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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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