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Winter in France 2012 PDF Printable Version E-mail

Winter in France 2012
By Sprinter and Caravan

Margaret and Barry Williamson
November & December 2012


After returningDSCF3143.JPG from an autumn of motorhoming and cycling in Germany, we left the Flair in storage as we felt ready to try winter caravanning. Our Sprinter van and Bailey caravan awaited us in Cheltenham, fully prepared and serviced by Motorhome Medics and Golden Castle Caravans respectively. We left Briarfields Touring Park in mid-November, aiming for Plymouth and a ferry, with no further plan except to head south through France, aiming for Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Continued at: Winter in Spain 2012/13

To Plymouth, Devon, for Brittany Ferries overnight sailing to Roscoff,  France -     153 miles

As the ferry was not due to sail until 10 pm, we had a leisurely morning packing up at Briarfields. After a good pub lunch by a log fire (at the Hare & Hounds, Churchdown, a couple of miles away), we hitched up and hit the road. The mild damp weather was (thankfully) far removed from the forecast of stormy winds and gales.

The reasonably quiet motorway M5 and the dual carriageway A38 took us southwest to Plymouth, with the ferry terminal well signed from the city centre. Arriving at the port before dark, we found that the ferry had been delayed on leaving Roscoff by protesting French fishermen and was not expected to arrive before 11 pm. We were advised to leave our vehicle in the check-in queue and wait in the terminal building until called! So we made a snack, then went to sit in the terminal lounge very warm and comfortable, with settees, a cafe and large TV. See www.brittany-ferries.co.uk for details of the ferry company that links 4 countries (England, Ireland, France and Spain).

The S/S Armorique finally arrived for a quick turn-round and we sailed just after midnight. It was a remarkably smooth crossing, with 6 hours' sleep in our 2-bunk cabin. The Captain clearly put his foot down, as we still arrived on schedule at 8 am (French time), despite leaving 2 hours late.


To Camping du Haras (= Stud Farm), Vannes-Meucon, Brittany - 150 miles    

Open all year. See www.campingvannes.com.  14 (with ACSI Card discount) inc 6-amp electricity and showers. WiFi 2/day, 10/week, 30/month. N 47.73035 W 2.72795

Landing at Roscoff at 8 am (only 7 am in the UK), it was straight through Customs and out onto the Morlaix road. Less than half a mile along on the left is a large free car park, which we had to ourselves while we made breakfast and tuned the SatNav and mobile phone in to France.

Heading south, we bypassed St Pol de Leon and Landivisiau on quiet wet D-roads, to meet the E60/N165 after 35 miles, direction Quimper. In common with all Brittany's motorways, this road is toll-free (and has little in the way of Services - just an occasional small fuel station with limited parking). 

At 99 miles we took exit 43 at Lorient, continuing another 5 miles to the coast at Larmor Plage. Here Camping La Fontaine is described by our newly acquired 2012/13 Caravan Club guide to Europe as 'excellent, with good facilities' and we'd taken the precaution of phoning to check it was open. Most French (and German) campsites close for lunch and the barrier was down until 2 pm, giving us chance to walk round in the rain unobserved. The few small pitches for tourers were set on sloping boggy grass and a lone donkey brayed mournfully from one corner. We decided to drive on!

The next site known to be open was at Meucon, next to the little airport north of Vannes, so we returned to the N165 motorway and continued east to the Vannes exit at 144 miles. From here take the D767 and follow airport signs for 5 miles.

Along the airport perimeter road, the extensive and surprisingly peaceful campsite is signposted off to the left.

Apart from a friendly husband and wife team in Reception, our only company is an assortment of hens, llama and other farm animals. The water is hot and the WiFi works inside the caravan, although it cuts off and requires a password to be re-entered every 60 minutes! Our host told us this was 'normal'. We said that 'normal' doesn't happen normally.

At Camping du Haras (= Stud Farm), Vannes-Meucon, Brittany

Next day the weather was much better, dry and bright ideal for an excursion in the Sprinter to the megalithic standing stones of Carnac. (Note: there are about 20 campsites listed around Carnac, all closed at this time of year.)

