the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


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Return

We’d been beset with poor wifi, and beautiful sunny weather that I wanted to be outdoors enjoying, and I simply didn’t keep up to date with blogging our journey through Italy and Spain. We are now back in the Westcountry, with plenty to update you all on on the changing circumstances and life and times of Thrifter, Digger and no-longer-quite-as-tiddly Tiddler. I promise to try and write up all that soon.
In the mean time, it is going to be a simple whistle-stop version of our journey home.

Landing in Bari, Italy, we heading straight over to Pompeii, and just about managed to find the ruins behind the made-in-China tourist tat, and the swarms of pesky foreigners like ourselves. We had been spoilt in Bulgaria and Greece, as being just one of a relatively few campervanners on the road. In Pompeii we hear English voices for the first time in months.
In Rome we potter round the sites with our friends who are living and working in central Italy for the year, and who we also we met up with last October on our eastwards journey through Italy. Tiddler is overwhelmed with excitement to see familiar faces, and holds hands contentedly with A for hours, chattering away not only about Romans, but also taking the time to fully inspect and be taught about the ants crawling over the ruins. She only lets go of him to eat the fruity and obligatory gelato.
After the long ferry crossing to Barcelona, we dawdle along the Spanish coast and attend April fiestas and drink sangria. The Spanish children run wild, and hang out in polite packs in the campsite toilet blocks, only returning to their parents for enormous grilled platefuls before dashing off on their bikes again. Spanish children appear to require no sleep and keep Digger and I awake past midnight chattering away (politely) in the darkness.
We are in awe of the beautiful landscapes in the Bardenas nature reserves in the Navarre region, a biosphere in northern Spain. These sandy cliffs and pyramids transport us to a desert, as the genuine home of the spaghetti western. Hermitages and cellars are chiselled into the cliffs, and we watch the townsfolk putting up wooden barricades in village after village, not to stop the Injuns, but for the toned down country versions of the Pamplona bull runs, as our host informs us, with cows.
From here we criss-cross the many pilgrimage routes of the Camino do Santiago, following the way of the shell more by accident than design. We greet the walkers and cyclists that pass us, and walk alongside them for a few Tiddler-size hikes. The guide books suggest it isn’t practical to go by horseback these days, as the hostelries can’t cope.
Leo obtains his first puncture of the roughly 8000 mile round journey. Digger is aided by the campsite groundsmen for a good ten minutes, speaking in English to each other, before they realise they are both Bulgarian. Clapping on the back and tyre changing wizardry ensues.
We depart from Bilbao on a twenty-three hour crossing, but our return to the UK is blighted with rough seas and Digger and I are both ill. Tiddler snores and dreams and is mercifully oblivious. The sea is so rough, that on our return to dry land it takes me eight days to stop feeling that the ground is rolling beneath me, and turning my legs to jelly. I question Digger as to whether I am walking strangely, as the queasy uneasiness remains. I google mal de debarquement, and wait for reality to return.


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Sore fingers and sore toes: France #3

After our brief sojurn into the ex-pat territory in the north Dordogne area, we headed into medieval France with the hilltop village of Pujols. As we continue our ‘out-of-season’ break, we again reap the benefits of a relatively deserted tourist hot spot. One of France’s designated most beautiful villages, its wooden beamed houses, narrow alleyways and tumbled down ramparts are a brief glimpse into what replaced the original fort that perched on the summit. The view of the wide valley below is stunning, and we treat ourselves to crepes and cafe au lait and sit in the sunshine in the pedestrianised cobbled square, in complete peace as we have clearly hit the long lunch time when we appear to be the only people in the world.

Although the village is full of art shops and workshop galleries, selling expensive ceramics mostly, the highlight is hidden behind a heavily laden sharon fruit tree behind the church. This is Le Maison de Jouets, an insiprational wood and natural objects den of fun. It is full of toys, instruments, and automatons all crafted from carefully selected found objects. The young curator tells us it is part of the lifetime work of an old man, who he says sees the world in a different way to everyone else. There is no charge, nothing for sale, and we are invited to play and handle the toys as much as we like. Tiddler is in seventh heaven, and Digger and I are not far behind in astonishment and amusement.

Leaving the Jouets behind eventually, we wander into the church and realise we are at one of the posts of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. We take a moment to stop, and reflect. Tiddler stamps her hand with the scallop shell print, and lights a candle.

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We end up staying more night at the Pujols campsite than intended. I turn abruptly in the confines of Leo, and catch my toe on the edge of a board. I hear a crack. It is not the board. My toe is clearly broken. Having broken the big toe on the same foot two years ago I know the signs, and also know there is no point seeking medical advice. I strap it up (the compulsory first aid kit coming in handy after all) and limp around the campsite. Digger had cut a couple of bamboo poles from the side of the road a few days earlier with the intention of making a sun shade, and now I take one with me for support like some sort of jungle Gandalf. Tiddler runs around semi naked with the other pretending it is a sword, or a wand, or a blowpipe. We get a few strange looks from the elderly clientele in the neighbouring pitches, but that is okay, we are English, and therefore expected to be a bit eccentric.

Digger takes the opportunity to take Leo to the garage. There has been a squeaking whine on the back wheel for a few days, which we have avoided dealing with so far by switching the radio up louder. A couple of hours work and €43 later and the whine has gone. The exact problem the mechanic could not translate for us, but it is solved now no matter what the language.

We take the opportunity to get the guitar out. This has sat in our attic for about four years, always with the intention that we would learn. Life happens of course, and you don’t find time. Despite taking up valuable space in Leo, we were determined to bring it with us. Again, we need to apologise to our camping neighbours as the sounds of our poorly constructed chords and slightly out of tune singing filter out in the afternoon sun. Fortunately for everyone, at this early stage of learning my fingers can’t cope and I have to stop before too long and give my hands a rest before blisters develop. Tiddler wades in with the tambourine and warbles a fairly decent rendition of ‘muckle in tyre’ in an attempt to copy my Mull of Kintyre, which has to be the easiest song ever to play on the guitar, if even I can manage it. Then peace returns.

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Next post: travelling on a shoe string, warriors and the Med.