Posts tagged Spain
We were feeling rather weary after our overly exuberant new year celebrations in Benalmadena and after a night of recuperation we drove southwards in search of sunnier climes. We decided to return to one of our favourite Spanish campsites, near to the Cabo de Trafalgar (where Nelson fought the Spaniards).
The area is famous in Spain for its pine trees. They were planted by Franco to stop the endless march of sand inland. The trees still produce pine kernels and in January provide a home to an apparently very poisonous caterpillar. We were told by other campers that said caterpillar was both attractive and fatal to dogs. Luckily we only saw a couple of dead specimens and Odie was not at all interested in them, so they can’t be such a delicious doggie delicacy.
There are some fantastic cycling routes which thread though the natural pine park. We were looking forward to using our bikes to discover more of the area. Unfortunately our ambitious plans were rudely interrupted by some enterprising bicycle thieves who nicked our bikes in the middle of the night. They kindly left our bike cover, which means we don’t have to replace it for a third time! After discovering our loss, I had to make a trip to Barbate police station to report it and during this tedious exercise found out that the campsite had been targeted the previous month and that eight other bikes had been nicked in one night not long before we arrived! Pity no one had mentioned this fact when we turned up or we would have locked them to our van instead of to a tree!
We did not let our loss detract from our stay in the lush Costa de Luz, there were plenty of walks to the beach, lighthouse and along the surrounding hills. We were blessed with sunshine for most of the month and this meant David could work outside, although he had to defend his laptop from the sunshine and his legs from mosquitoes!
We squeezed in a visit to Cadiz, Europe’s oldest city, with narrow streets, exotic plants and hardly any parking spaces. We replaced our bikes with some cheap mountain bikes from Decathalon, and David purchased a mound of new clothes to replace his crusty look with a smart sporty style.
The campsite was a very sociable place, which was a major draw for us to stay for a month. We participated in 2 quiz nights (one sober; one with a very random combination of drinks) and played bingo for the very first time (besht played when tipshy!)
We met Padget, a bearded collie, and his owners, Bill and Jane, who are on a traveling adventure like us. It was fantastic to have some mates about again. We went for long lunches, played some hectic tennis and table tennis, went for long walks and drank quite a few beers together. If you want to check out their blog go to: http://www.getjealous.com/Billandjayne
We also met another couple, Paul and Tracey, and all 6 of us played an interesting match of TT which involved running around the table and trying to hit one ball each before stepping out of play. It made me feel rather dizzy and David was complaining of stiff obliques the next day. This was soon followed by a boozy curry night before we hit the road once again! Months of social deprivation were made up in just a few weeks. Keep in touch guys!
The days were sticky and hot (I have since been told that Europe was immersed in a heat wave) so we did our best to awaken early and make the most of the day, before the heat could make us too irritable. Today we retrieved the bikes from the bike rack (it has been a while) and cycled along an undulating coastal path. The sea was stunning, oscillating from aquamarine to deep blue and back again. A quick dip cooled us down so we could ride back to camp. The rocks here almost look like petrified wood.
El Porto De La Selva boasts restaurants designed by Dali and a statue of liberty with two flames, showing up those proud New Yorkers. We saw an odd sign that seemed to say that kids playing football in the street have priority over cars. Traffic must be slow here.
Football final night saw us venture into town early to ensure we had good seats. Every eatery was clearly trying to cash in on the event. At our chosen venue the owners’ home television system was mounted onto two very rickety tables to ensure that everyone could see. Early on it was clear that the satellite connection was intermittent (the picture kept warping like a bad acid trip) and we were switched over to terrestrial, with accompanying Spanish dialogue. Our corner was mostly orange and a lot of the Frenchies around us were secretly supporting the Dutch. There was much betting on the final result, but none of us could predict what finally happened! Viva L’España!
The celebrations were, of course, quite intense with hooters and fireworks going on for hours. What a way to spend our final night in Spain. Tomorrow we leave for France.
What we’ll miss about Spain:
- saying “Ola”
- paella, choritzo and sangria, mmmm
- a constant supply of sunshine
- the low cost of living
What we won’t miss:
- the crazy driving, especially on the narrow mountain roads
- being baked at mid-30s temperatures
- TomTom’s appalling service in Spain
- the often grumpy, surly attitude of the Spanish
A trip into an extraordinary mind was on the agenda. We were in Figueres to visit the Dali Teatre Muse, home to a large portion of the works of Salvador Dali. It’s well worth a visit; I particularly liked his large installations. He was a master of working in all different genres and clearly loved experimenting. It is amazing to see what one person’s imagination could come up with.
Nothing else in Figures looked vaguely enticing so we adjourned to Cadaques, a little fishing town along the coast. We were hoping to freecamp at a tolerated spot but after navigating along the winding road found motorhomes were no longer welcome in this particular car park. Additionally the only parking spot available to us was amongst piles of dirt and diggers. These facts, coupled with frequent motorhome-prohibited signs along the roads, discouraged us from spending more than an hour in the town walking its streets. We decamped up the road to a much quieter town called El Port De La Selva.
Tomorrow we will watch Spain play Holland in the World Cup Final, anticipating much liveliness and support for the home team.
We wanted to get out onto the water instead of being under it the whole time so decided to rent a kayak (€40 / half day) from Montgo in L’escala. The vendor warned us that our outward journey could be a bit rough, but followed with the encouraging idea that the homeward bound stretch would be easy.
Out in the ocean proper we discovered some rather large waves for our rather small kayak and both Odie and I had an attack of nerves. I insisted that David paddle us back towards the shore but he was adamant that it would be easier to drift back towards the bay if we were further out. An argument ensued and he was finally convinced to head towards shore after I let out a small (to my mind) shriek. David enjoyed surfing the waves with the kayak which I now have to admit may have helped the journey home.
