Expensive toilet stops and Spanish language problems.

Using a motorhome to explore cities is not the easiest thing to do in my opinion, but maybe that’s because we are novices. Also, we have been settled into the same campsite for a month now and moving the motorhome to use it as transport is a bit of a pain so we decided to hire a car for a week, and we have certainly made the most of it.

We are just back from a visit to the city of Murcia where we explored the old town and had lunch sitting outside in a charming restaurant. It’s the middle of December and the temperature reached 21C – Perfect! The Spanish were dressed in their winter clothes of thick jackets and scarves and it was like a good English summer day. The weather is one of the reasons we decided to spend the winter in Spain and when we hear that it’s bad snow in England it makes me feel a little smug!

Other places we have visited this week on our whistle stop tour of the Alicante region include the quaint town of Orihuela, famous for its cathedral, built between the 14th and 16th centuries and the poet Miguel Hernandez. We have also visited the seaside town of Torrevieja, which is instantly forgettable, although to be fair it does have a nice seafront promenade. We drove north past Benidorm and onto the delightful town of Altea, a must visit old town and sea front.

Santa Pola, La Marina and a drive up into the mountains to see Pinoso as well as numerous other small villages have all been visited this week with our little Kia, which incidentally cost the same for a week as 3 days car hire costs in the UK.

We have learnt some lessons this week! The first lesson learnt is that there are not many public toilets in Spain so you have to use them when you see them. Whilst walking back along the long promenade in Torrevieja to our car, Anne was desperate for the loo. All the public conveniences on the beach front were closed for the winter despite there being hordes of people wandering about. The only option was to call into a cafe for what turned out to be a very expensive pee, 12 Euros –  ( with a free ice cream sundae!).

The second lesson we have learnt is to learn more Spanish phrases. At the restaurant we visited in Murcia the waiters did not speak English and we ended up misunderstanding what he said. What was meant to be a cheap snack for lunch ending up costing us 50 Euros. We ended up with eight  starters and a huge Paella between us. A little embarrassing! I have now re-installed, the learn a language app, Duolingo and will try and learn one phrase a day from now on.

Our journey goes on and as Christmas approaches we have put Christmas lights on the outside of our motorhome and we have a small Christmas tree. It’s all looking festive and we have even put our food requests in for the restaurant on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Tapas and a turkey dinner, now that is what you call the best of both worlds.

As an ex- travel and tourism lecturer and travel agent I’m learning more than ever about Spain and witnessing Spain’s travel and tourism industry at first hand. Who knows – I might get offered a job!

We move on again on Wednesday and I read a phrase on another motorhome blog about life on the road – it’s a small living room but a very large back garden. Perfectly true.

One of the attractive buildings in Murcia.
Altea old town
Santa Pola fishing boats
Oriheula old town

Motorhome adventure – Missing Bonfire night but it was 27C

As I write this blog article about our motorhome adventure the weather here in Spain is sunny but windy, and I’m told that the rain we have had overnight is the first since August.  Since my last blog we have flown back to the UK to see our new first grandchild. I stayed two days and Anne stayed 10 nights, so that Anne could offer her services as a post natal midwife. I could only stay 2 days because our motorhome insurer would not insure the vehicle if it was left unattended for more than 48 hours.

Parked up on our pitch at Marjal Costa Blanca

Because we knew that we would be flying home for the new baby, but we weren’t  sure when, we had chosen to stay a month at Marjal Costa Blanca  where we knew that there was good security.

The campsite has a security barrier and regular security patrols and we also informed our campsite neighbours that we would be away for 2 days and they said that they would keep an eye on our motorhome for us.

Marjal Costa Blanca is a big campsite with fantastic facilities such as a restaurant, cafe/bar area, entertainment, spa facilities with an indoor pool, two huge outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a supermarket and many other facilities that I have not discovered yet! The pitches are 90 sq. metres which is a decent size although they do have bigger pitches for bigger outfits.

Since my last blog we have stayed at Bonterra Park in the lovely coastal resort of Benicassim. This relatively unheard of Spanish resort has one of the most charming promenades that I have ever seen and is famous for the The Ruta de Las Villas, a row of spectacular 19th century villas that were once occupied by the rich and famous of Valencia. The area is also good for cycling and we cycled along an old disused train line that has been turned into a very popular cycle way called The Via Verde  Green Route. We have also visited the beautiful city of Valencia, one of my favourite cities.

The weather since we arrived in Spain has been mostly warm and sunny. Last week the temperature reached 27C but in the last few days it has cooled to around 17C during the day and chilly at night, but compared to 5C in the UK we can’t complain.

We have been on the beach at several Spanish resorts and Anne has been swimming in the calm water of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s too cold for me to go swimming!

