Whilst on a river boating holiday along the Baise in South West France we reached the end of the navigable section when we arrived at Valence-Sur-Baise. In short you can’t travel any further down stream as it becomes to narrow and too fast flowing.
As fate would have it we arrived here on September 5th which is almost 10 days earlier than we had intended to due to some freak mother nature incident and a change to our cruise plans (see above link to read more on that!)
September 5th just also happened to be the annual Wild Shakin and car weekender in the nearby village of Maignaut-Tauzia. We found this out purely by chance reading the local notice board while out exploring.
Never ones to turn down a good party – We donned our best clothes and set off on our bikes to find said village to see what the gathering was all about. Here in started my love of all things 1940/50/60’s and our fortune of being in the right place at the right time (when it comes to random parties at least!)
We were not disappointed! It was already in full swing when we arrived with assorted period clothes stalls, food stands, a traditional barber, live band and countless classic cars to drool over!
The part in Maignaut-Tauzia was run by the association “Arts and Spectacles Maignautois” in collaboration with the “Wild Car CC” (American car club, European and rock’n’roll, until 1980 for the Americans and 1965 for the Europeans). You can find out more about them here:
They seem to run things throughout the year so if you happen to be passing by you wont be disappointed checking out one of their parties!
Not far from Homps and right next to the Canal Du Midi in the Aude prefecture you can find this lovely spot!
Lac De Jouarres was a bit of a saviour from the heat of the coast and offered nice calm waters to bathe in (although the water level is very low currently so its perhaps a bit cloudier than normal!). Check out the photo showing the levels!
Free overnight parking for motorhomes was an added bonus. No facilities here though so come stocked up with water etc.
Families and holiday makers alike visited for some water based activity – there are paddle boards, wind surfing and an inflatable assault course among other things on offer. It was not overly busy however especially given its peak season.
We also came across our first English voices for a while here too!
It was really chilled – no major noise and a beautiful setting.
As the sun set and the day visitors left a new group arrived with picnics to sit on the rocks by the beach and watch the sun set.
A guy even rocked up with fishing gear and proceeded to catch a huge eel shortly after knocking on our door to ask for some sugar! I have zero idea if the two incidents are related but perhaps some fishists among you might know?!?
Bordered on three sides by vineyards and olive groves it was really beautiful.
Homps was a 5 minute bike ride away so we took a little trip to see the boats on the canal.
After countless trips over to the continent in recent years
having a wonderful time exploring the only thing that left a bad taste in our
mouths is the frankly ridiculous fee’s our UK banks charge for the privilege of
using their cards abroad to access OUR money.
Knowing we were going to be spending much more time traveling
we set about trying to find a way to minimise this!
Some relatively quick googling later we came across the
Monza and Starling brands.
Both are internet based banks with super easy application
processes that charge you ZERO for using them abroad.
They work like pre pay debit cards. You have to load money
onto them to be able to use them.
The application process is so simple and aside from the rather
embarrassing video they make you do of yourself reading from a script to prove
you are who you say you are its really quick.
We applied to both banks and got a card each which arrived
in less than a week and the cards are quite sexy too (if you like your designer
An extra perk of these online banks is the apps. You can
categorise your spending as you go and they do you lovely little graphics
(charts) to detail your spend split. Handy if you want to keep track of what
you are spending and on what.
The money loading process is really fast – you just use the
sort code and account number and transfer direct from your current account.
The only downside (when I was using my husband’s card) if
that it sends you instant messages with your spend details so whilst shopping
for stuff the other week he knew how much I had spent before I had even gotten
back to the car! No more hiding!
Thus far there has only been one place that would not accept
them which was the toll bridge over to Ile De Ra. Otherwise it seems to be
treated like any other card.
In addition the exchange rates they apply seem really
reasonable and move as the markets move.
You can even take out cash although Monza does put a monthly
limit on this at €200.
All in all a good find that’s reduced our outgoings via daft
Recently we needed to reinsure our motorhome. We always shop
around and in previous years Adrian Flux has won our business for the best
Historically we have been happy with a max of 90 days usage
abroad. A lot of insurers cap your non UK usage quite possibly to stop you
having fun? But more likely to keep their costs down.
