Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Ugly Side of Spain

We loved our few days by the Med and even had a swim in the sea. Anyway we left just before the rain, waving goodbye to our lovely neighbours to head down the Med coast and then inland
Lawrence swims in the Med

Swimming in the Med

We knew by reputation that Benidorm would be nasty, but we really had no idea. It was truly awful and we were happy to just sit on the motorway and sail past into Alicante. We are accustomed to donning our tourist blinkers coming into any large city, it is to be expected as industrial sprawl is a fact of life, HOWEVER, we have never seen anything like this. It was enough to make one weep. Sadly this ugly sprawl has completely engulfed Murcia – the town we were heading for. We kept driving on to Lorca – a hill town. The air pollution was so bad we could hardly see the hill, let alone the town.

We kept driving, so grim.

We finally left the motorway and crossed the border into Andalucia and suddenly we were in beautiful Spain again. Harsh and dry, but beautiful to us.

We found our way into Guadix, a troglodyte town, with intention of staying in a Cave Hotel. There was nowhere for us to camp, so we thought this would be a fun option. EXCEPT, we couldn’t find the damned place. Crawling around narrow, nameless, winding streets past cave houses, in Boris, is no fun so we gave up. We followed signs to another Cave Hotel to find it was closed with no sign of opening until maybe 9pm.

We kept driving.

We ended up so close to Granada that we thought we’d just head up to a fave campsite near Guejar-Sierra. So after 500 kms and a very long day, we camped in the Sierra and had a fine meal at the campsite restaurant.
We spent a lazy day in Granada
We stayed 2 days and enjoyed being in the mountains, with warm weather. (Hi Sharon and Mike – sorry we didn’t get to say goodbye – drop me a line –

Next stop Sevilla for a night and then down to El Puerto de Santa Maria – again. This is our favourite winter bolt-hole and we loved getting back there. The receptionist gave me a big hug and we had a good catch up – she is a delight.
Setting up House
First few days were warm and sunny but as I write the rain is bucketing down. We’ve had a massive thunderstorm with squalls all night. This will last 3 days, but it’s raining everywhere so there’s nowhere to go. So we’ve become weather website junkies again and will literally go where the weather dictates. So who knows where we’ll end up??

On Tuesday we were lucky enough to dog-sit a beautiful golden retriever called Sophie. She spent most of the day on cat watch, desperately trying to make friends (?) with the black cat next door.
Sophie on cat watch
We are meeting our mates in Sevilla on Monday December 1 and the forecast looks good. Keep your fingers crossed.

Things to do in a small motorhome when it’s raining.
  1. Defrost the freezer
  2. Throw out stuff past their use-by dates from back of fridge
  3. Render you own lard (this was only moderately successful!)
  4. Make chicken stock
  5. Cook a few meals (Lawrence is currently cooking his famous Bolognese sauce)
  6. Drink red wine
  7. Write a blog
  8. Play Scrabble
  9. Have drinks with new friends (human parents of Golden Retriever)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Are You Really From Australia?

If we had ten quid for every time we’ve heard that question, we’d be able to afford to live in Oz again! We’ve only been on the road for a month and have met loads of people interested in what we are doing. Boris continues to attract attention. I’m thinking of having a leaflet ready to hand out, explaining the vehicle and our plans.

After leaving Andorra, we drove into Spain through more spectacular Pyrenean scenery and spent the night in Zaragoza. The intention was to head to Segovia and be in Salamanca for Lawrence’s birthday.

Then we looked at the forecast.

So instead of turning right, we turned left and headed to the Med coast. We’d always avoided this part of Spain due to overdevelopment, overcrowding and over-everything. However we spent a few days in Valencia and loved it. Of course we did a good Spanish lunch to celebrate Lawrence’s birthday. Valencia is a lovely city with beautiful buildings, a great market and loads of outdoor cafes and bars. Plus the sun was shining.


Art and Science City - Valencia

Valencia Market

From there we headed south through dreary industrial sprawl and coastal high-rise, built I think with the aim of becoming slums. Anyway, we found a great spot north of the dreaded Benidorm that has not been ruined. The campsite is brilliant and local hill town is very Spanish and traditional. The beach is a 5 min cycle away, and rather lovely. Well it’s not really a beach to me (I’m Aussie), it has pebbles on it, and you can’t lie on that no matter how determined. Well there were a few Poms doing just that, but clearly don’t understand what a beach is. But the sun is shining and water is beautiful.

Javea Beach

Sunday lunch in the Sun

We’ll stay here a few days and then south-west towards our favourite winter bolt-hole on the Atlantic coast. Morocco is off the agenda for now (loooong story), but we’ll meet up with Darren and Clare and do some interesting trails in the Sierra Nevada or something similar.

Lawrence and I might do a couple of weeks in Morocco in February. We’ll see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing

We finally left Germany in late October and headed straight for France, glad to leave the land of pork, cabbage and potatoes.

Our first stop was actually Luxembourg where we camped by the Moselle, in a Marina – a first. We spent a couple of days just cycling along the river and walking through vineyards, enjoying our freedom and the sunshine.

Next stop Alsace and a great campsite in pretty Colmar where we were lucky enough to catch up with our mates Darren and Clare who had just picked their brand new Bimobil – Buster. He is gorgeous. We celebrated with a bottle of Cremant d’Alsace and a few good meals.
Buster the Bimobil (and Boris)

Turkheim in Alsace

From there we sped down to Burgundy to catch up with Steve (Professor of everything wine) and had 2 great dinners with him and the family. As usual the hospitality, food and wine were wonderful. Sadly the weather was miserable and we had to the kind of fog that sits on your shoulders.

Steve recommended that we head south through Beaujolais, an area we hadn’t done. What a lovely surprise. Although we don’t value the wine greatly, the area is gorgeous and we spent a day walking through the vineyards. Unhappily the fog followed us so we just kept heading south.
We then found ourselves in one of our favourite campsites in the Rhone Valley and were so happy to have brilliant weather. We again we did the vineyard walk up to La Chapelle through the famous Hermitage vineyards – my favourite walk.
Tournon & Tain L'Hermitage
Next stop was Avignon – a city we absolutely love. The campsite is nothing rave about, but the location is fantastic – until the Rhone floods. Last year in May when we were there, it broke the banks, however this year it threatened to flood the campsite (it rained and rained). We were warned that we may need to evacuate but didn’t think much of it until a loud bang on the door at Midnight, and we were told to leave!

The Famous 'Pont' Almost disappeared.

We then camped in a carpark and we joined by the Sapeur Pompiers (fire brigade) and then the damn police. Blimey they were noisy, not much sleep was had. Anyway, the campsite didn’t flood (although it was very close), so it was all much ado about nothing. Lawrence however, was interviewed by French TV, which was hilarious  - to me.
Lawrence's 5 Minutes of Fame.
The weather had been so grim we just had our minds on heading south, with hope in our hearts. We spent a night in Mirepoix with its beautiful the 13th century ‘place’, complete with old men in berets carrying baguettes.

So now we are in Andorra, the key highlights being cheap gin and cheap diesel, so we have filled up with both. The campsite is wonderful, right above Andorra La Vella. It’s so very Spanish, with clean spacious bathrooms and a great bar. Happy, happy, and we are not even in Spain proper. PLUS the sun is shining. The city ain't pretty, but the mountains are spectacular and we did a great walk.
Andorra La Vella - from the campsite
Next stop, real Spain, we can’t wait. You may have realised by now that we are in love with Spain.

Not sure what our moves will be over the next few months, so watch this space.