Things we’ve done:
Well what can I say?! We have seen sights that we never expected, walked, cycled, climbed (& cycled up) mountains, walked along the edge of a gorge, visited cathedrals & churches, learned so much history, watched wildlife, found some hidden gems, explored new places and met many, many people.
We got our heads around the toll road system in Portugal (and really didn’t like it!) We discovered the differences between Spain & Portugal (there are many), and also the difference between Basque country and the rest of Spain (not that many, mainly attitudes. Although signs are still written in both Basque and Spanish this is a compromise these days, rather than a necessity).
The hidden gems included the caves of Aguadar, the Camino del Rey, Isla Plana (nr Mazarron), El Rocio (just south of Sevilla, in the Donana National Park), Ciudad Rodrigo and the, not exactly hidden but rather unexpected, delights of Salamanca 🙂
Places we’ve stayed:
We stayed in 20 campsites throughout Spain & Portugal, and in the UK, so far, a total of 3, including our ‘home’ site of Kia Ora & 1 night at a totally unsuitable site in Peasmarsh. Other than that we’ve stayed at 1 site in East Sussex for 3 weeks – partly due to laziness, but also because there is so much to do within striking distance that it seemed daft to move and lose any exploring time!
Our favourite places to actually stay, taking into account the site we stayed on and/or the sights to visit close by, have been:-
Zarautz, (Gran Camping Zarautz) north coast of Spain. For both the site and the area this was good for 5 days. If you had a car possibly would be good for a little longer. The beach and scenery is amazing.
Pamplona, (Camping Ezcaba) just south of Zarautz. Not so much for the campsite itself but for the cycle path into Pamplona and the old city of Pamplona itself. Also for Olite and Aguadar just south of Pamplona en-route to our next site.
Isla Plana, (Los Madriles) near Mazarron and south of Cartagena. For both the campsite (possibly our favourite) and the immediate area of sea and mountains. We loved cycling up into the mountains and discovering ruins and towns that are not on the main route. We would definitely visit again and this time head towards Mazarron.
El Rocio, (La Aldea) south of Sevilla in the Donana National Park. The site was pretty good, but the ‘frontier’ town of El Rocio and the birds and horses of El Rocio itself, together with the Ermitas made this an absolute highlight.
Zumbejeira, (Camping Villa Park Zumbejeira) halfway between the Algarve and Lisbon. The site was absolutely lovely, and we also enjoyed the little town and the historic fishing village a few miles away. We think you could probably cycle there from the site. Good for a few nights and, if we did ever return to Portugal with the van (which is unlikely), we would definitely visit here again.
Salamanca, (Camping Don Quijote) heading back into the north of Spain. Nice site and easy to get into Salamanca; either a cycle ride along the river or on the bus. Salamanca is wonderful – we wish we’d had another day!
Comillas, (Caravaning Oyambre) on the north coast within easy reach of both Santander and Bilbao for the ferries (closer to Santander). Wonderful site! The area is delightful with great walks and cycling opportunities and also a lovely little town close by (we cycled) in Comillas – among it’s delights is an Antoni Gaudi designed house, El Capricho.
Rye, East Sussex. (The Cock Inn & Eagles Garth) Unfortunately not for either of the sites we’ve found ourselves on, but the area of East Sussex and Kent (particularly the Weald) is rich in history and heritage with so many places of interest to visit. It kept us busy for almost 3 weeks, and, when we return from Ibiza, we will be heading for North Kent to visit the areas we haven’t yet seen (Sandwich & Deal, Margate & Ramsgate, Chatham Docks, Canterbury – properly, Leeds Castle etc.) Actually we might need more than a week!
Highlights of days out:
In Spain our favourite days out were:-
- Camino del Rey – stunning.
- Salamanca – breathtaking.
- Discovering El Rocio
- Cycling into the mountains in Isla Plana
- Cycling to Pamplona
- Cycling into Comillas & discovering the unexpected wealth of history awaiting us
In Portugal our favourite days out were:-
- Sintra, near Lisbon. Hands down – wish we’d had 2 days 🙂
- Wandering around Zumbejeira and discovering the historic fishing port.
