Day ??? (Who knows!) – Moving on from Alicante to ?? (Isla Plana – near Cartegena)

Everything happens for a reason. Or so Calv likes to say. Well today this was proved beyond doubt!

We had our first failure today, in that we got to our first choice of campsite and it was full. It was a big site too, at La Manga de Mar Menor. Actually this is the 1st time that we’ve highlighted more than 1 (3 to be exact) as we know that there’s now more chance of sites being full (as we head further South). And to be fair this was only our 1st choice because it was the 1st one we got to.

However, it was out of the way and we wish we’d rung in the morning to save us an extra 40 miles driving… I had thought that being situated right at the end of a peninsula with few roads going in (as shown on our map anyway…) and a sea lagoon on its doorstep it would be a little slice of heaven with very little going on. Haha – there were high rise hotels built along the sandbar that created the lagoon and a fair bit of traffic. So not my little bit of paradise then!

There was a slight complication though when we were told it was full in that there were 2 other vans there who were told the same thing. Were we all headed for the same site next? Were there any spaces there? If so was there just the 1?! So we ditched the plans to stop for a cuppa, Calv jumped in the driving seat and we were off – it was like Wacky Racers!! The old Talbot that was already there before us also got away first, but we easily overhauled him within a mile or so. The newer Carthago looked like he could have had us, but, luckily, he went in the other direction J

Anyway, my point is that we headed towards the 2nd site (which in reality WAS my 1st choice…) and, having skirted Cartagena, we started climbing through a mountain range – hard driving, following an already hard drive with high side winds all the way – lots of switchbacks and hairpins; it was a bit like being back in the Pyrenees except that we were in the van instead of the little C1!

wp-1486571252921.jpg

But the views!! Just amazing and as we emerged from the mountains, the final descent revealed the sea sparkling just up ahead and we knew then –‘Everything happens for a reason’ J

The drive here saw the landscape change from one of groves and groves of orange trees to groves and groves of lemon trees, and finally to acres of agriculture (we don’t know really but it looks like cabbages and leeks – much is hidden in poly tunnels and greenhouses). Where we have landed, Isla Plana, just south of Cartagena, is no exception. (It’s now Thursday evening and we’ve been on a bike ride alongside some of the polytunnels – filled with hundreds of thousands of tomatoes in various stages of ripedness).

There’s not much going on here but it is beautiful and the site had 4 spots left. It was a bit of a squeeze getting in to our chosen spot – not particularly helped by the German man who emerged to point out that we couldn’t leave it with the nose sticking out into the road (really? really??!).

Normally when people emerge it’s to assist a fellow camper, but he came out to tell us off before we’d even finished manoeuvring– anyway Calv managed to get in sideways instead. Everyone who walks past keeps staring – I don’t think they can believe it’s in like that!! Even our neighbours were impressed that we had a van you could park sideways J

wp-1486659579155.jpg

But we do have a seaview, and a good steep walk to the toilets, supermarket, reception, bar and swimming pools!

wp-1486659610925.jpg

We have an indoor and outdoor pool, both open. The outdoor pool is thermal and we’re thinking of going in later. It won’t be so warm today (we had about 20 degrees again yesterday), maybe 18 (we’re hoping!) We’ll also ride back towards the mountains we came through and maybe up a little to one of the viewing spots (we went out yesterday down to the beach and the ‘town’ – very tiny!)

** Okay Thursday update – the temperature today was easily 24/25 again with full sun all day. We have sat outside the van, swum in the outdoor pool (followed by a bit more sunbathing) and then ridden the other way along the coast, up a mountain to look at the tower that we spotted yesterday. (And we have both, definitely, caught the sun – as in “should have put some suncream on….!”

The tower was part way up, yet another, mountain and then the entrance was halfway up the tower itself, followed by some steep, and very narrow, spiral stone stairs up to the top! It was used to protect the coast from pirates J

We are definitely going to stay a 3rd night here and just relax – or maybe try to cycle up into the mountains to one of the viewpoints – wish me luck!

Advertisements

From Benidorm to Alicante – About 40 miles distant, but hundreds of miles apart!

Separated by 40 miles of land but so very different!  A completely different feel to Alicante (and El Campello where we are actually staying).

Saturday and Sunday in Benidorm proceeded much as expected.  We did very little,  went for a couple of swims, walked a little, went to watch the rugby on Saturday in a bar where even the San Miguel was only 1.50 euros per bottle!..So later on Saturday evening was spent singing and dancing along to music in the van (some of you may have seen the video!)

