Category Archives: Our First Six Months

Synopsis posts of our travels during our first six months in Benny

Our first year full-timing in a motorhome – how much did it cost?

Our first year full-timing in a motorhome – how much did it cost? Here’s a look at the costs, annual and daily, associated with our chosen lifestyle choice. 

(4th September 2016 – 3rd September 2017)

It’s been a full year now since we took the plunge, leaving our professions, friends and family behind for life on the road.  We thought it might be useful to others who may be considering a similar lifestyle change to see, for their planning purposes, how much we’ve spent over a full year, and on what.

Of course, what we’re happy with on the road may not suit you, and vice versa, so we should say first that our spending levels are absolutely personal to us.  Our costs are at a level we’re comfortable with, and they suit our current financial situation; but everyone is different.  If required it would be possible to live on much less, with patience and frugality.  And it would certainly be very easy to spend much more too, if eating out, guided trips and expensive attractions are what interest you on your travels.

We like cooking, so eating out only very occasionally is fine for us.  Most of what we really enjoy doing is free, like hiking in the mountains, wild swimming, cycling off-road or running trails.  The one big exception to this is skiing, which is definitely an expensive week (or two) whatever way you look at it, even if bringing your own accommodation helps reduce the costs a little. We like seeing cultural sites too, but we’ve learned to be selective, as paying into every church, museum, fort, gallery or other attraction we pass would be exorbitant.  We have occasionally volunteered our time at WorkAway projects and these social, volunteer efforts offer a variation that invigorates us, offers a welcome change of scene and keeps our costs for that time at a minimum.  We also have a few winter house-sits coming up which will enable us to live a more rooted, normal life for a time, and allow a more detailed exploration of specific portions of rural France.

General Overall route – Europe map:  (red – first six months, blue – current Scandi tour)Route map - all trips

More detailed country Route Maps: (paper maps marked up by hand)

Our travels during our first year were split into two long trips of roughly six months (France, Spain & Portugal) and five months (Northern Europe and Scandinavia) respectively. We had a month or so in between where we returned to the UK for servicing, maintenance and a catch-up with friends and family.  We sneaked in a quick two week trip to Scotland (no map) during this time too. The Scandinavia trip is still on-going as our ‘one year on the road’ anniversary has fallen mid-travels.

We have tracked all our costs and distances as we travelled, noting down spending and mileage counts at driver changes or stops as they occurred.  We added these to a bespoke spreadsheet set up to record, count and analyse our activities month by month and county by country.  Synopsis tabs with some complex formula then collate each category into, hopefully, easy to understand tables or charts, for a quick overview.  Yes, indeed we do have too much time on our hands.

France / Spain / Portugal trip:

COSTS - FranceSpainPortugal

Scotland Trip:

COSTS - Scotland Tour

Scandinavia Trip:  (note: still on-going)

COSTS - Scandi tour

After the completion of our first six month trip we tweaked the spreadsheet categories a little, adding in new columns to allow for a more accurate breakdown of our spending. This meant the spend percentages between each portion of the trip were not perfectly aligned, but the spend totals remain unaffected and it’s these we have used for this post.  We also added in a column for type of accommodation, to track where we spend our nights.  Here’s a typical (actually, untypically expensive) month from our current spreadsheet (June 2017) , for interest.  (note our serious lack of cycling in Norway!)

COSTS - June 2017

FACILITATING COSTS:
Outside the daily costs of living on the road we also had many one-off or annually reoccurring costs that enabled the trip to proceed initially.  (note: these are all included in the totals and are shown here purely as examples of other costs that you will / may incur)

COSTS - Facillating

This doesn’t include purchasing our Benny (a new Benimar Mileo 201) in the first instance, so the cost of your chosen van, whether new or used, should also be factored in here.  All our ferry costs to and from mainland Europe, or within each country are included within the daily cost totals under the category ‘transport’.

We tracked everything in euros, as this was the predominant currency of our first six months and it made sense to continue with the same base.  All Scandinavian currency spends were recorded in euros at a fixed exchange rate, that of what it was when we first entered the country, so there may have been some fluctuation in value during our time (in either direction) that we didn’t capture.

Our annual totals by portion of year:

COSTS - synopsis table

 This equates to (at current exchange rates) an approximate spend of £13354.00 for our first year travelling in Europe, or an average spend of £36.59 per day, all in for us both.

