Saturday, July 3, 2010

Time to move our blog across to our main website

We have installed some software on Club Motorhome for members to write their own blogs so we thought we'd better be loyal to ourselves (and test the software) and continue 'Motorhoming with NEILMAC' there.

Its just a few days now until we start our new 3 month adventure (always seems like an adventure anyway!). Our approximate route is planned and we're going to be heading up through eastern Spain, into southern France and will be spending time in the Rhone-Alps and Burgundy before northern France and a visit to the UK.

For those who have been following our travels please click this link to take you to our new location.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Busy planning....

While we're busy planning our next trip our 'retro' blog is running at This time last year - with NEILMAC

Its a blog of our travels (funnily enough) this time last year :-)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Epiblog - Mission Accomplished!

Well, home again and mission accomplished! More of that in a moment...

If you have been following this blog you will already know that we have had a great little journey, been to some fab places and enjoyed some great company with new friends. Our trip to Portugal did however have other aims and in addition to the ubiquitous researching along the way for new sites or aires for 'Club Motorhome' we were looking to complete the journey within the following guidelines:

- the first to spend no more per day than our 'home' budget
- the second to limit our diesel to our 'home' energy costs which includes electric, wood, gas, and water etc.
- to have fun and experience what the southern areas of Spain and, fingers crossed Portugal, have to offer us.

This is of course without spending over 'budget' and unless you are a math genius my bumbling with numbers of what I had and hadn't in the purse will be meaningless in terms of figures. I hope you will have gleaned however that with my 'mastery' (ahem) of budgeting and economical cooking we have managed to live within the 'home' budget. Contrary to finding Portugal expensive I found it to be similar to Spain.

Typically we ate well and healthily, obviously the slip-ups we had in the way of cheese and biscuit 'dinners' resulted out of meeting some good company on our journey. We say shame on them for leading us astray! Using aires and free / wild camping meant that our 'stopping fees' were kept to a minimum although that is quite normal for us when travelling.

The end result is that we have come in under budget by a princely 22 euros which is actually not bad at all. Our biggest extravagances along the way were a tank full of premium diesel by mistake (him) and keeping the water fired up with gas when we had electric hook up at the campsite (me).

We have also added some 13 new places to stay in a motorhome to our steadily growing website database which can be viewed here

Finally I mentioned that I wanted to stay on the weight loss trail. It was a close thing but I returned home a couple of pounds lighter than when I left. RESULT!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday 24th April - This journey's end...

She says...

A good clean and pack up before we leave Ibi and we get on the way arriving back home at lunchtime. A bit of shopping and a wash of MH at the local 'lavado' leaves us with 25 euro's and time to count up, see if we have succeeded in our aims of the trip!

He says...

To recap, we set out to holiday in our motorhome across Spain and into Portugal without spending more money than we would have by staying at home for the same period. The calculator is out and the results are due shortly.

She says...

We did for sure relax and enjoy but what about the other bits???

Friday 23rd April - Distant fireworks and local lightning!!!

Yet another long trip and this time to Ibi in the Alicante region. Expecting it to be fairly busy we are surprised to find oursleves alone once again. Electric storms close in and we are absolutely tippled on and very nearly get rocked over by the thunderbolts which seemed to be surrounding us. Is this the time to be seeking assurance that we are safe in our little exposed MH?. Anhow rain over and the ladies are out collecting snails - tea' s up! 

As the day is St Georges and the neaby town of Alcoy is enjoying the big battle day between the Moors and Christians we are further amazed when no one turns up after the show. This is a UNESCO interest event and yes it is spectacular as we have witnessed before. Put it this way, we heard it in Ibi some 20 km away from Alcoi!!! Oh, by the way I stopped off and got some steak for tonights dinner - special treat, well you've got to, havent you?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday 22nd April - Gas in the night, the van that is!

Not sure if this should start today or finish yesterday it being only four(ish) in the morning when we are awoken by the sound of the fridge ignition ticking - we've run out of gas. Oh well a quick step outside and cylinders changed over and we soon got snuggled down again despite my offer of an early breakfast. He said 'I don't think so! Or something similar.

After breakfast we spend a hour or so wandering the town getting a few shots and finding a very convenient Cepsa gas cylinder seller - brilliant!

On our way again we know we are heading off to Venta Del Peral one of our outward stops. All we have to do is find a supermarket. This we manage to do 14 km from our destination. I guess we must have missed some on our 190 km or so journey!

We spend around fifteen euro for our meals that will last until until we get home and a couple of drinks in the cafe, leaving us with 51 euro until Monday.

As the evening draws on we have neighbours turn up so from being the only MHers there to start with we become one of five all very suddenly and all very late. I wonder if we will ever have the confidence of risking not getting a space by arriving somewhere so late. Usually we are arriving quite early and then sit and watch the place fill up around us. I think of late we are becoming a bit more confident but I still like to get settled before dark.

Wednesday 21st April - Farewell Portugal...

We travel east for several hours and our destination is Villanueva de Algaidas. I have a good idea that we should take the short route as we reach the end of the journey, How difficult could it be? A straight run through, erm, villages that don't exist and some that do but shouldn't, parts of roads missing and next time I have solemnly sworn that when I have a good idea I will keep it entirely to myself! It turns out not to be our final destination for the night as it was enveloped in an incredibly strong but putrid smell, which we could not decide was something to do with olive or cheese production or possibly something to do with neither of those better options.