A couple of miles along the road towards Vannes there is a large HyperU store by a roundabout. In our small van, minus caravan, it was very easy to park and also to fill up with cut-price diesel (1.342/litre), often impossible in the large motorhome. We shopped for French favourites croissants, pain au chocolat, patisserie, pate, a poulet roti but not cheese, not until we run out of the far superior Mature Cheddar, Wensleydale and Lancashire! We are from Up North, after all.

Carnac_(15).JPGBack on the motorway E60/N165, returning west towards Lorient, we turned off at Auray (15 miles from camp) and followed D28 south for 10 miles to Carnac. Considering that this is the most important prehistoric site in mainland Europe, sited in perhaps the longest continuously inhabited area in the world, it was all very low key and poorly signed - but you can't miss the alignments of thousandCarnac_(31).JPGs of megaliths, hewn from the local granite, stretching for some 3 miles alongside the roads to the north of Carnac Ville!

At the western end of the Route des Alignements we parked at the Maison des Megalithes Visitor Centre for a picnic lunch. Parking, toilets and entry to the small exhibition and gift shop are all free of charge. From April to September, access to the site is only allowed on a guided tour for a fee. Now, in low season, we could wander freely among the stones and take pCarnac_(24).JPGhotographs for as long as we wished, with no-one else there. Even the weather played its part, with good light and a short shower that provided a double rainbow over the tallest standing stones (Celtic menhirs) near a stone burial chamber (Celtic dolmen)! The area is dotted with burial tumuli, including the earliest known stone constructions in Europe. Dating back to at least 5,700 BC and added to over a 5,000 year period - the megaliths are older than Stonehenge, New Grange in Ireland, Knossos on Crete, or the Egyptian Pyramids or Temples of the same name (Karnak). Strangely, there are no stone circles: here the stones of varying heights stand singly or in alignments, unique in their compleCarnac_(35).JPGxity.

We've seen many of Europe's prehistoric sites the Celtic circles at Stonehenge, Avebury, Callanish in the Hebrides and Brodgar in the Orkneys, as well as New Grange in Ireland and the Stone Age houses at Skara Brae in Orkney but nothing like the alignments of Carnac. We felt so privileged to explore them now, on a calm and peaceful afternoon.

At the Museum of Prehistory in Carnac, the history of the region is traced through much earlier times, from Neanderthals to megalith builders. See www.museedecarnac.com. Click: Gallery and Slide Show of Photographs of Carnac.

The 2008-08-12_11.jpgweather turned wet and windy for the next couple of days. We used the campsite WiFi to catch up with correspondence and update our own website, as well as working on two new websites created for our good friend Murdoch MacKenzie. Barry knew Murdoch from times together in Madras (now Chennai) many years ago. Barry was a Professor of Physics in a Central Government University; Murdoch the Minister of St Andrew's Kirk. We remet last summer during our time in Scotland where Murdoch is now a very busy retired Minister in the Church of Scotland. Retired but not retiring! 

Murdoch is seen on the left with daughter Ruth on the summit of Ben Nevis. Learn more at:


To Camping Domaine de Bellevue, St Christophe-du-Ligneron, Challons, Poitu-Charentes - 112 miles    

Open all year. See www.vendee-camping-bellevue.com. 13 inc 16-amp electricity and showers. WiFi cost varying from 2 for 3 hrs to 15/week. N 46.81522 W 1.77472

On a sunny Sunday morning we drove 7 miles back to the N165/E60 (toll-free motorway), then southeast towards Nantes. After Marzan the highway skirted the edge of the flat peat-bog marshes of Grande-Briere, a Parc Naturel Regional . At 46 miles we took  exit 11.1 at Pontchateau, then D773 south for 7 miles to join N171 west to St Nazaire, the port and submarine base at the mouth of the Loire. With all shops closed and the roads devoid of trucks, it was very quiet.

At 59 miles it was left onto D213 for the splendid high bridge over the Loire (toll-free) to the little resort of St-Brevin-les-Pins at 66 miles. Here we parked for a breath of sea air and to look at the municipal Camping du Mindin. The campsite was predominantly the static 'bungalows' which seem to blight so many sites seen recently mainly due to the popularity of free-camping and Aires for motorhomers, much reducing the number of paying campers. The same applied in Germany, where the owners of the campsite at Sigmaringen on the Danube told us they had to diversify since a Stellplatz opened in the town.