It’s the 2nd of December so we missed the fireworks of Bonfire Night. It’s probably the only time in my life that I haven’t heard fireworks on Bonfire Night. I haven’t really missed the fireworks but I did miss the traditional Yorkshire pie and peas with mint sauce that we always had!

So, after over 3 months living in our motorhome what is like living in a confined space? I think that we have adapted very quickly and easily. Our living room is the outside space around us and most days we are outside exploring or sitting in the sunshine. It’s amazing how many people are doing something similar to us by spending the winter in a warmer climate. There are people here who live on the same campsite for several months or in some cases live here all year. It’s easy to see the attraction. In England it’s usually cold, damp and grey, whereas here there is very little rain and the humidity is very low.

There is huge diversity with many Dutch, German, French, Spanish and British people all getting along well. There some incredible motorhomes/RV’s, Caravan set up’s and we feel a little inadequate with our meagre set up of just a motorhome with no add on, no cooking tent, no outside lights and so on. The other day a delivery lorry turned up at our neighbours to offload a full sized fridge that they put in their awning and some people have a full sized washing machine in its own tent! It really can be a home from home.

There is a lot more exploring to do in this area before we move on and we feel that we have barely touched the surface as far as seeing the best of what the Costa Blanca has to offer.

Benicassim promenade
Marjal Costa blanca
Marjal Costa Blanca
Marjal Costa Blanca security barrier
Marjal Costa Blanca
Marjal Costa Blanca
Large RV at Marjal Costa Blanca
Sunbathing by the pool at Marjal Costa Blanca
Meeting the local ladies in Benicassim
Cycle track along the cliffs at Benicassim

 

Avoiding Spanish bandits, and into Spain.

Well, we made it into Spain from France in our motorhome and even managed to avoid been robbed by Spanish bandits on the infamous AP7 motorway around Barcelona.

In my last blog about our motorhome adventure in Europe I wrote about our time in The Loire Valley and since then we have driven south down the A20 motorway stopping at various places including the very moving village of Oradour-sur-Glane, which was the place where 642 people including women and children were massacred and the village destroyed by a German Waffen-SS company on 10th June 1944. The village remains as it was after the massacre including the church where women and children of the village were killed. The place serves as a chilling reminder of the horrors of war. You can read more about Oradour-sur-Glane here.

Aradour-sur-Glane, France

Pressing on further south we stopped at a free aire for the night at Saint-Géry in the Lot, Midi- Pyrenees region of south west France, before heading past Toulouse and to our next stop at the Medieval city of Carcassonne. We parked up for the night at the municipal aire costing 12.40 euros, which did not include any electrical hookup or water. We loved the hilltop town of Carcassonne, famous for its citadel, medieval watchtowers and double-walled fortifications as well as all the small shops, cafes and restaurants inside the fortress walls.

Carcassone, France

Continuing on into Spain the motorway skims the Pyrenees as you cross the border. There were very strong cross winds on the descent into Spain and our 2.8 metre high motorhome was a little tricky at times to keep in lane. Our plan was to have an overnight stay at the motorhome aire in Palomas on the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona, but it was full when we arrived so we had to drive straight out again. Consulting our ACSI campsite guide we found a campsite further south at Calonge. This was a lovely campsite, apart from poor WiFi, and turned out to be a better choice than the overcrowded aire in Palomas that we had intended to stay in. There is a lovely beach only about 300 metres from the campsite, although the nearest supermarket is a good 20 minute walk away.

Beach near to our campsite at Calonge

The motorway that runs past Barcelona is the AP7 and I had heard that some motorhome owners had been robbed by scammers posing as police officers. The motorhome forums on Facebook have stories about drivers being given slow punctures at motorway rest areas and then being robbed when they had to stop. So, with some trepidation, we set off on the AP7 around Barcelona and it was one of the quietest and least eventful motorway journeys I have ever done! We stopped at several motorway rest areas without incident. Compared to the M62, M1 or M25 the AP7 was a doddle!

The brain can conjure up all sorts of fears of the unknown but as long as you are aware of the scams then it’s less likely you will be taken in by them. Anyway, a stubborn Yorkshire man like me is not easily taken in by such things.

Our next stop was the town of Cambrils, just south of Barcelona and we turned up at La Llosa campsite. Sure enough, they had places and we found ourselves a sunny pitch. It was a short pleasant walk to the sea front and like many Spanish tourist resorts the sea front promenade is well designed and clean. The promenade is lined with restaurants and on the way back we stopped and ate tapas for lunch.

Cambrils marina

This was day 77 of our motorhome adventure and so far it’s going really well. The weather has been warm and sunny. Our motorhome is very comfortable for both sleeping and living. We are outdoors all day, walking cycling or sitting outside in the sunshine. It’s a healthy lifestyle. We have also met some very nice and interesting people, and they can be a source of useful information about the local area.

Cambrils sea front promenade