Antequera and El Torcal

A little further east through the mountains (on very good roads it has to be said) we arrived in Humilladero for visiting Antequera and El Torcal, both situated a little way south of our chosen site (La Sierracilla – which was lovely despite some reviews almost putting us off..)

Humilladero itself appears to be a fairly new town, laid out largely in grids, with lots of plots that have not yet been built upon – great for a run!  However, click on the link above to discover a little more about the town (something we failed to do during our visit 😦 )

What we did discover a little of was the recreation area located behind the campsite.  We walked a little way in but if we had carried on we would, apparently, have scaled the mountain behind and had a good view of the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.  This was somewhere that we did manage to find 🙂

A couple pitched up next to us had cycled there the previous day but we chose to take the little car for the short (about 4 miles) trip to the lake which is famed for it’s flamingos.

There are miles of walks around the lakes, and we set off to our right, walking about a mile before we got frustrated at our inability to get close to any flamingos… We could certainly hear them.  And we could see them in the distance, but there was no way of getting closer to the water.  In frustration we turned around and headed back to the visitor centre, at which point Calv refused to walk anymore, so I headed off in the other direction by myself and phoning him 5 mins later to tell him I had found flamingos 🙂

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Definitely worth a visit 🙂  On leaving the visitor centre we drove some way further around the lake stopping off at various viewing points along the way (there are lots of these areas).  Unfortunately we didn’t come across anywhere where we could see the flamingos any better than we already had.  Overall we were a little disappointed if I’m honest.

This area is big on olives and olive harvesting (with lots of factories presumably producing olive oil).  We saw a lot of harvesting going on which was fascinating – we watched the process of laying a massive sheet around the trees (using a tractor, you wouldn’t have been able to do it by hand), and the ‘shaking’ machines that clamp the tree and, well, shake it!

On the way home we were in search of a supermarket and google maps was telling us that we would find one in the village of La Fuente de Piedra (The Stone Fountain).  This proved to be incorrect, but we did find a lovely little village centre where we sat for lunch in the sun.  Again bordered by another olive processing factory (there are so many in the area).

We also visited Antequera and it’s Dolmens.  Antequera itself is far bigger than I imagined but, apart from finding a Mercadona (there was more than 1, + Lidls etc.) we  only visited the old town.  We actually approached from the south having tried to visit El Torcal on our 2nd day.  Being a Sunday there was no parking in the visitor centre car park, and we were directed to park at the bottom of the hill and take a bus up (there was, of course, a fee for this).  We smelled a scam (it turns out we were wrong, but there are several parking scams operating in Spain) so decided to return another day.

On the way back to Antequera we stopped in a recreation area and headed off for a walk to take in the scenery.  Calv was a little reserved and eventually, after about 10 mins, said to me ‘have you left things in the car’?  Which I had.  He was a bit concerned for some reason so we headed back.  All was okay though.  We carried on to Antequera, making our way through the old town (I think you could probably say we were lost) and eventually finding somewhere to park on Calle Fresca.

We wandered around finding the minimal remains of the old castle and then eventually finding the main plaza, Mirador Plaza de Santa Maria, on which stands the Colegiata de Santa Maria la Mayor and Alcazaba.  After a bit of indecision we decided to visit the alcazaba (we have visited a fair number of alcazabas…) but it was worth it, with lots to see 🙂  The majority of the complex has been pretty much rebuilt, although there is a photo below that includes a small section of wall that appears to be original.

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Once again tired and ready for a relaxing evening in the van we headed back to the car.  Where we were both surprised to find that we hadn’t locked our doors….  Very strange.  When we arrived back at the van and went in the boot for something we found that the parcel shelf had been pulled out.  Now we knew that someone had broken into the car (we then realised that they’d used a screwdriver on the passenger door, as we had a little trouble using the key in this side).

However, all’s well that ends well, as we had taken absolutely everything with us when we parked up (after Calv’s ‘feeling’ earlier when we were out for our walk), so the rotten b*****s got nothing 🙂  Small victories and all that!

On our way to El Torcal the next day we went via the Dolmens of Antequera, which are ancient burial mounds which are free to visit (although you must get a ticket first..!)  There are 3 to visit – Menga, Viera and El Romeral.  These monuments are UNESCO world heritage sites, and will take up maybe 45 minutes of your day (including the drive between them).  Still, worth a look 🙂

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Finally though we made it the best visit (one of the best of our whole trip to Spain), El Torcal – a landscape of limestone rock formations through which there are several trails to walk.  We had done the right thing in wearing our walking boots; the walk, of course, takes you through the formations and there are many areas never touched by the sun and so the mud never dries out!  We did see a lady walking barefoot – she’d obviously worn completely inappropriate footwear and was with a much younger man; I thought maybe her son, Calv disagreed…!!  Either way seeing here walking through this terrain barefoot made me cringe – it wasn’t always an easy walk and the mud itself (I don’t like mud) would have given me nightmares (yes, I have nightmares about mud 😦 )

We also spotted an ibex on top of one of the formations – it waited patiently whilst we scrabbled for cameras, but moved the minute we had them!  Of course 🙂

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There were many other trails to walk and we will almost definitely return next time we’re in Spain 🙂

Next stop back to the coast at Cala de Mijas to meet up with Steve and Denise for a couple of days (they were still at Cabopino).  I promise to be better at getting this blog up-to-date – please bear with me!!

