A couple of Secret Swimming Spots ‘found’ in Andalucia #1

A couple of wonderful days out from Cabopino – Banos de Hedionda (which I’ll tell you about in #2 post) was quite possibly my favourite day out of this trip so far!

Our friend Steve has a wonderful book, Wild Swimming in Spain (we have the equivalent for the UK) which we borrowed for a couple of nights, finding a couple of spots that we wanted to visit.  Charca de Canalon and Embalse de la Concepcion.

So we decided on a day, packed our sandwiches, towels etc. and headed off on the road up into the mountains above Marbella.  We followed the instructions, both on the SatNav and in the book, which took us along narrow roads until we weren’t even on a road at all, noticing evidence of recent rockfalls along the way.  It was one of those drives that Calv enjoyed, and I didn’t quite so much….  And it culminated in us NOT finding what we were looking for!!  On asking a group of Spanish men as we made our way back along the road it would appear we didn’t go quite far enough – and they looked at our car and expressed doubt that we would have made it.  Having said that we were expecting to have to park up and walk a couple of km to get to the pool anyway.  We think the SatNav stopped us immediately above where the pool was, but of course it wasn’t visible from the top.  See the video below for just a small section of the drive. Continue reading “A couple of Secret Swimming Spots ‘found’ in Andalucia #1”

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Christmas and New Year in a Motorhome in the sun (sort of…!)

Apart from a visit to family in Spain almost 25 years ago I have never spent Christmas outside of the UK.
Now I have not only spent christmas abroad, but also New Year AND whilst staying in the van no less 🙂
Plus a New Years Day dip in the mediterranean

It took a while for me to be persuaded to head out to Spain before Christmas and therefore to spend Christmas away from home, but once persuaded I did my best to throw myself into the preparations!

We knew where we were going to be – it’s necessary to make sure you book somewhere if you’re intending to spend christmas/new year touring in Spain; just to make sure.  So we had booked our pitch at Cabopino (as seen on Channel 5’s Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun – and yes we are friends with one of the couples featured, Roger and Jill).  This meant paying a deposit of 60Euros and losing it if (or rather when) we didn’t stay for the full 3 months.  However, we still averaged only 15.98Euros per night so we were perfectly happy.

We arrived on site on 6th December, caught up with friends who were already there (Steve & Denise and Jill & Roger), and quickly set about meeting new friends at the various events that you just can’t help joining in – such as Friday Happy Hour in Jorges Bar and live music in Andy’s Beach Bar on a Sunday afternoon.

Some of these new friends featured in our christmas and new year plans (Jim & his dog, Corrie; Alan & Tracy and Joe & Gayle).

We already knew that we were spending christmas with Steve and Denise (who we met at Cabopino back in 2017) together with Denise’s daughter Marie and her boyfriend (also Steve) and their other friends Sue & Pete (and Pete’s brother, John).  So we were already catering for 9 between 3 of us (me, Denise and Sue)!  But when we met Alan & Tracy who had just arrived and were on their 1st trip abroad with their caravan, we couldn’t leave them to be on their own on Christmas Day.  Then when we found out that Jim didn’t have anything arranged for Christmas Day we couldn’t allow that either – so now we were 12…!

We all put some money in the kitty and, even if I do say so myself, we produced quite the feast between us 🙂 We had the works!  Turkey, beef, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and christmas pudding (provided by Denise & Steve), ham, yorkshire puds, pigs in blankets, carrots, peas, sprouts, roasted parsnips (& carrots) & 2 homemade cheesecakes (provided by me) and red cabbage, cauliflower cheese & roast potatoes (provided by Sue).  And we even had crackers (courtesy of Denise 🙂 )

We set up a couple of tables and requisitioned several chairs in addition to our own and all fitted nicely onto Steve & Denise’s pitch (which was immediately behind ours.  Calv had ‘made’ a gate between the pitches so it was fairly easy to make our way from the van to the table (we had steps beside the 2 foot wall that we had to negotiate).

All cramming ourselves around the tables it wasn’t that much different to having a houseful at home tbh!  Unfortunately the sun didn’t really shine, but it wasn’t cold and we had a lovely time – it was, almost, like christmas at home!