On the Road spending pie:

COSTS - On the road spending

FOOD – Food from a supermarket/shop. Includes wine & beer, but not eating out
FUEL – Diesel for Benny
LPG – Propane gas for cooking, heating and running the fridge when not on sites
TRANSPORT – Tolls, vignettes, ferries, bridges, public transport & day parking 
EATING OUT – Eating & drinking in restaurants & bars (includes snacks & ice cream)
OVERNIGHT STAYS – Cost of sites, aires or parking overnight, where a cost applied
CLOTHING – This includes personal items such as clothes & shoes and laundry costs
ENTRY FEES– Entry fees for museums, galleries, castles, cathedrals and other events etc..  
MISC. – All other items not separately designated (from stamps to ski passes)

If we removed all the up-front facilitating costs and only looked at expenditure on the road, we are spending under €950, or £870, per month, and for the incredible experiences we’re having and the beautiful places we are seeing, this seems like a very good deal to us – long may it continue.

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Our first six months – an activity and financial synopsis

Our first six months – an activity and financial synopsis

Following on from our First six months photographic synopsis, we decided to also create an activity and financial synopsis, to record the details of our life on the road to date:

As motorhoming newbies, going full-time in our very first van was quite a scary proposition at first.  Would we enjoy it?  How would we cope with the driving?  Would our budget be sufficient, or have we made any miscalculations?  How would we get on in such close confinement every day?  The answers would only be supplied by time, patience, prudence and experimentation.

We learned not to see our day-to-day life in our van as a holiday, but as a specific lifestyle choice that brings its own trials, complications and rewards.  We gave up a lot of valued possessions, personal comforts and money to gain the time, freedom and frugality we experience on the open road.  Along the way we’ve had our share of difficulties and headaches, made some mistakes, but these normal hiccups in our new lives have been the insignificant parts of a much larger and complex jigsaw puzzle we have been building slowly and rewardingly together over these past six months.

First Six Months - Route

The above image is a rough sketch of our route, from our initial arrival in Dieppe until we arrived back in Dieppe six months later.  In these first 184 days on the road, we have:

  • Driven 7071 miles, in three countries (not including England), for an average of 38 miles per day.  ( France – 3256 miles; Spain – 2756 miles; Portugal – 1059 miles. )
  • Had our fuel costs and driving efficiency (27.1 mpg) average out to around €0.19 per mile
  • Cycled 1040 kilometres, mostly off-road, with 30 outings on our bikes
  • Walked over 500 kilometres (GPS tracked) and more urban kilometres that weren’t recorded

As mentioned previously in our80 days’ synopsis post, we tracked all money spent on the road, because we wanted to ensure this is a fully sustainable way of life for us.  We created an over-complicated multi-tab excel spreadsheet, a good sign of much too much time on our hands, that we used every day to input distances travelled and costs incurred.  We then compared what we spent our money on from month to month and from country to country, and tracked all our outgoings in specifically defined categories, as detailed below:

FOOD – Food bought from a supermarket / shop. This includes wine and beer, but not eating out
FUEL – Diesel for Benny
LPG – Propane gas for cooking, heating and running the fridge when not on sites
TRANSPORT – Tolls, vignettes, ferries, bridges, public transport & parking when not overnighting
EATING OUT – Eating and drinking out in restaurants and bars (also includes snacks and ice creams)
OVERNIGHT STAYS – Cost of sites, aires or parking overnight, where a cost applied
ENTERTAINMENT – Entry fees for museums, galleries, castles, cathedrals, attractions and other events etc..
Note: This final category also includes personal items such as clothes, shoes, laundry and other misc. items

The current ratio of our spending is as per the image below:

six month finances - including skiing

The final category, the loosely defined ‘Entertainment’, has proved to be the most problematic for us, as it became the place to dump in all costs not otherwise specified.  This category then became massively skewed by the inclusion of a week’s skiing in Serre Chevalier, as this added the equivalent cost of around six weeks of travel into just one week.  If we removed all the main costs associated with our full week of skiing, including purchasing ski chains, lift passes, ski and pole hire and the ski aire camping costs, we would instead have:

six month finances - without skiing

Our ‘by country’ cost averages worked out as:
77 days in France –   €60 / day (inc. skiing)  or €46 / day with skiing trips excluded.
75 days in Spain –     €29 / day
31 days in Portugal -€25 / day

It’s clear that by removing skiing from the equation the general theme remains, as before, that feeding ourselves is the biggest expense, followed by diesel for travel, with every other category of expenses lagging far behind.  But in general, we’re comfortable with our pace, our spending and our level of activity throughout. All is going well and looking fully sustainable going forward.