 

 

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Algodonales – a paragliders dream

On leaving the coast behind in El Puerto de Santa Maria and heading back into the mountains, we were going to head to a site in Olvera, but at the last minute I spotted a free motorhome service area shortly before Olvera in a little town called Algodonales, about 20 miles north of Ronda.  Not only free but with electricity included – seemed too good to be true?  It wasn’t!  We ended up staying 4 nights 🙂

Once parked up we became aware of lots of music that seemed to emanate from the town itself, which was about a 10 minute walk away.  We also spotted a number of walkers heading that way; so we decided that we should head into town ourselves.  It’s quite a steep climb past chickens, building yards, lemon & orange groves and numerous streams.

The noise escalated as we neared the main square, where we found a finishing tunnel and an announcer with a microphone welcoming runners (and walkers) back on finishing the Viboras Trail (a run/hike up into the mountains and back – see below).

  • The route of the Algodonales Víboras Trail (which translates literally as “Cotton Snakes Trail) is a homage by us to one of the most testing routes in Andalusia. At 16 km in length and 916 meters of accumulated ascent, this route is a level three, and is a speciality trip that can only be accessed by club members.       https://xcmag.com/travel-guide/guide-to-algodonales-spain/

We sat at a bar (very busy but we still managed to sit after a few minutes) and enjoyed a drink while watching these amazing people returning from their latest challenge 🙂

On the way back to the van we could see a white town in the distance.  We thought we might cycle there in the morning, but then we looked on Google maps and saw how far it actually was!  Back at the motorhome area the paragliders, that we’d spotted jumping off the mountain when we first arrived, Continue reading “Algodonales – a paragliders dream”

Tarifa and Bolonia (Roman ruins – Baelo Claudia)

A few days on the south west tip of Spain with it’s stunning beaches 🙂

From Casares we headed back to Castillo Duquesa to pick up the little car, and from there it was off towards Tarifa for a few days.

We had decided on Camping Valdevequeros from the ACSI book, which wasn’t our favourite site!  However, it was opposite the most beautiful beach – Valdevequeros – which reminded us very much of Portugese beaches.

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So we spent a very pleasant afternoon on this beach – I even went in paddling (the water was cold but I got in up to my belly!)  We found an area where many campers were parked up – unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage as we had a problem with the gas that Calv didn’t fix until we got to our next site).

We also found out about Baelo Claudia, an extensive site of Roman remains just a few miles away that is free to visit and has lots to see – we spent a good couple of hours here.

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Along the road where Baelo Claudia is  there are several areas where campers are parked up – we didn’t really fancy any of these areas though.  But we did drive on up past the roman remains until we couldn’t go any further on the rutted road (we were heading into a military area…)

We also went into Tarifa on the Saturday.  Once we had parked just past the port we took a footpath down towards the beach (this isn’t such a nice beach!) where we explored a few abandoned houses – there were many that looked abandoned but on closer inspection they were several that were clearly lived in, as well as a couple that seemed to house several dogs – that liked barking!

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Once back up on the road we headed into the old town.  The town was very busy on a Saturday afternoon, with the tapas bars full and lively.  When we wound our way round to the castle we found that we had just missed the chance to visit as it was closing to new visitors.  It was all pleasant enough, but certainly didn’t grab us as several other places have.  Still, worth a visit.

We stayed:       Camping Valdevequeros

Previous Post: Casares

Next Stop:       Cadiz

We stayed:       Camping Playa las Dunas, Puerto de Santa Maria

 

 

Casares – Charming White town. Birthplace of Blas Infante

A wonderful discovery in the mountains above Manilva 🙂

Finally tearing ourselves aware from the comfort and familiarity of Cabopino, we were aiming to spend a night or 2 at the spot in Puerto Duquesa that we had scoped out on the day we visited the Banos de la Hedionda (click here for relevant post), followed by a couple of nights in the free aire on the outskirts of Casares.

If you’ve been reading regularly you will know things don’t always go according to plan!  This time everything seemed fine to start with.  We arrived in the car park by Castillo Duquesa, parked up and had a cup of tea.  All was fine as a policeman did his rounds and was perfectly happy, so we spent a couple of hours on the beach – which was idyllic at first as we had it pretty much all to ourselves, the sun was out and the van was but metres away!  It was lovely even though the beach is not the nicest (slightly grey and gritty sand), and after about 1/2 hour the sandflies decided they liked the look of me!

So after a lovely couple of hours relaxing we returned to the van, to find 2 more vans parked behind us, and popped the kettle on again.  At this point (it was after 5pm by now) the police returned, there were 2 of them this time,  They proceeded to move everyone on, saying camping wasn’t allowed – indicating our step being out as being ‘camping behaviour’…  We’re pretty sure the problem was really that whilst they will tolerate 3 or 4 vans, anymore causes an issue.  The 2 vans parked behind us took the number stopped there to half a dozen.

Not wanting any more run ins with the police we moved – being our first time trying to park free of charge – to the nearby site of Bellavista (at 31 Euros for the night…)  In the morning I went for a run along the seafront promenade and saw that 3 of the vans were still parked up where we had been – possibly confirming our theory relating to why we were moved on.

Before heading inland to Casares we went back to the same spot and visited Castillo Duquesa which was free to visit.  The castle is clearly used by the community still as there are meeting rooms in the old rooms as well as 2 museums, 1 archeological and the other a fencing museum Continue reading “Casares – Charming White town. Birthplace of Blas Infante”

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?!

Related Posts & Pages:-

Review for Cabopino

Spain Campsite reviews

 

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