When it got too cold we were down to 9 of us, so we were able to spend the evening in our van (we even all managed to sit down).  We got out the Chase card game and managed to get through it – taking it all a little more seriously after, young, Steve the Quizmaster, told us that ‘We could either play it properly, or not at all!!’  We gave in as he had a bad hip and was on crutches 🙂

So we then had a week to get over our christmas excesses (or rather add to them…) and prepare for New Year’s Eve.  We eventually decided that we would host at our van, but outside if possible.  Although the days are warm at this time of year in Spain the evenings really aren’t!

We set up with a couple of windbreakers, the table, some chairs, lights and lanterns.  We were joined by Steve, Denise, Marie & Steve, Alan (Tracy wasn’t feeling well) and Jim.  As it got colder I brought out all our woolly hats and gloves (which for some reason we have in abundance in the van – they came in very useful) and we just basically drank (6 bottles of champagne were lying on the floor in the morning – the boys weren’t drinking champagne….), sang, quizzed (with the same quizmaster..) and danced (my fitbit recorded me having 19 minutes of aerobic activity at 2am on New Year’s Day!) the night and the early hours away 🙂  We even managed to get in ‘the game’, which we play as a family every year (we managed this on Christmas Day as well 🙂 )

Before midnight we were joined by Joe & Gayle who had been over to Alberts to celebrate, but left early as their friends wanted to.  I do remember the alarm on everybody’s faces when it looked like I might try to do the ‘Dirty Dancing’ lift – to be fair Calv didn’t look scared even though I was running full tilt at him 🙂

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The end of the ‘evening’ NYE 2018 (3.20am 1.1.2019)

We turned the music off at the same time as the camp bar (2am) but the night eventually ended at 3.20am..  I must admit that I thought we were quiet after 2am, but apparently not.. Sorry (but it’s 1 night a year tbf)

In the morning whilst Calv remained comatose I started the clean-up, accompanied by ‘mornings’ and massive grins from our fellow campers.  It was definitely a night to remember!!

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The morning after the night before – 1.1.2019

But our new experiences weren’t yet over.  There is a tradition at Cabopino beach of a mass swim on New Year’s Day.  Now you might think that this is a bit of a cop out being in Spain, but I promise you the water is not warm.  In fact it’s pretty cold!!

Down on the beach for the off at midday, we found cooking stations set up providing bacon butties and sausage sandwiches together with drinks etc.  This is all done by a group of residents and they won’t take any money for it – all they ask is that once you know about it you bring some supplies down so that the food will go further.  Wonderful.

There were hundreds of people thronged on the beach, most of them there to watch but probably about 60-70 of us went in.  You had to just keep running and get in as soon as possible or it would never happen – but once in it was really lovely 🙂  I was in treading water with a group of ladies (including Hannah from Cornwall) when someone notified us quite calmly that there was a jellyfish within feet of us – that was my cue to get out!

 

I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be there to do this again next year 😦  Maybe in a few year’s time though?!

Caminito del Rey – a return visit

When Sam came to visit we knew we had to give him an experience to remember, so we scheduled our return visit to Camino del Rey to coincide with his visit and my birthday (18th December).  We didn’t have much notice – he sent me a text on Saturday to say ‘do you fancy a visitor’ and arrived on Monday!

The weather wasn’t as kind to us this time, just in that it was rather cloudy with the odd sunny spell.  But we did need our tops most of the time we were walking.

As we approached the gorge this time we could see lots of soldiers in evidence.  It seems there were some exercises going on in the area.  I have to say they didn’t look very professional at all; a bit sloppy!

As we got closer, and the road got narrower we started to see signs of the recent bad weather, with parts of the road washed away. Continue reading “Caminito del Rey – a return visit”

Campsite Reviews aimed at motorhomers.

Honest 1st hand campsite reviews from the perspective of motorhomers with a fairly large unit (and often towing a small car). Currently covers sites in the UK, Spain, France and Portugal – hopefully in the future we will be adding sites in Germany, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland and beyond!

Hi to all you motorhomers out there (and caravaners, but being motorhomers ourselves we know what they need :); well we know what we want/need and suspect many will have similar wants)…

Back in the UK having spent 10 weeks at the beginning of 2017 travelling through Spain and Portugal, and having visited France a couple of times, we thought some campsite reviews would be in order.  We visited 20 sites this year in Spain and Portugal so please bear with me as I get my thoughts down!

