Week 473

Sunday, 14th January

A lovely, sunny day …. of rest and I’m feeling so energetic! May have to go out for a walk later but there are two reasonable matches to watch this afternoon including Liverpool v City. Trouble is that I’m becoming addicted to my exercise app and it  shows I’ve only covered 750 paces this morning. No wonder I’m bouncing around like a mad thing! Or it could be the Turkey Soup. Those bones keep on coming. Why did we buy such a big one?

Canal du Midi
Beziers

Some of my spare time today is given over to finding the best place to rent in France this summer. I favour the Mediterranean side. What do you think about Beziers? I like the idea of it for lots of reasons. It is where the Canal du Midi runs out into the Mediterranean. The Canal featured in the Rick Stein classic barge journey cookery series on British television. It provides my favourite cooking style and majors on fish. The weather is almost guaranteed It has lovely countryside and vineyards and is close to Med. beaches and sea. The town is interesting in itself and there are plenty of places to explore round about.

We are looking for a villa which must have outside space – eg a garden. It must have wifi internet access and satellite television. It must have full cooking facilities and clothes washing facilities. It must have air conditioning and it must be rentable for 1 – 2 months in the summer excluding August. It is amazing how affordable they are. Beziers is a relatively short drive of 650 mls/1050 kms which we could do in under 10 hours but would split into a couple of stages en route. With winter rumoured to be about to start in UK, this is a lovely task to pursue.

Monday, 15th January

Central Greece

The day has opened with blustery winds, dark skies and intermittent rain. At 11C/52F, it’s not cold but outside is not inviting. It is bin day and I am pleased I put them out last night in the dry. We will still go to the Health Club after our day off but it is not a day for outside entertainment – or sleeping rough. We will probably have to swim outside even before we get to the pool. The standing water is currently so unpleasant.

Strikes paralyse Greece.

Northern and Central Greece is blanketed in snow and there are reported deaths of fishermen and infrastructure damage on the Halkidiki Peninsular because of dreadful weather with strong winds. At the same time, Greece in general and Athens in particular is being paralysed with a wave of strikes protesting against the next round of reforms demanded in exchange for a third bailout by the EU. There is no public transport today including flight disruption. The Civil Servant’s Union is rallying against intended curbs on their ability to strike.

Tuesday, 16th January

A sunny but cool day which we spent sorting out future events. We did do another full session at the Health Club including an extended swim outside and it really feels as if it is beginning to pay dividends. Our weight its falling quite rapidly as we burn considerably more calories than we consume. We are finding the ‘recovery’ period is much quicker and our ability to ‘repeat’ the routines much more possible.

Villa in Amarilla, Tenerife

We think we have found a pleasant villa in Amarilla on the southern coast of Tenerife for the month of November. It is much bigger than just two of us require but that is necessary to get all the facilities we want. A 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom property with private, heated pool and which includes a fully fitted kitchen + outdoor Barbeque, laundry, wifi, satellite television with British channels + Sky Sports.

The villa is 10 minutes walk to the beach and grocery shops. This is almost the precise description we could have designed for our search. Even better than that is the price. For the month of November, the villa will cost us £2,800.00/€3,150.00 which is about half the cost of the hotel we would otherwise have booked. This way of travelling is much more to our taste and allows us to self-cater in the way we like. We can do plenty of walking and swimming as well as cook for ourselves which is just what we enjoy.

Wednesday, 17th January

Villa in Amarilla, Tenerife

Lovely blue sky here but very chilly in the breeze although the gauge read 10C/50F. The walk outside to the pool took a bit of doing. Still, we did another full exercise programme and felt good for completing it. We’ve missed only one day in the past fifteen. Before going out, we had to shell out £150.00/€170.00 for a man to come and ‘service’ the boiler. He was here 20 mins and really only read the dials then pronounced it ‘fit’ as it should be after less than two years work.

Well, we’ve actually taken a decision! We’ve booked a villa in Tenerife for the month of November and followed that up by securing reasonably timed flights with Thomson Airways. Thank goodness for that. I couldn’t stand my own indecision for one minute longer. Now we can turn our attention to the Summer and securing a villa in southern France for a month or so to idle away June – July. Once again, we have precise requirements – a pool, cooking and laundry facilities, wifi and air-conditioning. We will also require private parking and outside space. It will be nice to secure this before the weekend is out.

Thursday, 18th January

A sunny but cold and blustery day. We did our weekly shop and then prepared for our exercise routine. By mid day, we decided to have a ‘let go’ day and decided not to go to the Health Club. We sorted out the final details of our November trip to Tenerife. Particularly, we downloaded apps on our smartphones to monitor and control our villa rental and, separately, our flights. Contacted our airline to upgrade our seats to ‘extra legroom’. This cost us an extra £100.00/€113.50 for two people return which is scandalous.

With the early winter sorted out, we are now turning our minds to the summer and urgently attempting to fix a period of some six weeks in France for June-July. I have been looking at a villa in Beziers but it could be Narbonne or Montpellier. We just want relaxed sunny, warm conditions. We also want to arrange a Greek island holiday with stays in Athens at each end for September. We are hoping to do a short break in Spain in the Spring and at least one trip to Yorkshire in October. We don’t do spur of the moment travel. This is the time to research, check, check again and book well ahead to ensure we get what we want.

Friday, 19th January

Clear skies last night delivered blue skies and sun this morning with a light touch of frost. Having said that, we feel very lucky to not have the cold and snow of the North to cope with. We had quite enough of that for 40 years crossing the Pennines and queuing on the M62 for hours in snowbound gridlock. Instead, we were outside in the sunshine, exercising at the gym and swimming in the sunlit, outdoor pool.

Chateau de Monbazillac

Well, we’ve secured the second element of our 2018 travels with 5 weeks (June/July) in France. After quite extensive searching, I pulled back from the Beziers coast to the Dordogne and the outskirts of Bergerac. We are renting one of two Gîtes in the grounds of Chateau de Monbazillac. The Gîtes are owned by a couple from Yorkshire and have their own, huge infinity pool, and fully kitted out gym. We will have all home comforts including dishwasher and laundry facilities, wi-fi and English satellite television to while away the evenings’ wine tasting. Total cost is fantastic at £2,200.00/€2,500.00. Now we can turn our attention to a short, Spanish trip in the Spring and a Greek trip in the Autumn.

Saturday, 20th January

Stop over at the Mercure Orleans

A wet day. We decided fairly early on that we would have a day off and not go out so we did ‘home’ things. I had my haircut. Pauline made salmon terrine for next week. I vacuumed the house and then completed the Summer trip planning. We will drive to the tunnel, make the crossing and then stay in Coquelles for the first night. From there, the journey is about 8.5 hrs which we will split into two legs. The first will take us to Orleans where will stay in a Mercure hotel. I am a member so I get a 10% discount. The hotel is lovely with pool, gym and restaurant. The second leg of the trip will take around 4 hrs. On the way back, we will also stay in Orleans and Coquelles. With that all booked up, we can relax.

In the next few days, we want to have tied up our Greek trip and a short break in Spain – we are thinking of Seville or Valencia. After cancelling our Gran Canaria month last November, this Winter has felt a long, hard slog and we are looking forward to indulging ourselves in some warm weather again.