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Final week 25th to 30th January 2022

All good things have come to an end!

EMPURIABRAVA TO HOME 980 MILES

Miles travelled for this WHOLE trip: 3582 miles

Toll costs: 83.6 euros this week

Fuel Costs: 197 euros this week

25th January – Empuriabrava, Spain to Villasavary, France 131 Miles

The temperature last night was -3 degrees. This morning it’s about 0 to 1 degrees with heavy grey skies. It is supposed to clear up by midday to around 14 degrees. Today we are crossing the border into France. Today is Tuesday and our train to the UK is on Sunday morning so we need to think, at least about making our way back into the much colder weather. Sad but there it is. All good things come to an end. It’s not quite over yet though we still have six days to go and there are always things and places to see and visit so we will make the most of it while we can.

Just after 10 we have had breakfast and cleaned up, checked everything and we are off.

Over the border in a flash!

It’s only a short 20-minute drive to the AP7 north, over the border, and into France, which happens almost without us noticing. We got a very short and quick glimpse of the European sign saying FRANCE. From us leaving our pitch in Empuriabrava, Spain within 30 minutes we are in France and nobody said anything!

The weather is improving every minute and by the time we arrive at our spot in Villasavary we now have clear blue skies and a balmy 13 degrees. It’s nice and warm as we sit drinking tea at the side of the van basking in the mid-winter sun in France. Brilliant.

Best camper stops in France

Again Hayley has found us an excellent spot just outside the town of Villasavary. It is part of the Pass etapes.

You simply drive to a barrier, pay 10 euros by card and drive into a well-groomed, safe place that has everything you need, freshwater, greywater dump, and toilet dump. Free wifi and electricity are all included. The location of this one is superb. Peaceful, tranquil, surrounded by trees and fields. Amazing.

Around 3 pm we take a walk into the town which is just under a kilometre away. We go the long way taking in some of the beautiful countryside here. This is a lovely place for sure. The walk does us good and sharpens our appetite for dinner. Our first in France heading back home.

Smashing dinner on board but with an early appetiser of anchovies from L’Escala Spain and a difficult to open bottle of cava.

A wrench always comes in handy

26th January – Villasavary to Donzenac 171 miles

Cold this morning but what a fantastically blue sky. Today we are going to Donzenac which is in the southeast corner of France. Donzenac is a medieval town on a hill but it also has a 24-hour pizza vending machine in the car park of the local supermarket. We have to try it!

Best countryside…

We set off, a little later than we expected, but we are off. Fully serviced. The drive is wonderful.

France is a massive landmass and has some wonderful countryside and today’s drive is fantastic. It’s cold as we drive through some dense local fog, the temperature goes up and down like a bee’s wing.

France is expensive. Very expensive. The motorway tolls are pricey and at the moment, here in France, diesel is very expensive. We paid 34 euros in tolls to go 171 miles and 41 euros for 25 litres of diesel… Watch out!

We arrive at the site which is run by the same company as yesterday, we turn up, swipe a card and choose a spot.

Everything is here, freshwater, greywater dump etc. Perfect. Full of excitement we get parked up, locked up and make for the supermarket with the 24-hour pizza vending machine… What! What’s this…? It’s gone!! It’s gone and been replaced with a pizza stall, very flash with a flashy menu but no indication about opening hours. That’s progress. We’ve gone from a self-service 24-hour pizza making machine to a portacabin serving pizza with no clue when it opens. H is furious.

Just be sure you are qualified to use this machine.

They do have a 24-hour bread vending/baking machine here as well which we try but we soon discover that you need a qualification in computer coding and have a first in AI from Oxford… We give up and go into the supermarket and buy a stick of bread, the best camembert that we can find and some duck pate. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Use a shop!

Back at the van, we have a traditional French snack with the above and a glass of red in the afternoon sun. Excellent.

Del is off to explore the local medieval town of Donzenac which is quite something, with a church on a hill, twisty streets of houses that have so many bulges and leaning so much so that if you are a surveyor here, you’d make a fortune.

Back at the van, H has it all cleaned up and warm as the temperature is falling sharply. Tonight we are expecting -5 degrees!!! It’s so warm and comfortable in the van, with a freshly changed bed and a glass of wine we will be safe and warm tonight. No worries.

27th January – Donzenac to Dreux 285 miles

-5 overnight…

Yep, it was cold. We didn’t feel it in Jess but it was -5 degrees last night… In fact, by 9 am it hadn’t got much higher, a tropical -4 by the time we left at 10 pm.

Today we planned to go to a place called Vatan. Only about two hours but the weather there is a miserable -1 all day and -4 at night, plus there is not much to do so when we set off we just decide to keep going… and going… and going. We have decided that we will stop at Dreux.

So breakfast is done, we fill up with fuel, fresh water and empty the grey water tank and off we go. The start of our journey is wonderful. Yes, it’s cold but the sky is a deep blue and the countryside just looks amazing. The first couple of hours is just fantastic as we pass fields and trees just covered in thick ice, against the blue sky it is quite something to see.

Pizza 24 hours a day!

On the way, by the roadside, in a supermarket car park is another pizza vending machine. These things are becoming quite popular in France and have always fascinated us. There are two types. One will mix the ingredients from scratch and bake it and the other takes a pre-made raw pizza from storage and bakes it in 3 minutes. Pizza restaurants usually make up the pizzas and stock the machines. We have found one of the latter. You can get a hot pizza in three minutes (or a bake at home version in 30 seconds). We select our ‘montagne’ pizza and wait the 3 minutes……

Surprisingly it’s very very good. Hot, tasty, quick and in a box ready to go! All for 11 euros. Bargain.

We have achieved a ‘dream’ and now our pulses have calmed down it’s time to move on. We have a good couple of hours in front of us to do.

et voila!!!

Dreux is an industrial town just east of Paris. we call it dreary Dreux as we have gone past it several times and it looks… well, dreary. However, if you look it up on the internet it actually has a very nice town centre, it’s just that the by-pass is full of industrial estates which is where our stop for the night is! Yes, we are in a camping aire at the back of an industrial estate in dreary Dreux. No matter, it’s time to stop, it’s been six hours. This will make our last two drives very much shorter. We plan to drive across to the Atlantic coast then north to Calais for the Sunday Eurotunnel and home.

28th January – Dreux to Le Treport 121 miles

It’s cold and damp here this morning in Dreux. 4 degrees. We set off. It’s busy on the roads. The area we are in is full of industrial parks, warehouses and factories. It’s chaos but we finally get through it all only to end up in a dense fog. Bring back the Costa Brava. We are heading for the Atlantic coast today. Two stops, One in Le Treport and the last day in Merlimont. We will have done two seas.

We are approaching the town to get to the pitch which is high up on the cliffs at the back of the town with a view of the Atlantic. We have to follow a diversion, but it’s a diversion to nowhere! We end up in a part of town with a width restriction but helped by the police where we have to turn around and go back the way we came. We make several attempts to get to the chosen pitch but in the end, we just give up and H finds us another one, next to the port. A pleasant stop as it happens, and once in we take a good walk along the prom to where all the restaurants are located. There are many to choose from but as is the French way there is no clue as to when they are open. Oh well, we will take potluck tonight when we come back for dinner.

It’s a cold but nice day, the sun is out and we take a walk around the old lighthouse and the beach. A walk back to the van for an hour or two before dinner means that we have more or less done our exercise quota for the day. Just.

Time for dinner. It’s colder now and we are not really dressed for this change in weather. We do a quick walk back along the prom, most of the restaurants are now open and we take our time to choose one. They all seem similar to each other in what they have on their menus. It’s a tourist town for the French in the summer so it’s all a bit of a muchness. Finally, we choose one. After some mussels and chips and the local dish of Ficelle Picarde (or “Picardy String”) along with some Sancerre, we head back to our house on wheels. It’s so cold!

29th January – Le Treport to Merlimont 52 miles

We have a nice but chilly stay in Le Treport, dinner was average! Now for our last full night’s stop of the trip before home with a stay in the town of Merlimont. We wake up to rain and a bit of wind. On google maps satellite view the town of Merlimont looks great, right by the sea, lots of local eateries and so on. A typical French seaside town. On route we give Jess a wash, she is so dirty after the long drives in fog, rain and frost. It’s a half baked affair as we are short of change for the machine. We make do and she looks better for it.

Merlimont! Mmmm. Well, not quite what we expected. The town is built in an American style grid fashion. All of the restaurants are closed, none of the shops are open and we are the only two people on the streets! We can’t quite understand what’s going on here.

The site where we are staying is almost full so where are they? The only shops open are estate agents, lots of them, we counted six. We are thoroughly dispirited, our last day in a dead ghost town. It’s probably packed and mad in the summer but today we are it! We continue to walk around resigned to the fact that we will not be dining out celebrating the end of our latest European tour with a fine French dinner and a bottle of wine, oh no it’s sausage and chips on the van… What’s this? In the distance, we see a sign with the word “restaurante” on it. We approach carefully and are staggered to find a modern cosy restaurant, with people falling out of it smiling. This can’t be right. We approach and look in the window and there they are, people, eating, drinking and laughing. There is life in Merlimont after all!