Knowing what’s important to us we are going to use a set format to complete, with key questions (access, pitch, facilities etc.) + the description set up under ‘The good, The bad and The ugly’.

Before I start I should say that I have already done a couple reviews which aren’t under this format but all that I write from now on will be.

Please feel free to comment with your own views of any campsites I review that you have also visited – it’s quite possible we’ll have differing views!

Just a bit of background information on our set-up then:-

We are Mandi and Calvin and we have a 2011 Bessacarr E769, 8.56m long and 2.3m wide.  We have been using the ACSI book for our travels on our last 2 European trips, and have found it invaluable (although we have had to resort to the internet a couple of times).

We have also invested in an Aguri SatNav for this trip (the one we had previously, from a different manufacturer, proved to be completely useless!!)

And, of course, if you find the campsite reviews helpful you might enjoy our blog cataloguing our travels!

I will be adding to these whenever we travel 🙂

Happy travelling 🙂

Jump straight to relevant reviews below – separate pages created for each country – simply click below for relevant list (most recent trip is shown first):-

SPAIN

FRANCE

 

Ronda – a little Gem high up in the Mountains

A visit to a renowned white town high in the mountains above Marbella. Steeped in history and with unbelievable views.

On arriving at Cabopino we knew that one of the first things we wanted to do was visit Ronda, as we had run out of time with the hire car during our trip in 2017.

This time, of course, we have the little car with us, so a few days after arriving we set off in the sunshine on our daytrip up into the mountains.

Our climb started behind Marbella so we passed some lovely looking complexes on the way, as well as a good number of villas hidden away behind high gates.

It’s quite a long way to Ronda, winding up and up and up, and round and round and round the various mountains!  There are several viewpoints but we left those for the way back.  It’s a very good road all the way, though that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the mountain road anymore than I usually do!

We parked up on the road just before the gates of the old town, completely by accident! So we chose to head in this way – leaving the area of town opposite the gates for another time.

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Our first discovery was the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo (Church of the Holy Spirit).  Fairly unassuming from the outside it’s a different story inside Continue reading “Ronda – a little Gem high up in the Mountains”

Malaga – an Under-appreciated City?

Perhaps you’ve not considered a visit to Malaga, beyond the airport that is! The city though is well worth a visit and should be on everybody’s itinerary 🙂

Although we spent 3 weeks at Cabopino back in 2017, only about 30 miles away from Malaga, and I flew into Malaga with the kids when they were younger (we were staying in Benalmadena), I have never actually been TO Malaga itself.

The perfect opportunity presented itself just before christmas when my son came to visit us during our latest stay at Cabopino, aided by the fact that we have brought the car with us this time 🙂

When we picked Sam up from the airport it was getting on for lunchtime and a little late for a day exploring the city, so we saved our visit for when we dropped him off a few days later.  This was on 20th December 2018 – the ‘Day of the Drones’.  And Sam was due to fly into Gatwick.  However he was advised to turn up and we watched him go through to security with no problems, so felt confident in leaving the airport and heading into the city.

With no particular plan (or clue to be honest) we headed towards the marina, as we felt this is always a good place to start.  Thinking we were really close and could walk from a spot near the beach we parked up and had a wander along the boulevard.  What a lovely first impression!  A wide tree-lined boulevard teeming with parakeets, a dedicated cycle path, ‘boris-bikes (although it appears you need to have registered in order to use them), several outdoor gyms (they’re everywhere in Spain – we suspect EU funding is involved) and chiringuitos galore 🙂

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Seafront Promenade, Malaga
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Seafront, Malaga

However, on checking google maps we found we were still about 3 miles away from the marina (and also the alcazar and castle), so back in the car we headed further into the city.

We parked easily in Parking Muelle Uno, an underground parking lot located centrally for the marina and the alcazar, cathedral, bull-ring and castle.  At just over 4Euros for the first hour and a little over 2Euros thereafter we were pleasantly surprised at the cost (only because it was so central to what we wanted to see and the main attractions – we normally balk at paying to park!)  (Just as an observation I hate the way the charges are shown in Spanish car-parks – they’re not per hour, they’re per minute and will have different rates for the 1st 15 or 30 minutes, the next 15 or 30 and so on – hugely confusing..)