Insurance can be somewhat of a dark art and there sometimes feels
to be no obvious rhyme or reason to the numbers they quote.
Sure, there are things that you can do to help reduce your
premiums – not having accidents is a really good one for that! You can also
join motorhome clubs, do advanced driving qualifications, read the small print
to remove the stuff you really don’t need or even have another vehicle that you
own and drive from time to time. Age and experience are also good cost
This year we spoke to 4 different companies and the quotes
ranged from £450 to £1200 (how they can be so different for exactly the same
level of cover escapes me!)
Last year for 90 days EU cover plus 60 days EU breakdown we
paid around £350 for two adults with a couple of claims (non fault).
This year we needed to up our EU cover (due to our traveling
adventure) and sought 365 days of EU cover. There are companies out there that
do this but “full timing” in your motorhome makes it expensive!
We still have our “home” in the UK so whilst we are
traveling a lot we are not technically “full timers”.
Adrian flux won our business again (for the 3rd
year running) with a really reasonable quote of £450 which includes year round
EU cover but with the caveat that you must return to the UK at least once every
The other insurers we spoke to (even with club membership
discounts) were significantly more expensive.
One thing we don’t have this year is EU breakdown cover but
we are ok with this for a number of reasons. Dan is pretty nifty with a spanner
and vehicles generally and so is able to
keep our home on wheels in tip top shape and fix most issues and historically
we have required EU breakdown to ensure we can get back to the UK (for work) –
now an extra few weeks parked up somewhere whilst we fix whatever has gone
wrong is not so much of an issue!
As the cats settle into their new home in the Dordogne France (more on that in a later post but in short…we have quit our full time jobs, moved into our motor home, rented out our bricks and mortar house in the UK and travelled to France in search of a new life in the sun!) we have been super busy helping our friends with the final preparations on their Gites for the summer season.
When we arrived (you can see that exciting bit here): VIDEO LINKY it was ALL GO! Richard and Eileen had been beavering away for months remodelling and redecorating their Pigeonnier Gite ready for the summer season.
A little bit of help was required to complete the finishing touches so we set to it!
The finished product is stunning! Beautiful airy bedrooms and super luxurious bathrooms. And all the hard work was totally worth it on hearing the excited reactions from the first guests when they moved in.
You can check out some of the final images below
Now the rush is over and the guests are settled we are planning our next move…watch this space!
Sometimes its the things that you live closest to that you never seem to fully appreciate…
A few minutes from Chez Beeston you can find the Hatton Locks. Also known as the “stairway to heaven” due to its difficulty to complete.
21 locks over 3.2km of canal. Rising 45 meters from one end to the other. Its not for the feint hearted of boat travellers! It takes around a day to complete the full flight and with zero automation its hard work on the arms.
Aside from the physical element (which outside of ski season I tend to avoid at all costs!), there is a fab pub close by which does some lovely seasonal dishes. Slight downside is their passion for playing Jack Johnson on repeat but we shall let them off as the wines are great and the views spectacular. Booking is highly recommended though – check them out here: https://hattonarms.com/
If pub grub does not float your boat (pun intended) then there is a lovely little cafe on the flight itself. They are very reasonably priced and have a limited but lovely menu to choose from.
They also sell some basic supplies if you need to stock up! Also replacement lock keys if you happen to drop your in the canal – which I have NEVER done honest!
Failing that – they sell ice cream which is almost always a winner!
Once the foody element is covered you can really appreciate the cultural side of engineering accomplishments.
Whilst the flight was opened in late 1799 on the Warwick and Birmingham Canal it was renamed in 1929 as the Grand Union Canal and they decided to widen the Hatton stretch. The locks were doubled in size in order to accommodate traders with heavy cargos of coal, sugar, tea and spices up the flight. You can still see today whats left of the old locks where they have built along side them. The widening was completed in the mid-1930s but sadly, following the growing popularity of rail and road for goods transfer it ceased industrial use in the 1970s.
Now a tourist attraction its kept some of its heritage as you will find examples of its engineering past along its banks. Little plaques explain and educate so its history is never forgotten.
A lovely place for a quiet (ish) walk and a nice bite to eat