When we'd phoned Mindin to check opening times, the Receptionist omitted to say the place was closed and deserted on Sundays so on we went, continuing on D213 down the coast of the Loire Atlantique to Pornic, then D13 to Bourgneuf-en-Retz at 86 miles. Here D13 turned inland for 8 miles to Machecoul, where we stopped for lunch in the empty car park of the closed Super-U.

D32 ran south for 10 miles to the Challans ring road, from where we took D948 for 7 miles to St Christophe-du-Ligneron. Here turn right (for Commequiers) and look out for signs to a newly built campsite (opened in 2011), less than a mile from the highway. It has fishing ponds (and a swimming pool in season).

We were the only campers but the showers were hot, the washer and drier brand new, and the WiFi worked very well inside the caravan though we had to log in every 2 hours.  

At Camping Domaine de Bellevue, St Christophe-du-Ligneron, Challans, Poitu-Charentes

Next day we had a Sprinter excursion to the tiny island of Noirmoutier, driving back to Challans, then northwest across the Marais (flat marsh or bog land, riven with dykes) to Beauvoir sur Mer. From here the narrow single-track Passage du Gois crosses 6 miles of mudflats to the island at low tide. We took the alternative toll-free bridge, which doubles the distance but guarantees your safe arrival!

The island, less than 13 miles long, was a 7thC monastic settlement, presumably visited by pilgrims crossing the tidal passage. One or two old windmills dotted the salt marshes and souvenir salt is on sale. Now, campsites closed and holiday houses shuttered, there was little activity outside the main town of Noirmoutier-en-l'Isle, where the only place we found to park was at Lidl.

At the port at the northwest corner (Pointe de l'Herbaudiere), working fishing boats were moored opposite a yacht marina but all the oyster stalls and cafes were shut. Despite the sunshine, a strong Atlantic gale discouraged exploration on foot or by bicycle. Heading back to the bridge (following a sign to Le Continent!), we turned off at Barbatre to see the start of the Passage du Gois. The water was rising across the road and a sign advised waiting until low tide at 9.45 pm to avoid risk of drowning. We took heed.

Back on Le continent, we drove down the coast to St-Jean-de-Monts: almost 10 miles of adjacent campsites, all closed and all mainly static 'mobile homes'. Then inland to Challans and on to our friendly little campsite. It had been an 88 mile tour (but seemed much less, sans caravan in tow).

To Camping Municipal du Cadoret, Fouras, Poitu-Charentes - 93 miles    

Open all year. See www.camping-fouras.com. 17.10 inc 6-amp electricity and showers. Free WiFi. N 45.99264 W 1.08680

The weather here is very changeable (cold and windy yesterday, mild and sunny today) and we've had occasional showers - but nothing like the severe flooding in England which dominates the current news. We keep up to date courtesy of the 'Guardian' on the Kindle and Radio 4 via campsite WiFi. Modern technology is wonderful (though the vagaries of the SatNav sometimes call that into question!)

It was a straightforward drive southeast across the Bocage (landscape of hedged fields) of the Vendee on D948 (partly dual carriageway), past La Roche-sur-Yon at 19 miles, to meet the A83/E03 at 35 miles. A service station 4 miles later was convenient for a lunch stop before taking the next exit (7) for La Rochelle. For the 7 miles along A83, the toll was 1.40.

Road N137 took us south for 28 miles, then west almost to La Rochelle before turning south at 77 miles towards Rochefort. We turned off at 91 miles onto D937 for Fouras, a little port on the north side of the Charente estuary. 

We managed to arrive at the modern municipal campsite, signed on the right after 2 miles, during opening hours (8-12 and 1.30-5.30, Mon-Fri). We learnt that the heated shower room had no hot water (but a plumber was working on it) and the hedged grass pitches were too soft (but we could park on the gravel path). Well, it is the off-season.


At Camping Municipal du Cadoret, Fouras, Poitu-Charentes

It was less than a mile to walk along the seafront path or the beach to the harbour, where a truck was loading pallets of mussels. Turning along the Esplanade, we came to the 17thC Fort Vauban, built to defend the Charente estuary. The tower, which sent signals to shipping until 1939, now houses a local history museum with an entry fee. There's a good view out to sea from the freely accessible walls. On a clear day you can see the tiny island fortress of Fort Boyard, now the setting for a dire French TV game show!