We emerged into the sunshine beside the Centre Pompidou, an art gallery whose facade is a multi-coloured cube – a good landmark to head for when you’re looking for your car-park at the end of the day!  Beyond this was the shopping area by the marina of Muelle Uno – a fabulous choice of shops, restaurants, cafes and stalls awaits you – or simply a nice stroll admiring the boats and the water and the general ambience.

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Muelle Uno, Malaga

After a quick bite to eat (I won’t tell you where as it’s embarrassing…) we crossed the busy road behind the car park, headed through the gardens and then started making our way up towards the castle (the Gibralfaro – a remnant of Moorish rule)  perched high up on the hill and overlooking the city.  Continue reading “Malaga – an Under-appreciated City?”

A few days of relaxation, exercise and thermal pools – Banos de Fortuna

A spa town in the hills north of Murcia. Amazing thermal pool – well worth paying a little extra for 🙂

On leaving Oliva we were going to head to Isla Plana to stay at Los Modriles (1 of our favourite Spanish sites in 2017), but instead decided to head a little inland to try a new area and different site.

We found ourselves slightly north of Murcia in a little town called Banos de Fortuna, just a few kilometres past the town of Fortuna, but otherwise pretty much in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains.

The clue is in the name ‘Banos’ meaning ‘thermal’.  We didn’t immediately realise this or that this was a proper spa town.  Not until we took a different turn on coming home from the mountains one day and found lots of people wandering around in their dressing gowns!

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We did struggle to find the original spring, although there were a couple of contenders.  There were also 2 campsites; we were staying on La Fuente – not an amazing site but it was home to the, simply amazing, thermal pools 🙂   I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we revisited on our return journey!

The area is very special with the underground water providing a particular environment for rare grasses.  The main picture was taken from our van as the sun went down – and this was our view every morning and evening.

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View from our window at La Fuente – it never got old 🙂
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Our view at Banos De Fortuna

The area was settled originally by the Romans and we rode up into the mountains to find the Cuevas de Negra.  Amazing views but steep inclines on the way – Calv rode his bike all the way up to the caves and then had to come back for mine, as I’d resorted to pushing and was really struggling…

At the bottom of the final incline we found a large abandoned building which was completely open – so we had a look.  This answered some questions about why there are so many ruined buildings around.  There were massive cracks running down the walls.  Calv says that these buildings have no foundations and that is another explanation.  (Also, we’re now convinced that all Spanish buildings are rendered to cover up the diabolical brickwork – we have now seen the backs of many many walls – it’s a shocker!)

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We took a wrong turn on the way back and ended up in the traffic in the, fairly busy, town of Fortuna.  We discussed going further this way, but didn’t really like the feel of the town so headed back up the main road to the site.

On the way we found an English bar, Tina’s Bar, so stopped for a quick drink.  It turns out that there is a large ex-pat community in the area.

The next day we headed out again in search of the original spring and evidence of any roman settlement.  We still have no idea if we found anything, although we did manage to convince ourselves that we might have done!  It was a mini-adventure though coming back down the ‘mountain’ that we had gone up, as the way we went was marked as private land and we ended up clambering down the terraces (which wasn’t as easy as it might sound), and then making our way to the road via an unofficial rubbish tip (that’s what it felt like anyway!!)

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Banos de Fortuna – had we found Roman remains??!!
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Banos de Fortuna

Our final day was spent by the pool.  It cost 6 Euros (which is the normal price for non-campers, but we didn’t purchase ahead of time so got no discount).

It was worth every penny.  Not only was there a constant temperature of 38degrees, there where jacuzzis and massage jets that were every bit as good as having a real massage 🙂

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The pool at Banos de Fortuna
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The pool cover at Banos de Fortuna

All in all a fitting end to our time here.  Our next stop was back on the coast at a site we’d previously stayed at, Mar Azul – we weren’t initially heading there but more of that in my next post 🙂

Related Content:

Campsite used:- La Fuente (click for our review)

Next Campsite:- Mar Azul, Balerma (click for our review)