Our next long trip, beginning in a few weeks at the end of April, is east and north, for a touch of Midnight Sun. We plan to ferry to the Hook of Holland and drive through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark before crossing to explore Sweden, Norway and Finland.  We definitely will continue to track all costs and miles, writing up posts and recording our experiences as we go, keeping active and living as we originally planned.

Our first six months – a photographic synopsis

Our first six months – a photographic synopsis

Over the preceding twenty-six weeks, or more accurately 184 days, we have passed through many stunning places, towns and landscapes around Western Europe.  We have cycled, walked and swam in beautiful and varied locations, covering more ground and staying fitter than we would have during the cold, grey winters of home.  We have eaten well, enjoyed the company of many friendly people, revelled in the noise of busy cities and the solitude of high mountains or rural retreats along the way.  It’s been nearly impossible to narrow each of our adventure-packed months down to only a few choice photos, but that’s the task we set ourselves for this post, to create a quick and colourful, impressionistic overview covering many aspects and experiences in our new life to date.

September 2016 – Synopsis
Day one in France took us to Rouen to see the cathedral, then Giverny and Monet’s Garden.  From there we enjoyed cycling to Mont St. Michel and Dinan, before seeing Poitiers and visiting friends in Chateau-Gontier and Moncontour.  We then relished a few days exploring on Île de Ré.  We headed south to first see Dune de Pilat then Biarritz, before crossing into Spain and stopping at San Sebastian.  Next up were Bilbao and Santander, before we reached the Picos de Europa where we walked Fuente De and Cares Gorge.  Then we headed west along Spain’s north coast, stopping in Gijon, Cudillero and finally Navia where we spent a few relaxing days on a clifftop with our own private beach below.

September 2016 – Photographic highlights

Monets garden, GivernyExploring Monet’s Garden, Giverny, France

Avranches park - sketchingSketching in the park in Avranches, France

cycling to Mont st michelEnjoying a long rural cycle to reach Mont St. Michel, Northern France

Ile de Re sunsetBeach walking under an Île de Ré sunset, Western France

A+N Dune du PilatEnjoying the sun and sand at the Dune de Pilat, Western France

Walk 3 - lunch with a viewTrekking the mountains in the Picos de Europa, Northern Spain

Navia - (lunch overlooking bay)Cycling the rugged coast near Navia, Northern Spain

October 2016 – Synopsis
Tapia de Casariego was our next stop, where we cycled and walked portions of the Camino de Santiago, an experience we repeated from Palas del Rei.  We drove the Spanish west coast to Boiro, then on to a rural stop in O Mundil, before crossing into Portugal at Bragança.  We had long, rainy and tough cycles around Meda, Benquerenca and Idanha-a-Nova, before a more religiously influenced route took us through Tomar, Fatima and Batalha.  We reached the Atlantic and west coast of Portugal at Nazare, before following it south to Sintra and Cascais.  We visited Belem and the capital Lisbon and then spent long, lazy days in glorious sunshine at the beaches of Fonte da Telha.

October 2016 – Photographic highlights

Boiro (Az on decking)Chilling on our private decking on the beach at Boiro, Western Spain

O Mundil (skinny dipping)Skinny-dipping in the cold river at O Mundil, Spain

Monsanto (Walk up to castle)Climbing the heights at Monsanto, Eastern Portugal

Batalha (Az at cathedral)Visiting the cathedral of Batalha, Portugal

Sintra Pena Palace from High CrossWalking to Pena Palace from Sintra, Western Portugal

Fonte del Telha - beachfrontLazy days and fantastic sunsets, Fonte da Telha, Portugal

Porto Covo (N playing in the waves)Playing in the wild west coast surf, Porto Covo, Portugal

November 2016- Synopsis
We tore ourselves from Fonte da Telha to visit further beaches at Porto Covo, Lagos and Luz, before turning east to Albufeira.  Skipping the rest of Portugal, we jumped back into Spain and a fantastic city break in Seville. We loved the Via Verde cycling at Puerto Serrano and Olvera before escaping into the high mountains to see Ronda and Casares, where we encountered griffon vultures.  We skipped through the busy Costa Del Sol, preferring to be back into the rural tranquillity of El Torcal, before reaching Granada and the sublime Alhambra. We returned to beach living at Playa La Carolina before reaching Totana and the Sierra Espuna where we climbed beautiful, rugged mountains.