Book ahead if you want to visit Iles Medes for snorkeling in peak season by boat trip . We missed out as not a seat was to be had. Luckily we found a quiet dirt road along the land portion of the nature reserve and, after a bumpy drive and walk down some steep cliffs, found some excellent snorkeling opportunities instead. The best locations are often discovered by accident!
We snaked along the coastal road to L’estartit, a typical beachside resort with the exception of the Iles Medes (a marine park and nature reserve). We looked at snorkel trips by boat but decided that, as the island was only about a kilometre offshore, we would try to swim it. It seemed simple enough with the help of flippers to power us along. About a third of the way across I heard the sound of an engine and popped my head above the water to see a couple of boats in our vicinity. The skippers were gesturing frantically at us and I stopped to tread water. David was ploughing on obliviously so I started yelling. Finally he came to a stop and we got the idea that swimmers were not welcome on what now appeared to be a regularly frequented boat path. We decided to give up on our swimming adventure and snorkeled the area around the marina which proved to be good too.
We free-camped that night in a beachside car park only to be woken up by some other campervanners who arrived at 3 am. We don’t mind late arrivals, but cooking dinner and playing fetch with the dog at that hour is a bit offsides. Many coffees were needed the next morning to get going!
The coastline around Begur and Tamiru consists of beaches with azure blue, clear water, grey pebbles and cliffs tumbling into coves ready made for snorkeling. We snorkeled for hours watching shoals of fish in varying sizes swim amongst the coral. The Mediterranean water had seemed very warm up until now, but after an hour or so I really felt the cold and had to retreat to the warmth of the black sandy beach. What a contrast in temperature!
We checked into an ACSI campsite, it was full of Dutchies which made the semi-final football match very rowdy. On checking out the next day we found out it cost a horrendous €47/night and that didn’t include Odie (they actually didn’t allow dogs on site but we didn’t know). Another lesson learnt; always ask for the price before booking in, especially at peak season!
Our first night in a tolerated Spanish free camping spot was at a beachside parking lot in Saint Carles de La Rapita. It is clearly a bit of a party town as it was not quiet until at least 2am. Teenagers drift around the parking lot in cheap cars equipped with expensive stereos which are somehow incapable of playing more than one tune over and over. The beach here is artificial and you have to walk a good 50m out to sea just to get your knees wet.
On the way out we drove through the nearby natural park; a good place to view flamingos. None were to be seen by us, but the area does have beautiful little houses with lovely gardens sitting amongst the rice paddies. The locals plant flowers along the edges of the canals, adding bright splashes of colour to an otherwise very green landscape.
Today we saw our first roadside prostitute – a bleached blond wearing only her underwear; well bottoms anyway. We have since seen many of them in the Barcelona area where the population is more dense. They advertise their wares by erecting (haha) bright coloured umbrellas like domed billboards. They must be tolerated by the local Policia as they couldn’t stand out more without waving a big flag signed “get it here”.
After driving in squircles to circumnavigate Barcelona (and a massive accident on the motorway) we took a rugged dirt road up to a lovely rustic campsite at the peak of one of the Montseny mountains. It is located on a farm. Hardly anyone else was on-site and we had wonderful, quiet views of wooded hills. On arrival the owner questioned our origin and when it was discovered we had British passports the word was passed around the bar, as if some rare species of animal had been spotted far from its normal habitat.
I did some research online about where to eat the best paella. Valencia lays claim to this typically Spanish dish and after deciding that we weren’t going to be staying in the city itself I settled on El Palmar, a little village just outside. This is where they grow the rice for Paella and surrounding the small village are paddy fields, a stark contrast to the dry, brown scrub we had seen for the last couple of days. The sound of frogs and sight of white herons was soothing in the muggy, oppressive heat.
Just as we arrived in this restaurant-riddled town we heard the sound of a band and had to investigate. A group of lads were playing samba tunes and setting off firecrackers to celebrate someone’s birthday and, probably, the Spain football match taking place later in the day. Like drunk boys everywhere they were up to mischief and some of them managed to set the grass alight. Luckily they had drunk enoughbeer to create a river of urine to put out the blaze.
We found a restaurant in the middle of the town facing a rice paddy and sat down to enjoy some local white wine. Once again I had forgotten our Spanish book and so wasn’t entirely sure what was included in Paella Valencia, but was sure it would be delicious. When it arrived David’s face fell. The yummy chicken, butter and green beans were accompanied by some very colourful snails! He was adventurous enough to try one but they were very green, fairly slimy and rather chewy. I think we must have been put off by their parasitic eating of prickly pears which we saw earlier on our trip. Ah well all the way to Valencia for some authentic (but in the end uneaten) snails.
We are now keen to head back towards France so some frantic driving has ensued. A long day with changing terrain saw us return to mountains with spectacular views. The Sierra Espuna is popular with climbers and there are some dramatic granite monoliths to traverse. We went for the easy option of navigating the hair pin bends by van to appreciate the view.
Wi-fi (or whiffy as the Spanish pronounce it) is intermittent and you can never be sure what the speed will be like at campsites. The campsite in El Berro was a very relaxed, family-run affair, but the facilities were a bit basic. This meant no TV in the bar so, in order to watch the footie and tennis, we turned to online sources. Much to our frustration we couldn’t even tune in to an internet radio station without many frequent pauses at critical moments. It’s not often I want to watch anything on TV but I am gutted to be missing out on all the sporting events this week.
There is a big Jesus statue that looks after El Berro and its residents, in Rio style which is lit up at night. After shielding our eyes against the massive spotlights we enjoyed a wonderful view of Murcia and its twinkling lights.