Inside is lovely. It’s warm, nice music, beautifully styled and our hosts are so nice and polite, showing us to a table for two where we had what we agreed was the best dinner out in a while. It was excellent.

Happy, we make it back to Jess. Film night tonight. Not done it in a while. Tonight is a doubleheader. First off was Julie and Julia. A film about two women who are into French cooking. Based on a true story it was in fact miles better than described here and well worth a watch. The second film was The Big Short. A film about the 2008 financial crash, who started it, how it started and how it hasn’t really ended. An excellent movie, keep your hand on your wallet while you watch it.

Tomorrow. Home!

30th January – Merlimont to HOME 222 miles

That’s it! Well not quite. We have a 1-hour drive from Merlimont to Calais. It’s an early rise. It’s dark when we set off. Confidence that we will get away from Merlimont and be in Calais with time to spare was dreadfully ill-conceived as we get lost within 3 minutes of leaving the site. “You can come to Merlimont, but you can’t leave!” There are no signs for Calais. There was one sign for the motorway but going in the wrong direction. After a few frustrating stops and consulting with Google maps, we swap over, Del in the driving seat and H resorting to paper maps.

Soon we are on the motorway, going in the right direction and arriving in Calais with 10 minutes to spare for our check-in. Whew!

There was some faff at the station having to show Covid paperwork and so on but once that was done we were in line and on the train and on our way to the UK.

Shutters down, ready to go.

After a McDonald’s breakfast and a two and a half-hour drive, we arrive in Portsmouth for the final jump home to Fishbourne.

Final clean up…

Tonight we plan to stay at the same campsite that our journey started from, just a short 3-minute walk from our house.

It’s very handy as we can de-prep and clean our van before putting her into storage safe and sound, ready for the next trip in…?

Well, we are not sure yet. Probably May. We shall see.

…and to bed.

Despite covid and despite European countries having different rules from each other and the UK, it is possible to travel. It required, for us, a test and some paperwork to get into Europe then back into the UK. We could move freely between France and Spain with no problems at all. Everyone was very nice to us, we did fear a little anti-UK sentiment but far from it.

We had to show our Covid travel pass more in France than in Spain, wear masks when required but so what. Of course, we can really do without the faff that Covid has brought upon us but we found the whole trip simple and most enjoyable. We had the small scare at the start where we thought we wouldn’t get away, but that was down to an incompetent chemist here in the UK more than anything else. Would we do it again? Of course, we would and we very much look forward to it.

OUR FINAL THOUGHTS

Back home now and Jess is covered up safe. We would like to thank all of our friends and family who have read about our trip. It means a lot to us. As we have said, we are not selling anything or trying to prove any point, it was just nice to share our days with you and we thank you all.

Finally, when we got back we had a stack of Christmas cards from people that sent us cards but because we left on the 13th of December we missed them. Thank you so very much for your cards, we loved them and are sorry that we didn’t get a chance to thank you before we left.

Our very best wishes to you all and safe travels…

Del, H and Jess!

Week 6 – 18th to 24th January 2022

Last full week to go…!

NERJA TO EMPURIABRAVA 719 MILES

Miles traveled so far: 2602 miles

Toll costs: 6.70 euros this week

Fuel Costs: 178 euros this week

18th January – Nerja to Roquetas de Mar 83 miles

Today we are on the second day of our journey back to the UK and home. We are not too keen but needs must. After a nice one-night stay in Nerja, we are planning to do one night at Almerimar Marina east of here. They have three parking areas for motorhomes one of which has a great view looking over the marina. The drive east along the coast is wonderful. No wind, at last, clear blue skies and a temperature of 15 degrees. The motorway here is quite high in the hills so the views out to sea are amazing.

Off grid in Roquetas de Mar

An hour or so later we are in Almerimar, however, after speaking with the reception they are full and the only space that they can offer is next to a high concrete wall covered in graffiti. We move on. Hayley finds us a free stop right on the beach in the town of Roquetas de Mar. After a 30 minute drive, we arrive at our destination.

It is so full of motorhomes, there must be over 100 vans here all parked up along the beach.

The number of vans is less dense as you drive further away from the town which we do and eventually, find a spot between two French vans with a perfect side-on view of the sea. Beautiful and FREE!!

We polish off a pile of fruit and soon the bikes are off the back and we are away for a good cycle ride along the promenade. What a lovely day, perfect in fact.

After a good hour or so we return to Jess, put the bikes back on to the back of Jess, grab our beach chairs, some beers and make our way to the water’s edge to take advantage of the late afternoon sun.

19th January – Roquetas de Mar to Palamares 76 miles

Last night was a quiet peaceful night. Just before bed, we saw coming up over the sea, the biggest, fattest moon rise ever. It was stunning.

This morning we are up early and we see an amazing sunrise over the sea. Just in time for breakfast!

Most of our stops have been in campsites where, for a fee of between 15 and 35 euros, you get a pitch to yourself that has an electricity point, facilities to fill up your fresh water tank with water, empty your grey water tank and of course, clean out the chemical toilet. 

Our freshwater tank can hold 100 litres plus 20 for the hot water tank.

The grey water tank, which for those of you who don’t know is the water from your kitchen, bathroom sink, and shower, holds 100 litres.

The chemical toilet is a 20-litre portable cassette tank.

Full van service with Del dealing with the chemical toilet in the background!

If we use all of the above carefully we can manage without a campsite for 2 possibly three days before something needs to be dealt with and in our case, it’s usually the chemical toilet. The chemical toilet is an interesting device. Inside the van’s bathroom, it looks like a normal toilet but under the seat is a box that collects everything. There is a meter on the toilet that tells you when it’s full! Nice. Then it’s Del’s job to take the box out, from the outside, at the back of the van through a lockable flap and take it to the facility in the campsite and empty it, wash it out, and stick a little blue bag inside that disinfects and deodorises the box.

As for the shower, kitchen and bathroom, well it’s just like home, except there is a large 100-litre used water tank under the van which has a lever that is pulled to open a valve on the tank and the grey water just floods out. Most campsites have a grid or drain that you drive over to empty this tank.

Like yesterday we are going ‘off grid’ which means we find a spot, stop and stay overnight. As long as the right tanks are full and empty and the toilet fresh we can do this for possibly up to three days. The van has a solar panel, on the roof to keep the batteries charged so the lights stay on. We have two LPG gas bottles for cooking, heating, keeping warm, and running the fridge freezer.

Tonight’s stop

We find a nice spot right on the beach at Palomares. We stopped here on the way down but at the campsite. It was magic today. The spot was ideal. The weather is just fine, sunny but cool at around 5 pm. We have Jess facing the sea which is calm and just so beautiful to look at. We get our chairs out and just sit in the afternoon sun with a beer, chatting the time away until the chill forces us inside. We get the heating on, close all the blinds, music on, lights down and it’s just perfect. A truly calming and peaceful place to be by the sea.

20th January – Palomares to Mar Menor 81 miles

Our two days ‘off grid’ have been great, our freshwater tank is still just under half full and that’s after washing up dinner and breakfast and two showers last night. Batteries are still full and we always have plenty of gas. Breakfast this morning is bacon and avocado sandwiches. The avocados were from the campsite in Nerja and are without a doubt the best we have ever had. They are large and very hard, but if you leave them for about two or three days they ripen to be the best avos ever!!

A lot of the rural areas around here have traffic calming ’speed humps’ which are usually well signposted and well marked on the road, however not all of them. With what looked like chewed up concrete Del drives slowly but not slow enough and with a yell from Hayley to slow down or stop it was too late as Jess is bumped violently over the speed hump, so violently that the contents of the van shifted and some items in the kitchen area were thrown up so much that they crashed down onto the glass that covers the hob. The whole van felt like it had been dropped from a great height, a terrifying experience. It was so bad the fridge had panicked and an alarm started beeping that we had never heard. Del continued to drive slowly and carefully until we could get to a service area or anywhere to park up to check that the van was ok.

“What’s under here then?”

A good long inspection was made under the van and inside to look for any damage. It truly was a very violent and terrifying sensation to feel our home being battered by what looked like just battered concrete but was in fact the highest speed ramp EVER! Also, motorhomes amplify any kind of lump and bump on the road, so if you are not used to hearing or feeling it then it can feel frightening.

Today we are doing a 1 and half hour drive to the Mar Menor to a campsite right next to a Spanish airforce base. Not as bad as it sounds. This is where the Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows (Eagle Patrol) train.

All-day flight training next to the camp!

Our pitch is excellent at the Camping Mar Menor campsite In fact this is probably the best site we have been on this trip.