November 2016 – Photographic highlights

Seville (Plaza de Espana reflection)Exploring the beautiful city of Seville, Spain

Olvera (A looks out from church)Cycling and walking the pueblo blanco town of Olvera, Spain

Casares (town from castle)Exploring the town of Casares in the mountains, Spain

Casares (A and n near summit)Climbing Sierra Crestalina and seeing griffon vultures, Spain

Antequera (n in el torcal)Wandering through the amazing rock formations of El Torcal near Antequera, Spain

Granada (view from towers)Exploring the incredible Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Totana (a rest with a view)Climbing peaks in the Sierra Espuna near Totana, Spain

December 2016 – Synopsis
We met up with Nicky’s mum for five days of exploring Murcia, Cartagena and the nearby coastline from our base in Torre Pacheco.  We saw the groovy town of Castell de Gaudalest before arriving in the orange groves of Simat de la Valldigna where we enjoyed many mountain walks. We cycled around Carcaixent before an eye-opening visit to Valencia and a weather-beaten tour of Peniscola.  We briefly visited Morella and hid in the deep quiet wetlands of the Delta L’Ebre for a few days.  We visited Tarragona and  ArtCAVA then had two days in Barcelona in glorious weather, before spending Christmas by the beach in Blanes.  We visited musical Girona and Sant Feliu De Guixols to end our year.

December 2016 – Photographic highlights

Cobaticas (playing in the sea)A fantastic swim and play in the sea near Cobaticas, Spain

Simat monastery (oranges context)Exploring the monastery and orange groves of Simit de la Valldigna, Spain

Valencia (Hemisferic reflected)Walking around the grand city of Valencia, Spain

Peniscola (wild seas)Bracing , wild weather storm in the walled citadel of Pensicola, Spain

ARTCAVA (n tasting with Ramon)Having a wonderful tour and chat with Ramon from ArtCAVA, Spain

Barcelona (sangrada familia) (6)Revisiting Barcelona and the Gaudi masterpiece of the Sagrada Familia, Spain

Blanes (christmas morning on beach)Christmas day on the beach, complete with long swim, Blanes, Spain

January 2017 – Synopsis
Our year began with a beautiful coastal walk from Tamariu to Llfranc, before we headed back into France via Cadaques.  We visited Argeles-sur-Mer, then skied in Los Angles in the Pyrenees.  We saw Cathar castles in Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, before working north through Quillan and Esperaza to Limoux, to visit friends Jan and Andy.  We saw Carcassonne and the Canal du Midi, before heading west to Lagrasse.  A visit to Narbonne was followed by windy beach walks around Gruisson.  Further city visits to Beziers and Montpellier followed, then a long-awaited reunion of Nicky with her French pen-friend in Saint-Just.  We saw Nimes and Saint-Gilles, then drove south to visit a rainy Camargue, before seeing Arles, beautiful Avignon and finishing deep into wine country at Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

January 2017 – Photographic highlights

Tamariu (forest trail)A wonderful New Year’s Day walk along the Costa Brava coast, Tamariu, Spain

Quillan (a with town behind)Overlooking the rooftops of Quillan, deep in the foothills of the Pyrenees, France

Nîmes (a on top ring of arena)Visiting the bullring and central streets of Nimes, France

Gruissan (view from castle)Braving the harsh winds to enjoy the view in Gruissan, France

Béziers (town and bridge)Climbing the heights of Beziers, southern France

Avignon (pont and river)The beautiful city of Avignon, Southern France

Chateauneuf-du-pape (wine tasting)Enjoying many wine tastings in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, France

February 2017 – Synopsis
We continued enjoying dégustations in Provençal villages, and a truffle market in St.Paul-Trois-Chateaux.  From the peaceful aire at Domaine des Lauribert we next went to Gap, Briançon and onwards to meet friends for skiing in Serre Chevalier.  We crossed the Col du Lautaret to Grenoble, staying at Visieu and Belley where we cycled peaceful canal routes. We visited Vongnes, enjoying wine tastings and nature walks.  We cycled around Dôle, visited Besançon and the quiet lake at Vesoul, before an architectural pilgrimage to Ronchamp cathedral.  We had a few restful days in Charmes, then a busy city visit to Nancy before arriving in Mareuil-sur-Ay in the heart of Champagne country.

