Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!
BENICASSIM, SPAIN – PALOMARES: 306 MILES
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…
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.
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.
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.
Fantastic, what a nice surprise and gesture. Makes a change from a bottle of wine. Very useful. We are running out!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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?