Fouras was an early 20thC bathing resort, its full name Fouras-les-Bains. Sepia photographs show lines of bathing costumes hanging out to dry where they were for hire on the beach. In the centre of the village, we browsed 2 indoor markets (one specialising in fish and shellfish), bought coffees in a bar and returned past the well kept cemetery, which had a Commonwealth War Graves sign at the gate. There was just one CWG (that of an unknown soldier of WW2) , though a small number of local soldiers also lay here: Mort pour la France in both World Wars and the subsequent conflicts in French colonies.

Needing plastic pipe etc to fix a leaking caravan tap, we drove a few miles inland to Rochefort, where there is a caravan and motorhome dealer with a good accessory shop (Ypocamp closed Mondays, like many French businesses), as well as Lidl, Decathlon, Intermarche, Bricomarche, Super U, etc.

A longer excursion was 20 miles up the coast to the historic port of La Rochelle. Following signs to 'P Vieux Port' we found the paying car parks had height barriers. Luckily, just past them (to the south of the Maritime Museum) was a large unrestricted free parking area: probably full in the summer months, there was plenty of space in cold windy December.

From here we walked past the Aquarium and over footbridges into the Vieux Port - the inner harbour, guarded by 3 towers (with entrance fees) and formerly closed at night by a colossal chain. The serried ranks of yachts and the glossy cafes along the quayside rather detracted from the charm we recalled on a previous visit, too many years ago. The heart of the old town lies through the clock tower gateway but the grandiose stone houses have all been turned into glossy shops or museums. Uninspired by a look inside the 18thC cathedral, we strolled back to the Maritime Museum (closed).

We were impressed by the number of bicycles we saw in use, many of them the Yellow Bikes which can be borrowed (up to 2 hrs) or hired from points around the centre of La Rochelle. A 1970s Mayor established the scheme, since copied in Paris and (thanks to Boris?) London.

To Camping Le Village du Lac, Bordeaux, Aquitaine - 100 miles    

Open all year. See www.camping-bordeaux.com. 18.80 inc 10-amp electricity and showers. WiFi cost varying from 3 for 24 hrs to 15 per week. N 44.89701 W 0.58317

We were sorry to leave the municipal campsite at Fouras, where the cheerful Receptionist, busy putting up Xmas decorations, gave us a gift of one free night! This was in view of the earlier problems with hot water and a short power cut (when the whole village was in darkness, struck by a storm).

Returning 3 miles to A837/E602, we headed south. The first 4 miles of motorway were free, as far as exit 32 at Rochefort, then it was a toll road until approaching Bordeaux. The quiet Autoroute des Oiseaux (with a Hoopoe as its symbol) crossed a flat landscape of pine forest and vineyards. We paused at the St Leger services (not far from Cognac) to make lunch.

At 85 miles we paid a toll of 20.10, after which the free motorway became busier. It crossed the Dordogne 4 miles later (near its confluence with the Garonne, to form the Gironde), then joined the Rocade: the outer ring road ensnaring Bordeaux. Turn west on the Rocade, following Le Lac, and take exit 4 or 5, signed for Parc des Expositions. Then pick up campsite signs for 4 miles to a large new campsite, conveniently near the Portugal/Spain migration route.

The site is highly organised, Reception open all day until 7.30 pm, yet totally devoid of character. In 2011 it gave the off-season ACSI Card rate, but that was last year! The winter touring pitches are surprisingly small and muddy, with most of the 'village' given over to cabins and duck ponds. An area of larger hardstandings was closed off! The WiFi we paid for worked intermittently. On the positive side, there is a modern heated unisex shower block, a good launderette and a restaurant (open 12-2 and 7.30-9.30 pm). We dined here the first evening, choosing a reasonable Plat du Jour (Dish of the Day) offer, though felt out of place in the bleak and pseudo-formal atmosphere of rather pretentious Haute Cuisine. No take-aways here! Margaret had pork cutlets with potato wedges and salad, while Barry opted for Hachis Parmentier (shepherd's pie) but regretted it about 7 hours later. Bread and water were free.

You could take a bus to visit the city from here if wished we didn't.