Everything we need is here as well as an excellent restaurant, so after some laundry and a van clean up we get changed and make for the restaurant where we have an exceptional two-hour late lunch, pricey but well worth it, so much so we have decided to do dinner here tomorrow turning a one day, overnight stop into two night!

Tomorrow is bike day. The Mar Menor is quite an impressive area so we will spend tomorrow getting out and about and exploring while watching the jets training as we go.

21st January – Day 2 Mar Menor

Exercise day today. We get the bikes down from the back of the van and set off along first along a wooden constructed pathway that weaves through the nature reserve.

The pathway is built on stilts with useful viewpoints and stops to check out the local wildlife. Soon we are on the main promenade that provides us with a smooth, flat cycle ride for quite a few miles. Turning back we stop for a quick drink before continuing back then past the campsite for another few miles in the opposite direction. The weather is splendid although rain is expected later. In all we cycled about 14 miles in tota, it was great to get out and burn some calories.

Tomorrow we are expecting to be in the province of Valencia in a newish campsite in Alcalà de Xivert in Valencia called Los Olivos.

22nd January – Mar Menor to Alcalà de Xivert 234 miles

It rained last night, as forecast, and we have woken up to quite an angry sky. Thick black clouds are moving in around us. Time to get a move on and move north where the weather is supposed to be a little better. Today’s stop will be in the Valencia area, a good 2 and a half hours north. We leave the campsite after a full service and snake our way around the airport permitter to get to the motorway north.

We like to keep the van well topped up with fuel. You never know when your plans will change so we have rule that once the van is half full, which, is about 45 liters of fuel, we stop and fill up. This normally costs between 45 and 50 odd euros depending on how much the pump price is.

We are half full so time to pull in and get some diesel, and while we are at it we should top up with LPG as the nights are getting colder and we should keep our gas supply full. We pull into a garage outside Valencia, all seems fine. The forecourt attendant does his thing, but what’s this? 70 liters has been dispensed, 100 euros worth. Our tank only holds 90 liters and we are only half full. What’s going on here? We fear that there must be a calibration issue with the pump it’s just impossible that we have the space for so much fuel. There is no fuel on the forecourt so if 70 liters was dispensed, where has it all gone? We filled up yesterday and have driven half a tank’s worth of miles since. It’s a mystery.

We feel that we have been ripped off to the tune of 30 euros, so an hour later after complaining and filling in forms at the filling station we leave feeling well and truly stung and in a foul mood.

Now, what…? After about 5 minutes into our journey, we notice the fuel gauge is saying no fuel, and the reserve light is flashing. We only just filled up, filled up with more than we needed!!! What’s going on? We cautiously drive on and find a spot to park. Del takes a look under the van to find the fuel tank covered in diesel and some drips coming from the tank. A quick clean up and we set off again. After another few miles we pull in, reset the ignition and now the gauge is saying full. That’s more like it. Del gets under the van to check the tank. It’s dry. something very odd has happened here. Did the garage cause some damage? Did the hard knock on the speed hump yesterday do something? We just don’t know.

We always take turns driving and it was Hayley’s turn to do the last hour to Los Olivos. Her driving experience is much much more than Del’s. She’s an excellent driver, however, it’s quite disturbing the amount of middle-aged to elderly men that stare at her when she is behind the wheel. It’s quite intimidating. She is a competent driver…, oh right it’s because she is female…, oh and she’s driving a 3 and a bit tonne motorhome. “she shouldn’t be doing that.” It’s strange to see. We have gone through many old French & Spanish towns with Hayley at the wheel only to be follow-stared at as we pass. It’s an age/generation thing maybe? Odd all the same.

We finally arrive at Los Olivos tired and in a foul mood to be greeted by a nice girl who gives us a comfortable pitch at this lovely campsite that has the best bar and dining room ever seen on a campsite.

Today has been long. Very long. Stressful and not one of the best. Oh well. We cheer ourselves up with a hot shower and a few games of pool and beer or two. Del gets thrashed by Hayley 4 – 1. It’s Saturday night and we are the only people in here.

Del has placed a bunch of paper towels under the tank on the pitch. Let’s see if there is a leak overnight. Smells of diesel inside the van though.

23rd January – Alcalà de Xivert to Torroella de Montgrí 225 miles

We have both had a really bad night’s sleep. Probably the worst yet, and today we have another long trip ahead of us. No fuel drips on the paper towel this morning. The fuel gauge is still showing full, so off we go.

More issues… After driving for two hours the fuel gauge is still showing full. It’s not right, we have used probably a quarter of a tank since yesterday’s disastrous fill-up. Hayley does some maths and we can guess within 10 liters or so how much fuel we have, when we need to stop and how much we should put in.

Today we are heading for the Costa Brava. We like it here. It’s a lovely part of Spain and we are staying at a farm. Apart from the dodgy fuel gauge, there is no evidence of a fuel leak and we have discovered that the range computer is showing what we consider to be the right amount of miles before running to empty. We have also noticed that the fuel gauge has moved from full and has started to go down. It’s showing 25% more than what the range is, so clearly, there is an issue, one that will have to wait to deal with when we get home. We will still manually calculate the usage.

The farm in Torroella de Montgrí is perfect. We are greeted by donkeys and chickens, the pitch is lovely and we settle in quite quick.

We take a walk around the town. For years we have been coming to this area for the summer holidays. We have cheered up a lot since yesterday, why wouldn’t you? None of it really matters. We got here safe and the van is in good shape apart from maybe a poorly fuel gauge. We shall see when we are home.

After a short walk around this lovely town, we end the day with dinner in Jess with low lights and music.

It’s cold here. We are expecting zero degrees overnight!

24th January – Torroella de Montgrí to Empuriabrava 25 miles

It was so cold last night, but we didn’t feel it in the van. It was warm and toasty.

Breakfast was a short and simple affair followed by a full van service as tonight we may go “off-grid” again so we need to make sure that everything is topped up and emptied! It’s a cold morning but we have blue skies and sun which is warm and bright. Usual story here though, by 5 pm it will be freezing cold…

The drive north through the Costa Brava is very pleasant. Lovely countryside.

This area, known as Empuries, has preserved a lot of Roman history, we are not visiting any today but we have in the past and if you are ever in the area, it’s a big thumbs up. The museum at Empuries is a must-see.

We know this area very well from past holidays and we have been here before in Jess. The last time we were here was with Jess on her second outing. We are going to the same place which allows vans to stop overnight and sure enough, when we arrive it is already populated with a good 8 vans.

Empuriabrava is a network of canals.
Fine supermarket dining

We pick a spot and get settled in. Time for lunch so we get the bikes off the back and cycle down to the seafront of Empuriabrava in the Bay of Roses which is spectacular. Sadly today we couldn’t find anything suitable, however, we did remember that a supermarket near our camp spot has a fantastic restaurant outside, which sounds odd.

Imagine Asda or Tescos having a fantastic restaurant? Unlikely but here it’s true.

The Montserrat Supermarket has a sunny terrace and does serve excellent cheap food.

An hour later we are sitting in the afternoon sun enjoying some tapas followed by half a chicken and chips with a cold beer and wine.

Tomorrow we are crossing the border back into France. It’s getting very cold at night now, the days are still sunny, but how long will it stay that way?

Week 5 – 11th January to 17th January

A poor weather week but with a great ending!

MANILVA TO LA LINEA DE LA CONCEPCION THEN BACK TO NERJA 134 miles

Miles travelled so far: 1883 miles

Toll costs: 10.2 euros this week

Fuel costs: 47.00 euros this week

11th January – Day 4 Manilva

There is a change in the weather, it’s windy, very windy. The sea is starting to look and sound rough but the sun is still out even though the clouds are starting to gather.

After breakfast today we are off for a bike ride, not far just a short one to find a good seafood restaurant for lunch. We find one and it’s brilliant, a lovely place with nice friendly staff.

After a good feed and a bottle of cold rose right next to the sea, we cycle back, it’s late afternoon and the air is getting cooler as it usually does at around 4:30. Hot tea and the heating on in Jess soon sort that out.

Movie night tonight is an excellent film about two scientists that find that an asteroid is going to hit earth in six months but have difficulties convincing everyone. Far far better than it sounds, great fun and quite thought-provoking. Don’t Look Up. Well worth the time.

The wind is really blowing hard now. The van is being pushed about and it is noisy. A bad night’s sleep. Oh well.

12th January – Day 5 Manilva

Not a good night last night, very little sleep thanks to a vicious Levante wind. The Levante wind was one of the winds that used to plague us as sailors. It blows hard for several days from the east and can be very unpleasant. We always did our best to make sure that we were tucked up in a marina before it blew in.

It’s windy all day with the odd shower of rain. The weather has changed dramatically and we are expecting it to be this way now for a few days with more rain forecast from tomorrow. 

