This time we have loaded our car with all the bits and bobs that we could pack in it. Early on the 29th January we set off for Folkstone to get the 8.50am train. Even at that time of day the traffic was building up and we were glad that we left early and got to the Eurotunnel terminal with just enough time to grab a bite to eat.
We peeled out the train after the 40 minute blast through the Channel Tunnel (Sitting in the car made me feel quite seasick with the combination of the train's rocking and the car's suspension movement). Then we were off down the motorways to the Paris peripherique. Our GPS strutted its stuff and we pinballed our way round the maze of dual-carriageways and popped out like a cork heading down to Clermont Ferrant and beyond.
By the time we reached St. Fleur the snow was thick on the ground and it was dark. Pondgirl enerringly directed us to a typical French hotel evrlooking the valley where we fed and rested ourselves. The next morning there was a thick fog, so pictures of the obviously amazing view were limited. Back on the road, we wound through the Massif Central and down to the Millau bridge.
Soon after crossing it, the scenery changed and we new the Mediterranean coast was getting closer. We slipped past Perpignan and were now on motorways we new from the trip down in the van. This time the climb to the Spanish border was easier and we were soon rolling down to Barcelona and beyond.
Another two hours and in the early evening, we pulled off the AP-7 at the Tortosa junction and got our first look at the Els Ports mountains behind our property.
As the apartment that we were going to rent in Mas de Barberans was not ready, we moved into a Casa Rural in the village. Our apartment landlord paid half the rent while we were there as he was upset that he had not managed to get all the work and local government permissions ready in time for our arrival. Rosa, the landlady at "Can Pla" our Casa Rural, Tel: (0034) 977 739194, was wonderful and after the initial language difficulties has become a good friend. Our room had an amazing view across the plain below Mas de Barberans. You could see north up to Tortosa, East out to the sea beyond the Ebro delta and south down to Vinaros & Peniscola. The sunrises were spectacular
After a few days, we tried out the local bar "Bar/Restaurant Mario", which is now a firm favourite for a drink or lunch. At 8 euros the 3 course lunch including wine and coffee, makes cooking seem a chore.
We spent our time travelled around the local towns and checked out the best places to buy all the things we were going to need when we start restoring the Mill. Soon it was the end of the month and we had to get our car back to England before the insurance ran out. Two days before we left we collected a new Peugot Rancho plus which we would leave in the village until our return in mid March.
This was a marathon which we completed in 1 1/2 days. We left early and drove 846 miles to St. Quentin in northern France in about 14 hours. Here we found a lovely little hotel and had an excellent meal where I ate my first plate of oysters. They were absolutely amazing and I can now realize why people go on about them so.
By lunchtime the next day we pulled up in PG's parents drive, which surprised them a bit and rested up for a couple of days before moving over to Henley to stay with my parents and to meet all our friends from The Unicorn