To Camping Le Bilos, Bilos, Salles, Aquitaine - 38 miles

Open all year. See www.lebilos.com. 12.70 inc 6-amp electricity and showers. No WiFi. N 44.52039 W 0.89631

Research had uncovered hardly any campsites open on our route down the Atlantic coast of France. Several claiming to be open all year (in the Caravan Club guide, ACSI website or even their own websites) were in fact closed or only open for 'bungalow' guests - when we phoned to check. This is proving to be the main disadvantage for winter caravanning, as compared with motorhoming, when numerous free or inexpensive Aires are available for a night. South from Bordeaux, our choice appeared to be a short drive to Bilos or a much longer one to the next site known to be open at Urrugne, just short of the Spanish border.

We headed west and south from Bordeaux on the Rocade ring to exit 15 (11 miles from camp), then south for 24 miles on free motorway A63 to exit 21. It was 2 miles along D3 to the little town of Salles (with Carrefour, Aldi, post office etc), then another 2 miles of country lanes to the campsite at Bilos - a hidden gem, tucked away deep in the peaceful forest of Les Landes.

The barrier and reception were closed (12-2 pm) but a passing motorist rang Madame's sister, who soon turned up to let us in. It's that kind of place. There are good showers in a heated room, no internet, no washing machine and no neighbours. The exact and very welcome opposite of the busy site at Bordeaux.

At Camping Le Bilos, Bilos, Salles, Aquitaine

Here we passed a few quiet days, writing off-line, reading, watching a DVD or two, enjoying the bird life in the forest and the blazing stars at night. Margaret made the usual two Christmas puddings - the second traditionally kept to mature for Easter! The weather turned chilly (one overnight frost froze the caravan's outside water pipe) but it's mild against the reported hard snowy winter in England.

On a crisp bright sunny day we had a southerly excursion in the Sprinter to the Atlantic coast at Mimizan Plage. It was a 100-mile round trip but seemed much less without the caravan in tow and the fuel consumption is very good (especially compared with the Flair RV!) We drove quiet, often arrow-straight, roads bordered by cycle paths through western Europe's largest forest: the Parc Naturel Regional des Landes de Gascogne 10,000 sq km (say 20 miles deep by 200 miles long) of flat sandy pine forest, dunes and small lakes.

First stop was at Gastes, to eat a picnic lunch parked on the lakeside of the Etang de Biscarosse et de Parentis, near a huge Aire de Camping Cars area. There were only 2 motorhomes in residence, paying 2/day for parking, water and dump provided they had the appropriate credit card (Carte Bleu) to raise the barrier. Continuing through the quaintly named St-Eulalie-en-Born, we did pass a campsite (called Aire Naturelle de Camping) that was open. Aire Naturelle turned out to mean 'extremely scruffy and half-finished, down a potholed track, with only 4 amps electricity (to prevent use of electric heaters).

Reaching the coast at Mimizan Plage, we recalled a happy week spent here alone on the free motorhome Aire in December 1998, baking mince pies, cycling the tracks, and walking into the village to watch a Christmas Eve son et lumiere entertainment. Things had changed! We did find the Aire, on the south side of the river, protected from the Atlantic by sand dunes. It now has electric hook-ups, costs 8/day (12 in summer), entry and exit through a barrier opened by credit card, and was fairly busy. Worse, the wide open spaces are now overbuilt with holiday apartments, mostly shuttered up.

We parked in the street and had a good walk along the clean white sandy shore, watching surfers ride the long Atlantic waves and a few anglers at the river mouth. This is the Cote d'Argent, 200 km/125 straight miles of silver sand stretching south from the Gironde estuary to Biarritz, and surprisingly undeveloped, with no road following the coast. The tourism is highly seasonable and the only other employment we saw was a wood-mill near the village of Mimizan.

To Camping Larrouleta, Urrugne, St Jean de Luz, Aquitaine - 105 miles    

Open all year. See www.larrouleta.com. ACSI Card rate 16.00 inc 5-amp electricity and showers, or 20 for Comfort Pitch with 10 amps. WiFi cost varying from 1 for 30 mins to 15 for 20 hrs use. N 43.37064 W 1.68629

After another freezing night we scraped the frost off the windscreen and headed out through Salles. Just 5 miles on the icy D3 (past a nasty accident) to the N10/E05/E70, then south towards Bayonne. This section of highway is currently free of tolls, though road works were underway to widen it and toll booths are being built. There were very few cars, but a constant stream of Spanish trucks in both directions. Road signs were in French, Spanish and English: Prudence = Prudencia = Stay Alert!