It’s a day in today, which is unusual as we like to either go for a walk or get the bikes out, but with the unsettled weather, it doesn’t happen. But what’s this, the clouds have cleared away and despite the wind it turns out to be a beautiful afternoon, warm in the sun. We hurry out on the bikes to a local tapas bar for two or three tapas and a small cold beer, then we are off for a good cycle. It was smashing, a warm, sunny afternoon and well worth it.

Movie night tonight is Revolutionary Road. A definite watch. About a couple and their endeavour for “life” blimey!

13th January – Day 6 Manilva

Despite the howling wind and odd rain shower last night, we slept really well, best in a while. The weather today is brutal. The wind is even stronger than yesterday, we estimate a force 7 which is about 38 mph. Breezy. We are getting regular rain showers and the sea is very rough and noisy but quite spectacular to watch.

Big move today. Massive. We have to move three pitches down. We extended our stay here but had to move to another pitch. The new pitch has a good sea view and a little bit of wind shade. You can get fed up with the noise of the wind, and we are at that stage now. It’s been unrelenting all day every day for the past three days, which might not sound much, but when you are in it…!

The freshwater tank needs a fill-up, so Del sticks the hose in the side of the van to fill the tank and wanders off to do something else only to be called in 5 mins later by H with news that there is water in the living quarters of the van… Yikes! The tank has filled but because the pressure was too high and an effective seal was created on the intake hole, the cap of the tank had leaked and started to run into the van.

We had to effectively rip the living area apart and do a full mop out, no damage just water to mop up. It was a good opportunity however to clean out areas that we can’t normally get to of a few years of dust. Nice. Within 30 minutes everything was cleared up and dried and there was no evidence of any mishap. Lesson learnt: don’t have the water pressure too high when filling up and more importantly don’t leave it filling up unattended. Simple.

Smashing lunch at the same Indian restaurant the other night, this time we went over the correct bridge! Brilliant.

Movie night tonight is Annihilation. About a force field thing that takes over the earth. Some army women are sent in to find out what’s going on. Some die. Not brilliant we know but you can’t knock a coconut down every time.

14th January – Day 7 Manilva

Tasty Bellota Iberico ham

More wind which just goes on and on. Oh and more rain. We manage a walkout and buy some expensive Bellota ham: regarded as the best ham in Spain. The pigs are acorn-fed to produce high quality, good tasting ham. It can be pricey, but we buy a small amount just to try it and can definitely taste the difference.

Despite the wind, we manage to find a restaurant and have a paella (again) outside in a little windbreak in the brief sunshine. It was smashing.

All in all a very wet, cold and windy day. It’s so windy!

15th January – Day 8 Manilva

We are not sure if we have mentioned it but it has been very windy and wet here. Today it is still the same.

We have a small shower leak now, it’s only a little one and it always depends on how much slope there is on the van when we are parked up. A local hardware shop has all we need. A strip of plastic and some silicone and a silicone gun. Back at the van, we get the repair done and leave it 24 hours to cure.

Manilva was supposed to be the place where we were supposed to get the best weather, right down in the south of Spain, in a lovely site, right by the beach, however, the reality has been far from that. Out of the 8 nights, we stayed only three days were good weather, the rest were dreadful with strong winds and sometimes heavy rain and cold! No matter it’s all part of it. For our last night, we go to the Indian restaurant across the dangerous road. What a great dinner we had there. Best Indian EVER!

16th January – Manilva to Linea De Concepcion 21 miles

Tomorrow is the day when we need to turn around and give ourselves a good two weeks to get back to the UK, sure you can do it in less but we want to take our time and see more.

Planning our home route

We have had long conversations about what route back we should take. We have a Euro Tunnel ticket from Calais to Folkstone as well as a ferry from Santander to Portsmouth.

Do we go back the way we came, or do we go up the middle of Spain? We looked at going back through Portugal but they have strict Covid testing requirements so that’s probably not going to happen. Things have calmed down a little in France, some restrictions have been lifted so we decide to go back the way we came.

Today however we are going to La Linea de Concepcion which is on the land border between Spain and Gibraltar. We have been trying to find out what, if any, the requirements are for testing for covid etc, but it’s hopeless. Unless you are flying in from the UK then any information is hard to find, for a UK citizen on foot going from Spain into Gibraltar for a lunch then going back again on foot into Spain the information is non-existent.

The rock of Gibraltar

The weather has improved greatly so off we go, leaving windswept and rainy Manilva, in fact, it’s a lovely day and after about an hour and a bit, we are settled into a great campervan parking place with a view of “The Rock”. Separating it from us is the Gibraltar airport runway. An odd arrangement.

Del gets talking to a British couple and asks if they know anything about what the requirements are to get into Gibraltar. It appears you need nothing but your passport, so armed with said documents we do the short walk to the border and sure enough, all that happens is customs say ‘hola’ stamp your passport and you are done!

The high street in Gibraltar is a bit disappointing really, so after a splendid typical Sunday turkey roast lunch, we get a taxi tour.

For 25 euros each they will take you on a tour for about 45 to 60 minutes. Our driver, called Chris who was Spanish but spoke the most perfect English, drove us around the main tourist spots of Gibraltar. It was brilliant and well worth the money. Chris was fantastic and provided us with a history lesson as we drove around, stopping at some wonderful views of the Straits of Gibraltar with a clear view of North Africa and southern Spain.

Going higher he took us to see the famous monkeys of Gibraltar, the Skywalk and to see the first-ever cannon that the British placed when they took Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704. (See we paid attention to our guide).

A wonderful afternoon, finished off with a cold beer in the marina, we head back across the border, after watching a plane land at the airport and back to the van for a peaceful night sitting in the front seats with the blinds open and watching as the north side of the Gibraltar rock face is lit up. Beautiful. All in all a great day.

17th January – Linea De Concepcion to Nerja 116 miles

Today is the turnaround day. A day we don’t like to see but it has to come at some point. Today we are leaving our place on the Spanish, Gibraltar border, and more or less retracing our steps back to Calais to make our crossing on the 30th of January.

It was a great day yesterday and back at the van the night started peaceful enough, however by early morning the wind had built up once again and was giving Jess a bit of a battering. Breakfast, clear up and we are off by 10 am. H is doing all the driving today.

A chatty parrot always welcomes you at the campsite.

We are going back to Nerja and to the campsite with the avocado trees. We liked it there, but we are only doing one day. We have to pass Manilva, the place where we were basically windbound for 5 days! It’s a lovely day today once we get away from the wind in Gib. Blue sky no wind and a very pleasant morning drive along the coast.

The chap at the Nerja campsite recognises us and we are checked in quite quick however our pitch is somewhat in the shade this time. No matter, we are not here for long and as soon as we are settled and a little sit in the shade, we are off to a place where we enjoyed a rather splendid lunch by the sea a couple of weeks ago.

Lunch was fantastic, just sitting in the sun talking about our immediate travel plans and our long term future plans.

Full of food and wine we do the 20-minute walk to the van for showers and a very comfortable and peaceful night in. On the move again tomorrow to Almerimar marina, again for a one-night stopover.

Week 4 – 4th to 10th January 2022

Time to settle down, for a while…

NERJA TO MANILVA100 miles

Miles travelled so far: 1749 miles

Toll costs: 3.30 euros this week

Fuel costs: 57 euros this week

4th January. Day 3 Nerja

Not much happening today. It’s a lovely day, so we try and do some laundry but it’s too busy so we just give up. Better things to do.

H sits and does her written Jess diary while Del spends a good hour or two brushing up on his Spanish. It’s nice here, we don’t really need to go anywhere. We have our little cosy set up by the van and while the sun shines it’s perfect.

We are surrounded by avocado trees and one of them fell off so we have brought her into the van to see how she does. They grow them here so we bought one huge one on our arrival day. We stuck her in the fruit bowl next to the bananas, which helps the fruit to ripen. We shall see.

High wind is due tonight however so we will probably have to pack up later.

5th January. Day 5 Nerja

Today is the Epiphany, apparently. Time to get all those decs and trees down and put away for another year. In Spain, it’s King’s Day eve, the day when the three kings come. This is the real Christmas day for kids in Spain, the day when they get their new Xbox or PS5. Many towns do a procession depicting the three king’s arrival on a float. When we stayed in Barcelona on the boat, we used to watch the King’s Day parade which seemed to get bigger and more spectacular each year.

What a view!

We take a leisurely stroll to Nerja along the beach, have a drink in an Irish bar that has spectacular views of the southern coastline. we make our way back, the walks have made us a little peckish.

Pre-lunch cocktail

There is a cracking little rough looking restaurant right on the beach near the campsite.

We can’t resist it. Soon we are feeding on seafood and spare ribs, helped along with a bottle of chilled rose. We know that back home the weather is not great, people are working and the news with all the talk about the virus and other stuff is pumped out just to make sure we stay miserable, but there is something quite liberating and calming about a cool drink and some good food in the sun right by the sea. Just for a moment, you forget about everything else that is happening, which can only be a good thing.

