter nonsense. My saying is “travel to see stupidity in action”.


Another sun, cloud and breezy day. After a good breakfast we take a stroll over to the castle again and pay to walk the ramparts and go into the castle. We’ve done it before but can’t really remember it.

Before we set off for Port Vendres we need a supermarket, being France they nearly all close at Sunday lunch, only a Casino open. Pretty grim supermarket, big but poor choice and shoddy fresh produce.

Then it’s a 90 minute drive over to our Airbnb for the next week in Port Vendres.

10 year old software geeks strike again.

What a nightmare finding the place. First sat nav takes us to the bottom of a 65 stairs up to the airbnb. Second takes us to a dead end and third hasn’t a clue. End up ringing the owner who talks us through getting there.

Swinging car into park lot is a nightmare, tight squeeze built for a bubble car. Then we have the key fiasco. Retrieve key 1 to get us into a courtyard. Retrieve set of 4 keys needed to get us through the various doors to our apartment. None of the keys are labelled and none of the doors / apartments are labelled. Stupidity rules yet again. Do these people ever think.

Apartments lovely with sea views and a balcony. Wot, where’s the comfy balcony furniture gone? It’s pretty well equipped and comfortable but you have to burst out in hysterics when you look at the thimbles they have for tea cups. Obviously think the rest of the world only drink espressos.

Tea tonight is the all time favorite of bread, cheeses and wine – even if we do have to do battle with a cork.


Awesome sea views from our balcony.




Welcome to Saudi Britain


Climate The Movie

Well worth a watch to question climate change.


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