In the UK our favourite days out have been, so far:-
- Rye, town and Harbour
- Battle Abbey and battlefield
- White Cliffs of Dover, South Foreland lighthouse and the Deep Fan Bay tunnels
- Scotney Castle
- Old Town, Hastings
- Winchelsea town & it’s cellars
- Bodiam Castle
- KESR – steam train
- Discovering the Brightling Follies on our walk
- White Hart, Newenden for Sunday lunch 🙂
Things we wished we’d done (or hadn’t..):
We found that there are many places in Spain that we either want to visit for the 1st time, or return to in the future. For instance, we want to return to the area of the Camino del Rey (Desfiladero de los Gaitanes) and we must make sure we visit Sevilla next time!
We wish we had gone to Jerez & Cadiz (definitely next time). We just didn’t have enough time.
We wish we had headed towards Zaragoza and not made a detour meaning we ended up at a bad campsite..
We wish we had headed to the right out of Los Madriles and visited Mazarron.
We wish we had arrived in Cobapino later than we did, and therefore spent longer in a couple of the places we visited before we got there.
We wish we had known how expensive the Portugese toll roads are, and how bad the alternatives are. We wish we had found a campsite closer to Sintra so that we could have visited 2 days running.
Calvin wishes that we had stayed an extra month in Spain…. 🙂
People we’ve met:
We have met some wonderful people on our travels, and are keeping in touch with a few.
We had a couple of boozy nights in Cobapino with Steve & Denise and Roger & Jill. Great fun. All lovely friendly people who would do anything to help anybody out.
We met many older couples (I’m talking well into their 70s) who have been touring for 50 years+, and are still going strong – with bikes on the back and everything. They were all absolute inspirations to us. And then there was the Swiss couple who were into their 80s and still towing a caravan – they were out longer than us the day we went to the Alhambra Palace…
Many people that we met didn’t have a return ferry ticket booked; they were all just taking it as it comes 🙂
In Portugal we met Trevor & Jude who come from the Isle of Wight, and then Jenny & Graham (Graham is still playing hockey in Olympic style tournaments – fair play).
We’ve not met anybody we didn’t like (although there was Mr & Mrs 45 minutes….)
We met a young couple with a 5 month old baby who were using their parental leave to tour Europe 🙂
Back in the UK we met Norman & Jane – hello you 2! And most recently I must mention Martin Fishwick (I’m so sorry I didn’t get your wife’s name) who is, in just a matter of weeks, embarking on a lifelong ambition to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats. I didn’t ask Martin how old he was, but I’m fairly sure he’s older than me… So I just want to say good for you Martin, and all the best for your adventure in June 🙂
How we’ve changed:
We are definitely more relaxed – even though we were fairly laid back to start with! Petty things that really mattered just a few months ago are just completely irrelevant now. Most things have lost the power to stress me out – although a certain mobile provider came pretty close…
Proof of my relaxedness (I know that’s probably not a word!) comes in the fact that, with just 3 days before we fly, I haven’t packed for Ibiza or even checked the tickets lately! Normally I am packed at least a week before 🙂
It’s difficult to register that we are already over 3 months into our adventure – in some ways it’s gone so quickly.
Calv has accepted that he needs glasses.
I will talk to pretty much anyone (even more so than before). Calv always would talk to absolutely anyone..
We’ve learned that we can manage on less money. We are even spending a lot less on food! Going shopping for anything else is pretty much off the agenda (unless we actually NEED something!)
I’ve definitely lost weight – I have no idea how much, but it’s heartening to know I can do it. I’m hoping that I might have lost enough for it to be noticeable by the end of the year!
We are very happy in the van – it barely even registers that we ARE living in the van at the moment. We don’t think anybody believes us when we say this!
The only thing I really miss is a washing machine, and that’s only because the site we’ve been on for the last few weeks doesn’t have one. If there’s a laundry on site it really isn’t a problem.
I look at things differently now. Coming ‘home’ I noticed the lilac draped over the houses and all the other beautiful flowers, the wonderful views on our journey were taken in too. We really do live in the most beautiful country and we’re so pleased to be getting the opportunity to discover and appreciate if properly ☺
We also know that this is a lifestyle that we would like to continue – next year we would very much like to take in Croatia during a European tour in the spring. Watch this space 🙂
On a slightly different note I would like to thank everybody for reading my ramblings – I do hope that you continue to enjoy.