6th January Nerja to Almayate (King’s Day!)

We say goodbye to Nerja. It was a very pleasant stay but time to move on. We are doing a long trip today, all 24 miles of it! Jess is long overdue for a good wash. On the way into here, we spotted a car wash that had a platform that once your van was parked you could go onto the platform to wash the roof! Mega! Small things.

With a kind of clean van (no brushes so you can’t get stuck into all the muck, it’s just one of those high-pressure lances) we are on our way. It’s a beautiful day today. There was a heavy shower of rain last night and with the wind, the air is clean and fresh. With the sea on our left and the sun shining from a deep blue sky, we are heading west now along the Spanish coast.

One of Spain’s unofficial symbols is the “toro” or bull and there is one just outside our campsite.

Many of you may have seen it at some point on holiday or on TV, some people have a sticker of him on the back of their cars It’s the silhouette of a bull and they can be found on hills around Spain. These 14m tall and 4-tonne bulls were placed there by the drinks company Osborne many years ago and the government later decided that they should all come down. But after a public outcry to keep them there are about 90 left in Spain. You can see the full history here during your next tea break!

We arrive at the Almayate Costa Campsite. It’s a bit like a car park, everyone is rammed in, it’s not full but the vans that are here are really close-quartered. We choose a spot which is nice and close to everything we need, including a very short skip and a jump to the beach which is amazing. It’s long, clean and empty!

Jess is given some extra TLC with a clean cloth, basically what was not done properly at the car wash.

Jess all polished up!

Time to check out this long beach that’s on our doorstep.

7th January – Day 2 Almayate

We are on our last day here. It seems to be getting warmer so after a short late morning walk into Almayate town, which doesn’t offer much (the whole area around here is agriculture) we pack a few things and head for the beach.

It’s very pleasant, not too hot, very slight cool edge but very nice. We spend a good hour on the beach, head back to the van and sit in the afternoon sun. H reads, Del updates the blog.

Tomorrow we are moving on to Manilva which is an hour and a half drive along the south coast where will set up and stay for 8 days. Lots to see and do around there hence the longer stay. We shall see.

We have acquired a friend here.

A duck. Yes, a duck. It seems he walks around the campsite clearly making friends that will feed him. He’s quite a large duck as a result. Del can’t help it and feeds him bread. Soon the friendly duck is following him back to the van for more. Later in the day when Del pops out, he’s there waiting just outside the van. He’s very tame, friendly and fat!

Oo la la!

Dinners are sometimes themed on Jess, we don’t know why, but we pick a country and eat and theme the van with music etc.

Tonight is French night so it’s entrecote, potatoes, green beans and a tasty pepper sauce, oh and a Spanish red wine! (what?). French traditional music is provided by Spotify! A great night. (We didn’t want to eat our confit duck, that we bought in France, tonight with our friend waddling about outside!)

8th January – Almayate to Manilva 85 miles

Another clear blue sky to wake up to today, it’s expected to reach 18 degrees today which is perfect, it just doesn’t last. By 4 pm each afternoon, the chill is just starting to come in which leads us into quite a cool night.

We are packed up and ready to go on a journey heading west along the Spanish coast, but first we have to do our usual shop, supplies are starting to get low, so we head for an Aldi which has become our supermarket of choice in Spain. Very good, very cheap!

Self service bread cutting in Aldi!

A very pleasant and thankfully uneventful drive. The coastline and towns start to have an American feel to them. The main A7 road runs along here so it’s quite busy, with lots of apartment blocks and shopping areas. If you have ever driven out of Los Angeles to go north up the coast, then it’s a bit like that. In the sun it looks great and with the windows down it was a lovely drive.

The campsite at Manilva is called the Camping La Bella Vista. A nice place. It’s a ‘corporate’ campsite, meaning that everything is immaculate, not a blade of grass out of place, with a gleaming reception area. Everything has to be paid in full in advance and you are given reams of paper telling you what the rules are, it’s a big contrast to the other campsites that we have been to. It’s nice though and our pitch is perfect. We are here now for 8 days. The sun is on us for most of the day, and we can see the sea, everything is on the pitch: power, clean water and you can empty your grey water tank as well. All good.

Once settled in we take the very short walk to the beach to check it out. It’s quite spectacular. Looking out to sea we can make out Gibraltar and north Africa on our right and the Spanish coastline weaving away to our left. The recent wind and rain have meant the visibility is clear and the air fresh. Lovely.

H with a makeshift rolling pin

Another themed dinner night. Italian night. The works though. 4 courses: antipasti, pasta, homemade pizza, salad and dessert. Blimey!

Finally…!

9th January – Day 2 Manilva

Time to get some exercise done after the big Italian night. We get the bikes down, for the first time this year, and we cycle along the promenade for a couple of kilometres. It’s another one of those Spanish holiday weekends so everyone is out making the cycle ride more of an obstacle course than proper exercise. It’s very good though to see everyone out and about. The restaurants are full and the sun is shining. It’s another lovely day.

We get a bit fed up with weaving about, trying not to run children down and finally decide to settle into a little bar right on the front for a small cold beer and take the opportunity to call home and speak to some friends and family.

Tonight is Indian night. Not on the van. There is a very highly regarded Indian restaurant across the road from the campsite. We’ll pay that a visit, as it’s so close.

Dinner, here we come!

The campsite is on the main N-340 road, a very busy 4 carriageway road and the restaurant is just across that road, you can smell it sometimes from the campsite, you can see it all bright and welcoming, but you can’t just cross the N-340 with traffic flowing at 70 mph.

H finds a bridge so off we go, up, over and down to… nothing! It goes nowhere. Google shows a dirt track going back towards the restaurant so off we trot. Bad idea. Soon we are covered by large vegetation taller than us and after 5 minutes of trekking through this, we are brought to an abrupt stop by a small river. Great!

Not what we expected

We retrace our steps and find another bridge, further down the fast N-340. By now our appetite has truly been sharpened. Once again we go up, across and down, this time with success! Ten minutes later we are in the very nice Indian restaurant which was well worth the 45-minute trip ‘just across the road’.

The food was excellent, great service and not too expensive. They do a very nice cheap lunch here, so we will be back during our stay. The walk back to the van felt long but soon we are settled in. It’s very windy tonight, the van gets rocked about a bit but it’s nice in Jess.

10th January – Day 3 Manilva

At last, the wind has died off to leave us with a stunning day. 19 degrees, clear blue sky. The morning is spent updating blogs: this one and H is doing a written one.

Beach day today. It has to be.

Jess is filled up with fresh water, grey tank emptied. However, Del has to do the chemical toilet, Nice. Then off we go on the short walk to the beach…

We spend a good two hours there, today is to be the best day as windy and cloudier weather is coming in, so we take advantage of it while we can.

Movie night tonight is Jimmy Carr – His Dark Material, not really a film. Good fun though, refreshing non PC humour which we could do with a bit more of today certainly not less.

Week 3 – 28th December to 3rd January 2022

A very happy new year to you all. We hope!

PALOMARES – NERJA: 157 MILES

Palomares to Nerja

Miles travelled so far: 1649 miles

Toll costs: NONE this week

Fuel costs: NONE this week

28th December. Day 3 Palomares

It’s another bright, sunny day and warm. Today we shall have our breakfast outside. Yes outside, at the end of December!

We thought that we might take a walk into the town of Palomares, which is only 10 to 15 minutes away. As expected we arrive in the main square which is dominated by a large terrace belonging to a tapas bar.

While we are here we need to find a ‘ferreteria’ or hardware shop. Spanish hardware shops are brilliant, they are an Aladdin’s cave of everything you can think of. We buy a pair of hosepipe adapters, always useful. Some PTFE tape to bind up our leaking sink, amalgamating tape because it’s useful and finally a set of small Tupperware containers because Hayley likes them.

Fiduea for lunch

Satisfied with our purchases we make for the terrace in the square and have an excellent coffee before the walk back to the van. We drop off the hardware goodies and take a walk to the beach that has a beach bar where we thought we would enjoy a small cold beer in the sun.

After spending two hours and 50 euros on lunch we take a nice long stroll along the beach and discuss our future life plan. Yes very deep.

The walk along the beach and back to the van was very pleasant, once back we drank lots of water and just relaxed in the late afternoon sun.

No dinner tonight after the long heavy lunch, but we ended the day with a movie night and watched “The Boy in the striped pyjamas“. A great movie if a little depressing.

29th December. Day 4 Palomares

What a beautiful morning, slightly cooler than yesterday but that doesn’t stop us from having breakfast outside. It’s a lovely morning, perfect for a piece of tortilla and tomato bread. Delicious.

Today we intend to get some more exercise. We made a pledge to try and either get a good long walk in or a good few miles of cycling every day, weather permitting of course. Today we will get on our bikes and cycle to the next town of Villaricos. It’s a great cycle, the sun is shining and the sea on our right looks amazing. A perfect day.