At 70 miles we joined toll motorway A63/E05/E70, the Autoroute de la Cote Basque. Leaving the flat sandy forests of Les Landes behind, we were excited to see the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees Atlantiques ahead. There were 2 small tolls to pay along the way, plus a third as we took exit 2 at 104 miles (for St Jean de Luz and the Corniche Basque).  Total paid 9.60 and well worth it to avoid the congestion through Bayonne and Biarritz.

Of the many campsites around St Jean de Luz, there is only one open in winter. Situated just a mile from the motorway, it has a small turnover of one-night-stands on their way to/from Spain. Facilities are very good - even a free indoor heated pool though the WiFi is intermittent and slow.

At Camping Larrouleta, Urrugne, St Jean de Luz

Next morning a surprise email arrived from the British couple 3 pitches along. John and Leslie, who we met several years ago at Sakar Hills in Bulgaria, had recognised us! Over coffee in their splendid Burstner caravan, we caught up with each other's travels and learnt much. We were sorry to find that they were about to leave, returning from Spain to spend Christmas back in England, so it was a brief reunion. Their account of long-term caravanning throughout Europe is an excellent read: well-written, intelligent and informative.

After John and Leslie left we drove to Leclercs, less than 2 miles away, for a fill of diesel and lunch in its cafeteria, which was busier than the store. Imagine a hypermarket in England, 12 days before Christmas, with hardly any shoppers and no queue at the checkout!

The rest of the day was taken up with laundry, looking at maps of Spain and Portugal and struggling with the campsite WiFi which, as usual, was a great test of patience. We finally succeeded in ordering next year's essential ACSI Discount Card/books from the Camping & Caravanning Club, which actually has some in stock (unlike Vicarious Books, who couldn't deliver until the end of January). However, beware that the C&C Club add a whopping 15 'booking fee' surcharge for non-members! Amazon don't appear to have the 2013 edition in stock yet - and we admit being defeated by ACSI's own website.

Our campsite at Urrugne is just 2 miles from the Atlantic Ocean yet in the shadow of the Pyrenees, both easily reached on a fine day (17 degrees C, little wind) out in the Sprinter. On the way to the Corniche Basque we called at Lidl to make up a bargain picnic: packs of fresh sandwiches (tuna salad and chicken salad), crisps, fruit and German Christmas gingerbread rounds. We always carry our own coffee in the van, in thermal mugs plus a flask, and plenty of chocolate.

Along the Corniche, running from St Jean de Luz to Hendaye, a couple of parking spots gave access to the coastal footpath along the cliff top but we soon found it was extremely muddy after yesterday's heavy rain. There was no access to the shore below - a pavement of weathered stone ridges, reminiscentof the Burren in Ireland. Disappointed, except by the view, we parked in St Jean de Luz, ate our lunch and walked across the firm sandy beach to the 17thC fort defending the natural harbour. Built to guard against Spanish invasion, it played a part in both World Wars and was twice rebuilt the second time after WW2 though now it appears closed and dilapidated. A few surfers were out riding the waves, otherwise the resort was very quiet, the line of restaurants mostly closed.

Next we drove inland to Ascain and took D4 over the Col de St Ignace (560 ft/169 m) to Sare, 10 miles from St Jean de Luz in the Pyrenean foothills. Our circular route turned west on D406, crossing the border 5 miles later at the low Col de Lizuniaga into Spanish Navarre. Road signs were now in the impenetrable Basque language first and Spanish second (with no allowance for the French). Another 5 miles through a tangled relief of forested slopes and pastures of sheep and cattle, to the village of Bera. The picturesque houses looked prosperous with milk, wool and dense stands of timber being the main sources of wealth. Here we turned north on the minor road D404, which climbed narrowly to re-enter France at the Col d'Ibardin (1,040 ft/315). Just before the border, the Guardia Civil were conducting random breathalyser tests but they were wasting their time on Barry, who registered 0.00%, a very poor score! However, Barry did get to keep the mouthpiece as a 'souvenir' and the Guardia learned the word 'keep'.

Descending a couple of hairpins, we were soon in sight of the Atlantic and down to Urrugne, 10 tortuous miles from Bera (if driving a larger van, or towing, the N121A provides an easier route).

Continued at: Winter in Spain 2012/13