The Last Days- St Cast le Guildo

For our final site and last couple of days before departure from Bretagne we’ve chosen St Cast le Guildo, a stone’s throw from St Malo and Dinard, both of which we’ve stayed at and visited, St Malo being fairly well known to us. It’s another glorious stretch of Bretonne coast and moves us nearer to our departure point of Caen.

The site is perched high above the sea. We choose a pitch ovelooking a vast bay where the tide recedes to expose a huge field of oyster beds, beach tractors working quickly at the low tide to harvest the oysters before the beds are once more submerged. The site is another being newly refurbished with an impressive, lofty bar/cafe [not yet fully open].

The campsite’s position, high above the town means a steep walk down to the seafront and commerce and a hard climb back up. But, keen to maximise our last days we wander down in the late afternoon sunshine to scope out the bars and restaurants. The seafront faces a broad stretch of sandy beach and like Dinard, there is a seawall walkway around to the harbour area.

The small town centre square has a sunny area laid out with tables and chairs from two or three bars, busy on this weekday evening with groups of friends and families. After a beer we select a restaurant- part of a hotel- and are shown to a table, although there is only a handful of fellow diners. It’s clear when we begin to make choices that much of the menu is ‘off’, at which point we should really make our excuses and leave, but we opt for simple fare and make the best of it. Then it’s a slog back up the steep hill to the campsite.

Next day is bathed in warm sunshine, perfect for a walk around the coast path. The views are magnificent and the meandering path is flanked by a huge variety of wildflowers, a magnet for speckled brown butterflies. The first stretch of path plunges down then quickly begins to climb a steep and rocky hill. Once we’ve reached the top it’s merely undulating rather then steep.

At last we reach a point above St Cast’s harbour with a panoramic view of the surrounding coast, then it’s a short stroll down to the port, which is a proper working base for fisherman, and where the dockside has a few promising restaurants and bars. We reward ourselves with a beer before slogging back up to our site- but not before inspecting the restaurant menus.

Later we return via the town route to get dinner. The restaurant is quiet, with only a handful of early evening drinkers besides ourselves, but we sit down and order. A little later a family arrives and the two young daughters tuck into plates of crevettes with gusto, which is a sight to behold!

The climb back up to our site is the last, as we’ll be off up to Caen next day…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

NZ 2011. Queenstown.

You have only to make a cursory search into New Zealand’s highlights for Queenstown to come up in the results. It is known, not only for its stunning scenery but for its opportunities to be active in all kinds of ways. Jet skiing, jet boating, boating, kayaking, walking, mountain biking are just a few. But above all, Queenstown’s biggest draw for thrill-seekers is bungee jumping. And the most famous of all bungee jumps, the place where it all began is the Hackett Bungy at Jack’s Point.

The Queenstown campsite is elevated enough to provide spectacular snow-topped mountain views but was busy, accommodating all kinds of travel vehicles, from bells and whistles motorhomes to spartan, cleverly converted estate cars with cunning stoves that pulled out under the boot lid. The showers were beautiful but, unusually, needed a coin in the slot. In the bitter cold evening I walked across between the rows of campers to the block with my two coins clutched in my hand, intending to wash my hair. When ready, I inserted both coins into the meter, after which the shower ran tepid so I shampooed quickly, expecting the water to heat up. It didn’t. In fact it ran colder than any shower I’ve had before or since, the water feeding down from the snow clad slopes. With a head full of shampoo there was nothing for it but to continue and get finished as fast as possible! Invigorating but brutal and I was never more glad to be dry, dressed and back in a warm van.

Next day we were up for exploring Queenstown.

Now neither Husband nor I was ever likely to willingly throw ourselves off a spindly platform into the void attached to an insubstantial bit of elastic, but we were excited to see others take the plunge.

At Jack’s Point a footbridge spans a deep gorge with a rushing river below. A platform attached to the outside of the footbridge exists for those brave or foolish enough to want to experience the rush of adrenalin that accompanies hurling yourself into a chasm. There was no shortage of these, although most were young. One young boy was clearly terrified as he teetered on the platform, procrastinating until the operator helped him with a friendly shove. We watched him plunge towards the foamy water and bounce back up and down until the movement slowed and he was hauled into the waiting boat, an enormous grin on his face.

Our own modest venture into activity was a jet boat ride, during which we were given helmets and life vests, crammed into a fast boat and swooshed around on the lake.

Best of all, though was to be lifted up the mountain in a cable car and to step out for the most stunning mountain panorama I’ve seen; the bluest blues, the clearest air and a perfect circle of snow capped peaks. Some had travelled up with mountain bikes for a thrill-packed hurtle down, some were undertaking bungee jumps here at the top, but for me, to stand above Queenstown and gaze was breath-taking enough.

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Dean. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

Tented Travels-Portugal

Back in the 70s and 8os I seem to remember Portugal having a reputation for being expensive, but one of our early tenting expeditions in the 90s was to this small, sunny, friendly country tacked on to the side of Spain.

By the time we got round to our Portugal trip we’d upgraded from my ancient Volvo hatchback to ‘Mick’, Husband’s beloved Peugeot Estate, a heroic vehicle that took us thousands of miles and accommodated tons of equipment. We’d also swapped the aged, leaking frame tent inherited from my parents for a [admittedly borrowed] ‘pyramid’ tent, which was beautiful and roomy, but involved someone [ie me] crawling underneath the skirt of the tent to hold the central pole up while Husband secured the guy ropes. In hot weather this could be a sweaty task.

We still needed to make overnight stops in hotels and since a road trip to Portugal involves passing through Spain we had no option of a ‘Formule 1’ as we did in France, so we had to find somewhere en route, which we did, and perfectly acceptable I believe it was.

We cut off the corner of Spain and entered into the north of Portugal and to the coast. The west coast is green and less built up than the popular Algarve, which accommodates large numbers of package tourists every year. Husband was into body-boarding and was keen to try the waves in this area, which are great for surfing. We stopped at the small seaside town of Vila Praia de Ancora, where a large, wooded site gave access to the beach across a railway line and found a corner to begin setting up the pyramid tent.

It is customary on a site for those already installed to show an interest in new arrivals. On this occasion we were ‘helped’ by a Portuguese gentleman nearby, who was keen to advise where our entrance should face etc., whereupon we determined the entrance should face away from our neighbours.

The little town was [and still is-we’ve been back since] delightful, boasting beautiful sandy beaches and characterful streets with restaurants and bars [then, at any rate]. We got our first experience of Portuguese hospitality and cuisine, eating in a modest town restaurant, characteristic of so many in the area, with simple but delicious food and wine sourced from the local district. And as tradition dictates, our menus were accompanied by tasty nibbles-a lovely touch.

Our site was a short walk from the town and also close to a handy Intermarche supermarket. We also discovered that the railway behind our site could give us easy access to Porto, further south down the coast, which meant we would not have to up poles and move from this perfect spot. We’d need to drive to Viano do Costelo, a short way south, and park there to get a train. Wonderful! What could possibly go wrong? …

Tented Travels Portugal continues in the New Year 2021. Anecdotage’s next post will be my travel review of the year-a little different this year. In the meantime, I’d like to wish all regular readers, followers and visitors a safe, healthy and happy Christmas, wherever you are. And thank you for visiting!