Villaricos is a tiny fishing town of over 600 people with some spectacular views from the front. The town itself is quite charming so we stop in the town square and have a lovely Spanish coffee.

We love Spanish coffee. It’s the right amount, tasty and cheap unlike the overpriced soup bowl size cup of hot water with burnt grit that most coffee shop chains serve up. In most Spanish cities you can find a famous coffee chain, they never look full and we can understand why with so many cafes selling good local coffee – why you would go in?

The cycle ride back was just as pleasant as it was going to Villaricos. Except we take a few detours to see more of the local area. Back at the van, we take it easy before taking a good walk to the beach bar for a refreshing drink, maybe a cocktail in the afternoon sun.

After 3 large plates consisting of patatas bravas, calamari and ‘puntillas’ (baby squids), helped along with a glass of wine and a cold beer, we decided that the afternoon cocktail went well!

A perfect day today. Breakfast in the sun, plenty of exercise followed by a big feed instead of a cocktail and back to the van for another movie night. Tonight the film “Life” which is all about an intelligent life form from Mars that looks like a squid and kills everyone. It was actually better than it sounds.

Tomorrow we are moving on after a very nice four day stay here at Palomares.

30th December. Palomares to Castell de Ferro – 124 miles

Another bright but cool morning. No breakfast on the van today. We packed up outside last night and we are off by 9.30 am. First stop, a supermarket to stock up, it’s the penultimate day of 2021. Let’s get this year out of the way!

There is quite a fog here today and it’s chilling the air. Once the shop is done we get a move on.

We are heading for a small town called Garrucha where we will park in the marina car park for breakfast. This marina was a welcome sight years ago when we sailed up and down the Spanish coast. It’s the first big marina for miles after the Cabo de Gata (the bottom right corner of Spain) and they always squeezed us in after a punishing sail so we are very fond of the place. Nothing much had changed over the 12 years since we were last here except maybe a little fresh paint here and there. The fog is following us south as it soon thickens up here too, and it’s getting chilly. We get going and soon we are at higher altitudes and bright sunlight. The temperature peaks at 23 degrees which is perfect. The passing scenery is quite spectacular.

Our next stop is Almerimar. A town on the south coast of Spain, 90 or so miles east of Malaga.

There is a marina here where we used to keep our boat when we lived down here some years ago. The place has come on with new buildings going up and it’s quite a bustling place. We park up on the outer harbour which gives us a spectacular view east and west, and looking north a breathtaking view of the snow-covered tops of the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Granada.

Snow on the Sierra Nevada

On the move again to our final destination of Camping Huerta Romero. The site is located in the middle of a small town called Castell de Ferro. It’s a bit… well… a bit like a commune. There are campers who look like they have been here for years, a lot of unshaven men with buns in their hair and tie-dyed trousers. The site itself is charming though with lots of trees and shade, not that we need it right now. Each plot is like a private garden.

Jess tucked in for a few days

Lovely. We set off for a walk to the stony beach. Guess what? The fog is rolling in again. What’s going on?

A short walk back to the van through the town, which, not to be unkind, doesn’t really offer much. Tomorrow we will give it another go. It might look and feel different in sunlight. If we ever get it that is.

31st December – Day 2 Castell de Ferro

Last day of 2021…

No sun this morning. It’s 100% grey and still with a slight chill. Guess the town won’t look any different from yesterday after all.

A foggy day in Castell de Ferro

Two people living, eating and sleeping on a van that is just shy of 6m means that you have to clean more often, so, despite the poor weather and the lack of town, (you can’t even cycle here) we get on with some cleaning jobs and do some more laundry.

Del sets off for a walk along the local beach for an hour, H stays with Jess and attempts a repair to the leaky sink which has eluded us for some days. Numerous attempts have not stopped the leak. Despite her efforts, it is still leaking. Del has a go next, once back from his walk. This time lashings of PTFE tape and amalgamating tape. That’ll fix it…?

The rest of the afternoon is taken up discussing the future, where shall we go, how do we do it and for how long.

Can’t get enough of these paellas!

Hayley does one of her excellent paellas for dinner which was later than usual. Tonight we have a rose cava on standby to bring in the new year.

After dinner, we take a stroll into town which is… dead! We are the only ones in town apart from a group of five youth on mobile phones. We head back to the van, a little disappointed and take in a quick movie. Tonight it’s a French film called “Oxygen” about a woman who is woken up from a cryogenic state to find (spoiler alert) she’s a clone in outer space. It was better than it sounds. Very good in fact.

With midnight approaching we grab a couple of glasses and bring in 2022 with a cold glass of fizz and a packet of crisps. Excellent. We dab a bit of fizz on Jess and thank her for getting us here. We love her very much.

Happy 2022 to you all. Here’s to a successful and healthy new year.

Happy New Year

1st January Day 3 – Castell de Ferro

The leak under the sink is fixed. Bound up in many yards of PTFE tape and amalgamating tape. Nothing will get through now. The morning starts off more or less the same as yesterday, cloudy and foggy. Del does a bit more deep cleaning of the van and by the afternoon the sun is shining and the fog has finally gone. At last. We head for the beach and sit by the water’s edge watching and listening to the gentle waves breaking. We sit for a while in silence. It’s the start of a new year.

H gets caught out paddling. Whoops!

Dinner tonight is a fridge clear out. We waste nothing, so on occasion we go through the fridge and check dates on things, if it’s getting close then we eat it. These dinners can be a thrown together hotch pitch of almost anything. It’s always good though, even if it’s all a bit of a miss-match.

Tonight’s movie, called “The Silence“. It’s about some blind birds that get released from a deep cave. They can’t see and attack humans by noise. Yeah, not the best we know. It was as bad as it sounds.

2nd January. Castell de Ferro to Nerja – 41 miles

We move on today. Hayley is not mad on it here and she is probably right when she says we won’t come back here again. Sad to say it but there’s not much here and the weather hasn’t really helped. Shame really but there you go. It was our home for 3 nights but we are glad to be moving on.

After a short van service, we are off. It’s good to be moving again. Today we are off to Nerja to a popular campsite called Camping Cortijo San Miguel. First, though we need to do a shop. You can always depend on a Spanish Aldi on a Sunday.

A short drive today and soon we are in our pitch which is quite charming, surrounded by avocado trees on either side of us, a much more open feeling compared to our last stop. The usual morning fog has lifted and it’s a lovely day.

We decide to just stay put for the rest of the day. We are here for 3 days and may extend, it’s nice, warm and peaceful here.

3rd January. Day 2 Nerja

Same old story weather-wise. It’s cold with low clouds or fog, can’t really tell anymore. No matter, today we are walking along the beach to the town of Nerja and we are going to check out the Cuevas de Nerja (the Caves of Nerja).

Wow! This is quite a place, not what we expected at all. The caves are huge with amazing rock formations all around. They hold the Guinness world record for the biggest stalactite column in the world, the hall was created by an earthquake that hit the region more than 800,000 years ago. It’s quite a sight to see.

To get there we took one of those little sightseeing trains that do a return trip to the caves and entry to the museum for just 16 euros each, well worth it.

After the caves, we get back to the town of Nerja to look for a place for a “light” lunch. As is the usual form at the moment, the fog has cleared and it’s a beautiful day.

So a little lunch by the sea would be fitting justice for a lovely day. We don’t find much in the town, there is plenty there for sure, but it’s quite busy and a little touristy. We walk back in the direction of home and find a perfect place right on the beach. It’s not long before we have an excellent Wagyu beef burger with some homemade fries which went well worth a bottle of rose wine and finished with a dessert to share. Yes very light!

The walk back home is perfect, just in time for the sun setting and the air turning chilly again.

What a lovely day. Laundry day tomorrow. Again.

Week 2 – 21st to 27th December

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!

BENICASSIM, SPAIN – PALOMARES: 306 MILES

Benicassim to Palomares, Spain.

Miles travelled so far: 1492 miles

Toll costs: NONE this week

Fuel costs: 105 euros this week

21st December Benicassim – Oliva 108 miles

We need to do some service work on the van. After a big shop at a Lidl, we head for a garage to do a full diesel fill up, yes more diesel. LPG gas for the cooking and the heating. We need to empty the grey water tank and fill up with fresh water. Today we are heading for a campsite called Euro Camping right on the beach in a town called Oliva which is not a million miles from both Valencia and Alicante. Benidorm is just around the headland going south from where we will be.

After doing all the Jess jobs and the shopping we set off on the uneventful 90-minute drive. Arriving just in time for the official opening at 3:30, we have a great pitch near all the things you need, shop, restaurant, shower, bog etc, etc. Excellent… except… 

Italian Night!

We start setting up and we are overwhelmed by the smell of cat kak! We have only put our groundsheet down on some! It gets well disguised as pebbles after it’s been in the fine gravel for a while. The whole thing has to be pulled up and ground thoroughly cleaned and swept before putting everything back. Not the way we wanted to start our 5 days stay here.