Sunday evening we walked along to the Benidorm Palace to see The Rat Pack.  A very enjoyable show but a little disappointing that the main event only lasted for 20 minutes more than the support act….  Glad we went though 🙂

We knew we would have to pay for any electric that we used over 4kwt per day at the campsite – we weren’t expecting over 23euros!  In the UK campsites aren’t allowed to actually make money out of the electric; we’re guessing the same rules don’t apply here…

So, whilst we’ve enjoyed our time in Benidorm, we’re not sorry to be moving on now.  We’ve just headed a little way down the coast to El Campello, just outside of Alicante.  It’s probably not even 40 miles (it took less than an hour).  Some lovely views along the way (and also the usual impatient Spanish drivers!)

Once again we managed to get into our chosen site, albeit in the ‘winter camping area’, which turns out to be really rather pleasant.  We met another British couple coming the other way (around Spain & Portugal that is) who gave us some interesting information about Lisbon.

We set off down to the seafront for a bike ride and found a tramline!  It turns out the tram goes direct into Alicante for 1.45 euros each – bonus.  (It also goes back to Benidorm and beyond – who knew?  Not us evidently!)  Rather a lovely aspect along this seafront and much more chilled than Benidorm; also with a few statues thrown in.

dsc_0051

A feature of the beaches over here is the volleyball nets and basketball nets etc. that are provided all along the beach.  Also a lot of outdoor gym equipment is available.  There’s a cycle path along almost the length of the seafront too.  All very pleasant 🙂

dsc_0050

I’d made a chilli for tea, which was okay but I’d forgotten to look for the fat content of the mince when we bought it…. I won’t make that mistake again!

Today we caught the tram into Alicante and walked 169m up to the castle (even the steps were steeply sloping).  We made it anyway 🙂  (There is the option to take a lift all the way up – you only have to pay (2.70 euros) if you go from the very bottom, otherwise it’s free). The castle is really amazing, there’s a lot of it and it costs nothing.  The lift takes you all the way back down to the beach, which is handy – last time I came here (with Lou about 11 years ago – I think) we pretty much walked back down the side of the mountain – in our flip flops!!

We had lunch, and a sangria, at a bar by the beach, and then wandered a little more.  Unfortunately my heel was hurting again by now so we needed to head back to the tram – which we had to find first!  Needless to say we did so and headed back to sit in the sun by the van (we’ve had 25 degrees today – bikini weather).

We’d also found a bloke’s wallet on our way out in the morning; we tried to contact him but ended up handing it to a policeman at the gate to the castle!  Hope he gets it back.

We’re moving on tomorrow and hoping to stay close to Cartagena – it looks like it could be worth visiting 🙂

 

 

Tuesday 31st January – a bonus day in Cullera

We had originally intended to move on today, but are so comfortable and relaxed here that we decided to stay an extra day. Also we hadn’t yet managed to do the walk up the mountain or see the castle yet.

So we started the morning with the walk up to the Ermista Santa Marta. My heel was still hurting but I figured it would get better if I exercised it a bit. I’m glad I put my walking shoes on as the terrain was quite challenging in places – I nearly slipped over at one point. Not the best thing to be doing when you’re on the side of the mountain…! Anyway it was 226 steps up (I counted them on the way back down) together with rocky terrain and normal walking. There’s a sort of cactus grove on the way up, and, to be honest, not much to see when you get up there! And what there is is locked and you can’t get in.

dsc_0010wp-1486146504690.jpg

So Calv decided that, as there was no roof, if he went up the side he’d be able to look down into it. Now. If you were an experienced rock climber this would be a good idea perhaps, but I had to beg him not to do it as I imagined him losing his footing, which wouldn’t have been so bad if we’d been on level ground… You get the picture. For once he listened to me! Only to try to scramble up a different way, only to abort that when I heard him mumbling that there were definitely snakes living in there…!

dsc_0015dsc_0019

After a rest we set out on our bikes for the castle, which is signposted form the main road, but not at the road you need to turn off to get to it. So we spent 5 minutes cycling up and up, only to find a dead end! So glad of our electric bikes on this trip – we’d never have made it to the top of some of these hills without them.  Calv videoed the trip back down from the castle (1 hand on the brake, the other holding his phone – luckily there were no cars coming when he got to the bottom and had to turn left, as it was the steepest bit and he couldn’t stop…)

We finally made it to the castle. Again worth seeing at 3 euros apiece. However it was lunchtime so, naturally, the café was just closing and so was the church, so we missed out on the church. Which did look pretty impressive, so we were a bit disappointed.

We needed some fruit and veg so stopped on the way home and loaded up the bikes. Then Calv decided to buy a 6 pack of 1ltr bottles of water. He secured them onto the back of his bike with one of our locks, and then forgot they were there and mounted his bike, knocking them sideways. I know, it was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments, but it made me laugh!