February 2017 – Photographic highlights

Ronchamp (front)Our architectural pilgrimage to Le Corbusier’s chapel at Ronchamp, France

Domain de Lauribert (vines)Quiet walks through vineyards in rural wine country, France

Montbrison-sur-Lez (lavander field)Long walks through the lavender fields of Provence, France

Serre Chevalier (with friends)Skiing with friends in Serre Chevalier, France

Voseul - lakesideRestful parking overlooking the lake at sunset in Vesoul, France

Glandieu waterfallCycling to the waterfalls of Glandieu near Belley, France

Vongnes - miradorCycling and walking through the countryside around Vongnes, France

Northern France – The First Five Days

Day 1

Rolling off the ferry in the port town of Dieppe sandwiched between a convoy of commercial lorries made Benny feel much smaller than usual. It was late at night and we were both tired from the long drive south. With less than a kilometre to drive until our first overnight aire, our inaugural experience of driving on the right was welcomingly unchallenging. After a night’s nervous sleep we were excited to wake up in a busy port adjacent to imposing cliffs, albeit in low mist and constant drizzle.  A quick reshuffling of priorities due to weather and our first stop now became the historic city of Rouen.

Armed with no information on how best to park ‘le camping-car’ in this (or any other) city, we were at the mercy of French signposts to assist. Ignoring city centre signs, we spotted a long riverside gravelled parking area under a bridge and stopped up, leaving us only a five minute brisk walk to the centre’s sights.

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Soaked but happy, we splashed our way first to Rouen’s cathedral, famously painted dozens of times in changing light and weather by Claude Monet. The imposing and yet delicately detailed facade was a striking contrast to the impressively time-twisted medieval timber structures of adjacent buildings. We wandered around the old centre, enjoying the narrow streets, the Grand Horlage clock tower and adjacent cloisters.

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Our drive south to Giverny, to avoid motorway tolls, was on winding A-roads through small, pretty stone and timer built villages, with plenty of roundabouts and traffic lights to keep us thinking about driving on the right.

The village must be overrun on fine summer days, but on a rainy, dull September day the vast parking areas were relatively quiet.  A large bronze head of a bearded Monet greeted us on arrival and a short walk took us to the entry point of his house and gardens.

The long stone with salmon-colour rendered house with green window shutters was vibrant and alive with exceptionally varied planting externally and paintings internally. Many accurate copies of Monet’s paintings hang just where the originals did many years ago, allowing an insight into his working life. Externally, the waterlily pond was a true highlight, with many still in flower even this late in the season.  It was lovely to see the original inspirational source for so many familiar paintings, studied in a distant arty past.

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We returned northwards to the small town of Pont de L’Arches to overnight in a quiet riverside aire, luckily bagging the penultimate space despite our late arrival.

Aires in France are basically municipally run specialist ‘camping car’ park spots. They are unmanned and cannot be booked in advance, operating on a first-come first-served basis.  Popular Aires are busy and, if full, can end with disappointment so a backup plan is always required.

After a pleasant stroll around the town centre and local church, we had dinner and settled in for the night, buzzing with ideas and possibilities when considering the success of our first day on the road.

Day 2

Our second day was mostly about relocating further west, so we undertook an ambling four hour journey, avoiding motorway tolls, to Avranches.  We passed through many small villages and settlements, all with a distinctive style. Comfortable now with driving on the right, the lack of traffic even on popular french routes is a welcome surprise. We stopped in what was obviously a very popular aire with no true spaces, but double- parked across another van with agreement from the kindly Aussie couple within.

Steeped in WW2 history, Avranches played a key strategic role and hosts a large monument to General Patten, complete with tank. We passed a pleasant day exploring the town and local parks, with Jardin De Plantes a highlight, sculptured and beautifully planted,  overlooking the central Notre Dame church. We returned to the park early evening after dinner with sketchbooks and pencils to draw a little and later to watch the sun set over the distant Mont St Michel, tomorrow’s goal.