We get settled in and it’s very pleasant, just a 2-minute walk and we are on the beach, surrounded by everything we need including cats!

Italian night tonight with homemade pizza, salad and red wine, with just enough room for a mini Magnum. Well, why not. Tomorrow it’s Del’s birthday…!

22nd December Day 2 in Eurocamping, Oliva, Spain

Today is Del’s birthday. Happy birthday Del!!

Another great bike ride along the coast to the town of Oliva. Our campsite is wonderful. We have everything we need right next to us, the best pitch on the site. Short walks to the shower, shops, restaurant and the beach. Another important facility camping folk need is laundry.

Everyone has to do it, birthday or not

Today is the day. We have a good few days of laundry mounting up so what better thing to do on a birthday but to get it done.

The weather is fair so we leave it all out to dry and head off our bikes to the nearest town going south called Oliva. Whilst our campsite is a small oasis, the rest of the area is not that great. Full of half-built properties, empty properties and properties that are just closed up and have become a good surface for graffiti artists. Lots of brown barren land. We can’t figure out quite what’s happened here. Is it since the recession of 2008, where the lower and middle classes have now been squeezed out of owning property? The weather is great, the beaches are long and white so it should be a booming, pretty place. Maybe not connected but Valencia is famous for its ‘land grab‘ law, which allowed the local councils to confiscate part of your land and make you pay the taxes that would provide for the new local infrastructure built on it. There is a good write up about this here if you are ever interested. It’s pretty bad really.

We arrive at the marina in Oliva which is pleasant enough, and we head for the restaurant belonging to the Club Nautic (sailing club to you) which has a fabulous sea view in the sun. The service is excellent and we manage to choke down some local rose wine, Calamaris followed by a Fideua which is a twist on paella – instead of rice, it’s short pieces of pasta with a tonne of seafood thrown in and left to boil down. Delicious. We finish this off with a muffin and ice cream.

Full of food we cycle back to our ‘home’, which is now a bit more of a struggle. We arrive back to dried washing which is put away then off to the local campsite bar for a couple of ‘pacharan’ drinks in the late afternoon sun, which at this time the air is starting to get chilly.

23rd December Day 3 in Eurocamping, Oliva, Spain

Day 3 in our Euro Camping location, and more washing. Yes, more laundry. For the first time since we arrived at this location, the clouds have cleared and the sun is out, but there is a chill in the air. It’s also time for our daily bike exercise. Today we cycle north, weaving our way through the derelict un-kept streets. 

We have a leak in the sink drain, so we make an attempt to find a plumbing shop to buy some PTFE tape only to find nothing. Looks like the bowl will have to stay under the sink a bit longer!

From the van to the beach it’s a 30-second walk, so we take advantage of the sunshine and walk north towards Oliva, it’s great to be here, no news, no worries just us and the sea and the sand.

Late afternoon beach walks

We reminisce again as we used to sail along this part of the Med passing all of these towns we can see along the coastline. We have such great memories of our boat. We still miss her.

Dinner on board Jess and a quiet night in. Brilliant.

24th December Day 4 in Eurocamping, Oliva, Spain

Christmas Eve night is when the Spanish celebrate Christmas. ‘La noche buena’. This is when a big dinner is had and gifts are exchanged. We are here because we wanted to escape the usual trappings of a British Christmas so what shall we do today?

It’s a cool morning but after breakfast we set up outside under the awning to read and just…, well, do nothing! It’s good. The sun comes out and it warms up nicely. The Spanish have a tradition at Christmas of preparing and touring floats around the local towns and villages, usually with people dressed as Santa Claus and all that kind of thing. Today is no exception, even on the campsite, the maintenance department has used one of their small trucks, dressed up and are driving around the site, giving each camper a gift of local Valencian olive oil.

Maintenance men bearing gifts

Fantastic, what a nice surprise and gesture. Makes a change from a bottle of wine. Very useful. We are running out!

Local olive oil. Nice

We stay local today, taking in a nice long stroll along the beach again.

25th December Day 4 in Eurocamping, Oliva, Spain

Merry Christmas to you all!!

Some cards we managed to bring. Thank you.

The weather has slightly improved, still a bit on the chilly side but who cares. Today is Christmas day. We exchange gifts and open up cards from friends and family that we were able to bring along with us. We’ve done quite well, with more waiting for when we get home.

We have a big hearty breakfast and Del pops open some fizz to have with breakfast. Well, why not? It’s a very pleasant morning so we take a stroll along ‘our’ beach. It’s a lovely day now so we have taken along with some chairs, the remainder of the fizz and a couple of glasses and enjoy the rest of the bottle with the gentle waves breaking near us and the winter sun just keeping us warm enough. Brilliant. H even manages a paddle in the sea!

Back at the van and H knocks up a fantastic paella for our Christmas day lunch. it’s wonderful, helped along with a glass of cold rose.

Christmas day Paella lunch

Not the usual Christmas day, of too many presents, too much food and chocolate. Drink excluded. No TV, no sleigh bells ringing, no indigestion and no wondering what the hell this day is all about and why all the fuss! Just the two of us, in a van, in the sun and somewhere else. Magic!

26th December – Oliva to Palomares – 198 miles

Time to move on. We have spent 5 great days here at Eurocamping, but the weather is not quite what we are looking for and we are pushing south to hopefully warmer weather. Everyone here was very nice, the staff and the people staying here, which for the most part are German.

We packed up last night so all we have to do is fire up Jess and off we go.

Today we are heading for Palomares in the province of Andalucia. We make a stop at a gas station to fill up with diesel, it’s good to keep topped as you never know what will happen and the last thing you want to be doing is trying to find fuel when your plan changes unexpectedly. So keep the tank topped up when you can.

We leave the petrol station and make off down the AP-7, after about 10 minutes a white van driver is levelling up with us and pointing at our fuel door and making a locking gesture. Whoops!!!! Del forgot to shut the door that covers the diesel intake. Worse than that the cap was not on! Worse than the second set of keys were still in the cap! Del, you are a dope. We pull in at another gas station and by coincidence, the white van driver was there, so we take the opportunity to thank him. Fortunately, we could all see the funny side of it but it’s a mystery how much if any fuel got out?

Finally, we arrive at a rustic looking campsite and we choose a pitch as the office is closed. It all looks a bit… well… old and well used but it’s populated with some expensive vans from all over Europe. No matter we get in and set up. It’s perfect here. The staff are nice, yes the facilities are dated but they are clean and they all work. Perfect, what more could you ask for. We are here for 4 nights at Cuevas Del Mar. Which has a nudist area nearby. Just saying…

Tonight we dine on board, tomorrow we will see what’s here. We get a dinner time sunset.

This is real. No photo trickery

27th December Day 2 – Palomares

We wake up today to finally deep blue skies coming our way and by 10 am it’s beautiful and warm. We are about a 5-minute walk from the beach which we stroll down in the warming sun, there are lots of motorhomes along the front here and even after studying the council notice it’s unclear if it’s allowed or not (are we campers or just motorhomers?) Even though it’s warm and sunny, there is quite a strong wind blowing that creates spectacular sand clouds on the beach that get blown into the sea.

Palomares beach

We make our way back to camp for a break. Whilst reading the reviews of the camping areas Hayley notices a strange comment on one about nuclear contamination in the area dating back to the sixties, and a quick google informs us that this tiny Spanish village is famous because it had four hydrogen bombs dropped on it by accident by a US airforce plane in a mid-air collision whilst refuelling. None of them caused a nuclear explosion by sheer luck, but two of these bombs had the conventional explosives inside them detonate and scatter the plutonium like a dirty bomb. Gosh.

Time magazine described the incident as “one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters”. This happened in 1966 and some of the areas around the village of Palomares are still restricted because of radioactivity.

It’s a shocking story and one we had no idea about. You can read about the whole thing here. It’s well worth a read.

After this sobering interlude, we cycle into the nearby urbanisation, it looks like it would be quite lively in the summer. It’s also a nudist area and we see a naked man playing a saxophone on the seafront. He had a big one – it was a tenor sax. The stuff you see around here.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in the fantastic warm sun back at the van, it’s a blistering 23 degrees!

Tonight is dinner on board and we watch the first 10 minutes of a dubious Cliff Richard film (Finders Keepers) from 1966 which is based, loosely, on the terrible events we have learned about today. Coincidence?

Week 1 – 13th to 20th December

Will we make it?

EAST COWES, UK TO BENICASSIM, SPAIN – 1181 MILES

Home to Benicassim, Spain.