I’ve finally done my ironing (outside though J ) and we’re now ready to look for our next site (Benidorm remember?!)

Will be sad to leave this site – even though I dreamt last night that we were overrun with some ‘battle re-enacters’ who wouldn’t let us leave…. Not sure what that was all about, I’m obviously getting too much sleep (averaging 8 ½ hours!!)

See you in Benidorm J xx

 

Pamplona :)

2 posts in 2 days – I’m on fire!  Well actually it’s because I have about another 3 hours left on Wifi and I want to make the most of it 🙂

Also I wanted to tell you how lovely the old part of Pamplona is.  Yesterday afternoon we sat out by the van in the sunshine (it was only about 13 degrees but out of the wind it was lovely).  We knew it was unlikely to get above about 4 degrees today so we put our base layers on and wrapped up warm ready for our cycle ride along the river (about 10km).  (Btw, base layer bottoms seem to be like tights ladies – you need to get a size up for them to actually fit properly and be comfortable – just saying…!)

It was fairly straightforward – we only went wrong twice, once on the way there and once on the way back.  Quite good for us, don’t you think?!  Continue reading “Pamplona :)”

Welcome to Spain!

We’re coming to the end of our 1st full week in Spain, and up until today we were staying in Basque Country. It took me a while to realise that the 1st language on signs was actually Basque (as it bears no relation to Spanish). On reflection it’s a little like Welsh is to English.

Yes, I did leave my tablet on the ferry and, having found it in our cabin, the ferry company sent it straight back to Portsmouth! Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and, with the help of Calv’s daughter (thanks again Lisa) I now have my precious tablet back and can properly update the blog. We did have a few problems on delivery day as DHL, Spain seemed to have issues with the address of our campsite, but it eventually turned up about 4.30 (meaning we could finally go out J ) Also thanks to Brittany Ferries for dealing with the issue so quickly.

On arriving in Bilbao we knew where we were heading and had programmed our new SatNav (an Aguri and a vast improvement on the one we bought last year for France). We’d decided to go with the main road instead of the motorway (we were only going about 60 miles after all), because we’re worried we’ll miss out on some worthwhile sights on the motorway. It was the wrong call this time unfortunately – until we got to the coast road at Deba (only about 10 miles from our destination at Zarautz). The N-634 wound its way through several towns, all very industrialised and with nowhere to pull off the road at all. We’d paid 1.22Euro for the short bit of motorway we did have to use, but later found out it would only have cost just over 8 to go the whole way. You live and learn.

We finally climbed a steep hill to our site, where we received a warm welcome. Our ACSI card gave us a rate of 17Euros per night (we thought we’d probably stay 4 nights, but hadn’t discovered that I’d left my tablet behind at that point..) Our pitch overlooked the sea, and we had dozens of birds around the van. A couple of robins were so tame that they fed from Calv’s hand and settled on our knees – 1 even kept going into the van (and left a present for us…!)

view-from-zaurutz
On the walk down to Zarautz
wp-1485284139603.jpg
One of our tame Robins

 

You can find more info about the site here – Gran Camping Zarautz review.

We could see a ruin far below us and after dinner we headed down to check it out. It was an old mineral loading facility called Malla Harria. I was very pleased with myself making it back up the steep hill from the ruin – see the photo below.  A couple of days later we decided to avoid this climb when we found a shortcut through the undergrowth that took us straight to the campsite – of course it was steeper than what we were trying to avoid!

We could also see the beach from our pitch and knew it was accessible with a 10-15 min walk down the hill. The next day we headed out to explore Zarautz via this walk – the steps, when we got to them, were relentless. Then there was a boardwalk over the dunes and then the promenade along the beach. It was pretty busy for a cold Friday in January, and busier still when we rode our bikes into town on Saturday. On Saturday there were loads of people on the beach and in the water surfing. We even saw a couple of lads in swimming in just normal swimming trunks!

wp-1485284178796.jpg
From one end of the beach to the other at Zarautz

 

On Sunday we headed the other way towards the village of Orio. We were stopped from going the wrong way by a young guy with a dog, who then came back to help us with the right way (the younger generation are very friendly and go out of their way to help. The older generation of men, much like we found in France, don’t tend to be so welcoming (obviously there are exceptions)).

Orio is a pretty little village in parts with a medieval street full of old houses – Kale Nagusia. It’s a real mix of ancient and modern, and because of the steepness of some of the streets you suddenly come across a lift to a higher level!

Like France we have noticed several old, abandoned, dilapidated buildings. Unlike France we haven’t seen so many churches.