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Day 3

Early (for us) start for a longish off -road cycle to visit the island fortress of Mont St Michel. Began in 738 CE as a seat of learning, the island grew with the construction of a large Benedictine monastery and the trade brought by being a popular pilgrimage.  Today the weather was perfect, maybe even a little too nice – a hot mid 20s with only insubstantial wispy clouds in the deep blue sky. Avranches sits on a steep hill so we knew we’d pay later for the initial exhilarating downhill to the water’s edge. From here, a long distance walking and cycling path hugged the coast all the way around to Mont St. Michel, 30km west.

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We had the cycle route mostly to ourselves for the duration and were constantly amazed by the lack of people around, especially on such a lovely day. The crowds suddenly grew larger as we approached the imposing site via the new causeway, as most visitors only walk the last kilometre or so from a huge coach park on the mainland.  Horse-drawn carriages and specialist buses run back and forth for those not able or willing to make the walk.

We passed through the narrow entrance archway and along the crammed lower streets, thronged with colourful shops and visitors.  This lower area is free to access and many had taken the opportunity to explore and browse.  We climbed up many more stone stairs to the monastery entrance and bought tickets to access the main buildings and enjoyed a few hours exploring.  The views down and out to sea from the external plazas on each level were exceptional, showing off just how precarioulsy perched the entire structure is.

We returned by the same route, small country roads and riverside bridleway. We chatted to two old local characters sat outside their home, who refilled our water bottles for us.  Their French was practically indecipherable to us, but we had a nice conversation regardless.

In total the cycle was just shy of 60km, mostly off-road, but felt longer in the legs as we’re not yet fully bike-fit. Still, a fantastic day of water-side cycling in blazing sun.

Day 4

We left our comfortable aire in Avranches and drove to St. Malo, with the plan being to explore the historic central area.  But on arrival we found thousands of full parking spaces and no clear options for stopping with a motorhome, so reluctantly moved on.  What little we did see of the town looked very nice, so will require a visit again, some day.  We headed on to our next stop, at Dinan. We passed through the Port de Dinan and parked in an aire by the river Rance under a hugely imposing viaduct.

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We walked up a steep gravel path and steps leading to the main town walls, to again find another beautifully preserved medieval town.  The main tree-lined square and huge central church boasted a small plaza with views over the river.  Timber framed buildings and winding streets with cute artisan shops led through and around the town.

Later we found a steep cobbled path, rue Jerzual, winding back down to the Port de Dinan and enjoyed watching a local running club running intervals up the busy street.  Lots of quirky local shops and tiny cafes and bars line this rue, creating a wonderful buzz.

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Day 5

Today’s cycle began in the very pretty Port de Dinan, following the river Rance northwards on the western bank. High cliffs on one side, the river slowly opened out from narrow stream to full marina, housing many dinghies and sailing yachts moored in open water.

We followed a chalky pathway lined, and sometimes enclosed, by tall trees.  It passed through several villages en route before it took us most of the way to the town of Dinard. Just two extra minutes along a quiet road we turned left down a steep cobbled path to be faced with a stunning vista of open sands, built-up coastline and many sailing boats, framed by the prominent city walls of St. Malo a few miles behind.

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We hugged the water’s edge admiring the view, almost giggling with excitement. Cutting back into town we locked up our bikes and explored the centre on foot, before eating lunch in a quiet, shaded square.

We returned to the first beach, la Plage du Prieure, and relaxed on the expansive sands.  Besides a happy, rowdy crowd of students playing volleyball at the eastern end, only a handful of locals shared the beach with us, many of them seemingly on extended lunch breaks and soon disappeared back indoors. We swam lengths parallel to the beach in the cool, calm, surprisingly salty water before relaxing in the hot midday sun slathered in factor 50. It’s a far cry from what our standard Friday lunchtimes consisted of just a few short weeks ago. We passed a delightful hour enjoying the sea and sun before rejoining our bikes and heading back to base by a mostly similar route.

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A 60km cycle with a cooling swim at a lovely beach, finished off with a relaxing beer in the shade of an ancient viaduct by a tranquil river; that’ll do.  It definitely feels now, after all the stresses and efforts to get away, we’re shedding our work skins piece by piece and slowly relaxing into our new lifestyle; living our dream.