Miles travelled: 1181 miles

Toll costs: 90 euros

Fuel costs: 228 euros

Bottles of wine drunk: 4

Cans of beer drunk: 10

 

 

 

 

13th December – Set up stop at home

Will we, won’t we? It was at least six months ago when we decided that we would like to spend Christmas and New Year in Spain, it was all going very well, too well. A month or so earlier France wanted UK visitors to take and upload a lateral flow test along with a sworn declaration that you didn’t have Covid. No problem really, quite simple. Find a test centre, get a test and upload all the forms. What we didn’t expect was the test centre would cancel our appointment the day before departure. A few stern words with them soon brought them around to our way of thinking, even though we had already found an alternative. They agreed to pick up all of the extra costs incurred and do our test. Whew.

Covid on the move. Agian!

But what’s this? A new variant of Covid is running wild through the population, highly infectious but so far too early to know how many people will end up in hospital. Just another thing for us to add into an already stressful mix. Is there something telling us that we shouldn’t be doing this? We’ve had our negative test returned, the forms of nonsense have been uploaded to Eurotunnel. WE ARE GOING!!!

We collect Jess from storage, having already pre-loaded some stuff on her we spend a less stressful, but anxious night a mere quarter of a mile from our home in a campsite called Waverley Park. Despite the worry, we have a good nights sleep.

14th December East Cowes – Neufchâtel en Bray – 273 Miles

The alarm is loud and shrill. It’s 5:00 am. Yes, 5 in the morning. Today is a busy day. Our ferry to the mainland is at 06:40. We then need to get across southern England to Folkestone to the Eurotunnel for our 3:20 pm crossing to Calais, France.

Eurotunnel to France

Oh, and on the way to Folkestone we need to stop in Canterbury to get Hayley her booster. Why Canterbury? Good old Isle of Wight NHS couldn’t do it, like most things! So we had to find another site on the route.

The day could not have gone better. We were pushed onto an early ferry to Portsmouth. Hayley got her booster jab early and to make things even better, Eurotunnel put us on an early train meaning that we would be arriving in France in daylight hours. Perfect, better than we thought.

More potentially bad news coming from France. The new Covid variant, Omicron is causing some concern for the French now. We are getting nervous that the border with Spain may shut. We press on through France after a non-event crossing. The only item that was checked was our passports. Easy!

After a 273 mile drive and a 13 euro toll, we arrive at the peaceful town of Neufchâtel en Bray and find a spot in the lovely Aire camping Saint Claire. Once settled in we toast to our success of finally making it to France and dinner is steak, frites with a bearnaise sauce with a French red of course! All in all a bit of a rollercoaster but we are relieved to be here and we have a great night’s sleep. Whew!

15th December Neufchâtel en Bray – Issoire 379 Miles

We wake up to a cold, crisp morning. Grey skies, but dry and pleasant despite the cold temperature. It’s perfect. Hot coffee and breakfast will see us right. We had a plan to spend 5 days making our way south to the French – Spanish border, however, the news from home isn’t good and the French are making noises about possible restrictions, yes we are already here in France, but the Spanish may start making similar noises and we could end up being trapped in France. No big deal really, but our aim is to get winter sun in Spain not winter in France. There is a difference. Hayley is brilliant at finding stops en route. We always end up in excellent places for the night, she finds lots of options. We need options as we have decided to make our French stay as short as possible and to get over the border as quickly as possible.

After 379 miles of driving, 100 quid in diesel and 51 euros in motorway tolls we finally arrive at the pleasant town of Issoire.

Nightime in the French town of Issoire

The nights are now very cold. Tonight it’s zero degrees and damp. We are parked in an excellent overnight Aire along with another 5 vans all doing similar things, all wanting to be somewhere else.

Truffard. Delicious

Tonight we will eat out at a French restaurant and we find a cracker. 60 euros lighter but heavier with all the food and drink. Christmas beer, red wine, steak, duck and the local dish of Truffard which is potatoes cooked in goose fat and covered in local cheese.

What a feast we had in this lovely town that looked great for Christmas, with projections on the old buildings, Christmas trees and a local Christmas market. Wonderful. We shiver as we do a quick walk back to our home on wheels, fire up the heating and have another great night’s sleep. So far so good.

16th December Issoire – Camping l’albera –  Capmany Spain 273 miles

Today the temperature is between zero and -2. Who knows, who cares, it’s freezing cold. Del is dispatched to the local shop for pastries. Today we decided that we will break for the border as we are getting more concerned, not about the virus, but more about what governments will do. We set off via a supermarket for some supplies and fill up with diesel and set off, taking turns on our 273-mile journey to somewhere in Spain. 

The journey was amazing. We drove along the A75 south which includes a section of road that climbs to just over 1100 meters high. We drove through thick, but very thick fog and some snow, but only a bit of snow. The temperature dropped to -2 and at times became challenging, but it’s all part of the adventure as we pushed on for what felt like hours. Then suddenly the sun started to poke through and after a while revealed a beautiful blue sky with some spectacular scenery of small towns in valleys shrouded in low fog. We even took in the Millau viaduct which is a spectacle in itself, even if it does cost 13 euros! What an amazing drive.

Dinner in at Capmany

We finally cross the border at La Jonquera, a madhouse of trucks. We have never seen so many trucks. In fact, that was the one thing that we noted driving through France, the number of haulage trucks. The UK is supposed to be short. They are all here!!

Again the crossing was uneventful, no stops, no checks. Once again Hayley has found us a brilliant campsite in the town of Capmany only a couple of miles off the main motorway. It was time to stop, it had been a long tiring and expensive day. 273 miles, 75 euros in fuel and 13 in tolls. Well worth it though.

17th December 2nd day in Capmany

Our decision to get a move on was well-founded. Noises from home are that the French are indeed going to ban travel from the UK into France for holidays. You can only come to France from the UK for “Exceptional reasons”. What’s that? We made it by the skin of our teeth, a very close shave. We got into France in the nick of time. With all the trouble at the start of the trip we thought about a postponement for a week, if we had have done that then the trip would have been cancelled.

Capmany town Christmas tree by night.

We are a good day or two ahead of the original plan so we decide to stay here for another day. It’s a beautiful place, a small wine-producing area in Catalunya. We take a walk into the small town of Capmany. It’s great to be here. The weather is bright and crisp with clear blue skies and a temperature of about 12 to 14 degrees. The nights are cold, however, dropping to 2 to 4 degrees but the heating on Jess keeps us warm.

Today we get the bikes off the van. Hayley has a new one, a birthday gift from you know who. It’s a belting bike and one she well deserves.

We circle the local area, nothing too stressful but it’s good to be out and about exploring the local area, even though we get barked at by the local dogs!

Dinner tonight will be in the village of Capmany, Cal Ferrer, a lovely little place that serves local food and wine at a reasonable price. The walk home is cold but we are content and happy if that’s not too much to show off about in these times?

18th December  Capmany – Cambrils – 160 miles

Today is the day the French ban comes into force, stopping British tourists.

UK. Non…

The pictures and news of people trying to get on trains and ferries yesterday have been staggering. Considering the ban on travel is to stop the spread of Omicron, it’s a bit odd watching thousands of people cramming onto trains and boats. Someone, somewhere didn’t think that through?

We are pushing south today but we are now sticking to the plan. Our first stop is Cambrils, not too far south of Barcelona. Our stop is a campsite right by the sea.

The beach at Cambrilis

Again the weather is lovely, blue skies and the daily temp is up another degree or two from yesterday. Lovely.

19th December  Cambrils day 2

We like out here, and we could do with the rest, the days have been long and it’s nice here. There is a good cycle route from Cambrils to Salou, a total of 14 miles, 7 each way. It’s good and flat all the way. We are still lucky to have such wonderful weather with us, yes it’s a bit chilly at night but the days are just fantastic.

With the sea on our right, we head north on the cycle route to Salou. We take a short break once there, sitting on a bench looking out over the sparkling flat sea and reminiscing about our days when we used to sail along these very waters between the south of Spain to Barcelona. Now with the sea on our left, it’s back south to our home on wheels for turkey steaks, fries, salad and wine, simple but delicious after a great day.

20th December Cambrills – Benicassim – 96 miles

A couple of years ago we did a trip to Germany and we visited a place called Todtnau. Just a quick note here -the inventor of the perm hairstyle came from Todtnau. Yes really. In Todtnau they have an alpine coster which is basically a plastic car that you sit in and go down a steel track at lightning speed. It’s great fun. This is where H rediscovered her love for rollercoasters. She loves them and everywhere that we go we have to go to the nearest theme park and spend some time on some of the most terrifying rides. 

In Cambrils, we are less than a 20-minute drive from Portaventura. After some discussion and re-planning, we pack up and head back south to Portaventura so that H can get her fix of rollercoasters. It’s a great day, H completes 21 rides on some of the world-famous and most popular rides. She has a permanent grin on her face all day while Del carries her bag! Great.

By 4:30 it’s time to move on as we have a two-hour drive to our next stop in the town of Benicassim for a one night stay. It’s motorway all the way and by 7:30 we are parked up in a charming little campsite in the middle of a residential area, very peaceful and a great place to end the day.

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