On Monday we were a bit stuck due to the problems with receiving delivery of my tablet, but once it arrived we were able to escape the confines of the van (we’d done ironing, hoovering, cleaning and polishing…) and we headed off down the hill again for a walk ‘round the block’. It was harder work this time though where we’d been stuck in all day.

wp-1485278843595.jpg

So after 5 nights we could move on and tonight we’re near Pamplona. We came along the Autovia de Montana and there were some stunning views along the way. It turns out we see better views from the motorway than on the main roads (and it only cost a total of just over 4 euros).

We’re now at Camping Ezcaba which is open all year. However, it’s not all open, and we’re the only ones here. We’re struggling to understand the 19Euro ACSI charge (the highest possible). On top of that we paid 10Euros for 2 days of WiFi (which gives us 2 codes) only to find that each code only gives access to 1 device! We also put a wash on having purchased a token – at 4.75Euros I, naively, thought that this would be for a wash and dry – no this would have cost 9.50Euros! So the washing is currently hanging outside – could be a problem as we’re expecting temperatures below zero tonight (even though we were sat out in the sun this afternoon!)

Tomorrow we’re going to cycle into Pamplona (10km along the river) before moving on again on Thursday. The rest of this evening will be spent investigating our options on where to go next J

See you next time we have free (or cheap) WiFi!

Today’s the Day! :)

The final run-up to the off 🙂

20170116_072839Countdown to the Off!!

And we’re off!  (Literally, right now, as this posts…)  Okay, so I’ve cheated with this particular blog (in that I’m actually writing it a week before we leave and updating whenever I have a few minutes!)

I’m finding that I have some wonderful ideas for what to write – just as I’m falling asleep each night..!

To be honest we are almost ready now.  The house is almost completely packed up ready for moving into storage at the weekend, we have piles put aside to move into the van, 1 last wash to do and 2 loads of ironing (I know, this is almost too much excitement for you all – me too).

Had a little panic yesterday when I found out that I was meant to have got an independent valuation on the property (even though it’s sold through the proper channels).  I managed to get this organised quickly though (thank goodness for the January lull), the visit has been made and we’re just waiting for the report.  Phew phew-941

I’ve just got a few more letters to write to leave for Sam to fill in the completion date and pop in the post and then we’re good to go.

We’re even doing well with running down the fridge/freezer and cupboards contents 🙂

So I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions so far this year.  You know that feeling you had through most of your teenage years (I know some of you are still there; lucky you! but for many of us this is 30+ years ago!).  Continue reading “Today’s the Day! :)”

Happy New Year! 2017 has finally arrived :)

Update on our final preparations for leaving our house and spending a year in the van 🙂

The 1st day of 2017 finds us doing very little, after putting the house back to normal that is…  As anybody who has ever hosted a New Year party knows this is a pretty monumental task, and even though we sent bottles away with as many people as we could, we still ended up with more alcohol than we started with!  Well it feels like that anyway.

I’m starting to feel pretty emotional now – the house is sold, my car has gone, we’ve had our last Christmas and new year in the house….. you get the picture.

And I really miss my car.  I know it’s pathetic.  But now I have to get used to driving the tow car (the most basic Citroen C1 model) all the time.  At the moment I’m still comparing it, you know, the fact that I have to use a key to get in and start the car (I don’t just put my keys in my pocket and press a button), I have to wind the windows down, there’s no heated seat to help when I’ve got a slightly aching back, no rear camera, no steering wheel controls and no sat nav and so on and so on……

So the other day I was trying to think of all the positives of the Citroen:-

  • It’s easy to park (being so short – I noticed the other day that it fills about a half of a parking space)
  • Really good fuel consumption
  • £0 car tax
  • We can tow it behind the van
  • We have a towbar on it (yes, we really do) which means we can tow a trailer and also carry the bikes on a towbar bike rack.
  • It’s petrol so it’s cheaper to run (my car was a diesel)
  • We really don’t mind it getting dirty!

I’m almost over it now 🙂

So tomorrow the hard work starts.  We have already started packing up the house (regardless of when completion is we will be leaving by Monday 16th at the latest), we’ve sorted storage and a van.  Now I’ve got to sort through my worldly goods and then Calv will go round after me packing it all up – an easy job for him as he used to be a removal man 🙂

The other part of the hard work is to get back to the gym and stop eating!  It would be good to have lost the excess Christmas poundage before we leave – I’ll do my very best.  Although this will be made more difficult by some more goodbye nights out!  Although I am looking forward to them all of course!

I think I will definitely be in Spain by the time I get another opportunity to post, although I have no idea of where we will actually be pitched!  We have organised though to meet friends in March and walk the Camanito del Rey near Marbella, which looks absolutely spectacular.  Can’t wait Elaine & Chris 🙂

thso0a1h53

So that’s the first actual plans we’ve made for our year!

We hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and that 2017 is good for you 🙂