Our most sensible substitute for the night was Archidona and what a revelation. It is a typical Spanish town complete with a hilltop fortification and chapel and numerous other historic buildings. Very picturesque! The signpost at the aire also promised good natural space for walking or cycling. I drop into the main street all up and down hill for a carton of orange and a promise of a return visit the following day. An early dinner and night, although the night was not quiet. The aire is right beside the sports centre where children were playing until quite late (normal for Spain) and some farily excitable aerobics or dance classes were underway - bet it was the third age!

Tuesday 20th April - Vila Senhora de Rocha, Portugal

We take a short walk the following morning along the cliff tops taking in a little more of this stunning views before saying farewell to Margot and heading off to Altura in a gradual move towards home.

With 70 euro and a few coppers only we get a couple of things at the mini market and still have the notes left.We have food for Wednesday.

Monday 20th April - Vila Senhora de Rocha, Portugal

Margot has agreed to join us for a night at Senhora la Rocha. As we have a couple of things to do we arrange to meet up at the parking a bit later having handed over the GPS co-ordinates. We first have the Monday chores of topping up the budget and getting a couple of things in for lunch I won't buy more dinners until a a bit later as we still have our two left over from last week. Shopping done, we have 93 euro left until next Monday when we expect to be home. The weather has taken a bit of a change today and we are tempted to stay in Portugal longer since we have already come this far. We have already decided, however, that we will come back this way so perhaps another time will give us the chance to really get into Portugal. We have hardly scraped the surface so far but we do like what we have seen up to now! We have only driven along the Algarve so there is so much more to discover. Before we drove to tonights stop we had a little look at Alvor and it seems a lovely resort, as promised by various friends. I did not go and buy a cork handbag so I will have to go back to Silves for that one day.

Before leaving Silves we heard that the homeless man had previously been burgled with his home being ransacked and his motorhome stolen. Poor chap!

Had a little clifftop walk with brave Margot - we took a long set of steps down to a little cove. Wandering along the beach a little we found some more steps which were a little less steep and on taking these came across some toilets which had a very useful shower to remove the sand from my feet. Very smart they were too and then we realised that we were in an hotel's grounds. It wasn't until leaving through the barriered entry we realised we had just used the facilities of the 5 star Thalasso Spa Resort! Ooops I say how the other half live - that's those that can't afford a motorhome and have to just go away for a week or so!!!!

Totally blew the budget. Went to a bar and had a couple of drinks with Margot together with a Portuguese language and history lesson. The very charming bar owner was incredibly kind, suffering us fools very graciously. On the way to Portugal we had both realised that we knew not one word of Portuguese. Whilst the area that we were travelling in was one where local people spoke very good and advanced English I make a promise that I will not travel to a country where I cannot learn a little of the language. Its just too embarrassing. Supper again became a plate of cheese once more as it was too late to cook. Due to the romantic setting but without any candles I had to sit, barely stifling my giggles looking at the head torch that was being worn to create ambient lighting!!

Saturday/Sunday 17th/18th April - Silves, Portugal

Well we have been here almost a week now. The weather has been a mixture of sun and showers but they are very heavy! It is difficult to judge when the next one might be so walks have been short or in some cases dodging from one building to the next. I have had another good swim and this time a jacuzzi. We have decided to stay until Monday when the weather forecast promises a more settled day or two. It could be a worse place to stop and is unlikely there are many hardstanding places to go that you wouldn't run the risk of getting stuck in the mud. Tavira apparently had a tornado the other day so maybe it is a good thing the Mayor has banned motorhomes! We decline an invitation to join in the quiz night at the the 'English' Bar but judging by the revellers when they finally returned early hours, we missed a good night.

Saturday we shopped still keeping in budget - just! The campsite, laundry and swimming twice has hammered the cash a bit but we manage to buy veg for Saturday's meal (already in the freezer) and a meal for Sunday and still have about 6 euro in the kitty. So this is not bad and as an extra start this coming week we were not hungry enough to cook last night (Sat) and Margot has kindly invited us for dinner Sunday night! Two meals in the bag before starting next week.

We also managed between showers to have a good look round Silves. Wandering up to the fortress and church and through the winding and steep streets.

One of the many storks posed on its chimney pot nest and it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Missing entirely any showers. Also missing the opportunity to get a birthday present of a cork handbag. Sounds a little strange but the cork shop sells the most amazing cork items; baseball caps, wallets, ties, to name but a few. You will not be surprised to learn that we missed the Saturday opening hours by about an hour and with no Sunday opening my dilemma of whether a cork handbag is sensible, needed, tasteful, (well you know how some things seem like a good idea when you are on holiday but when home you think, whatever next!) simply disappeared. Oh well I guess it was not meant to be.

On return to the van I finally had a real go at the Psychology downloads I had prepared for this trip. Not entirely surprised, I was to fail miserably at the math aspect getting only about 66%. On marking I realised that in part it was rushing and not paying enough attention to detail. So already a good lesson or reminder at least of studying.

Last night the rain returned and seemed bent on driving its way through the roof! I spent the night sleep walking between opening and shutting the roof lights.

Sad as we were about Robert we are alarmed to notice that there is a man and his dog living in the car park now. He is apparently living in a fiesta size car and simply sits all day and night. I am becoming troubled by this although he does now seem to have made friends with some of the motorhomers and maybe they will be able to assist in his plight as they are clearly speaking a common language!

After a lazy start (well it is Sunday) we do a little housework. Still love that you can do it all, hardly moving more than three paces. The sun has just started to shine again so a walk is on the cards and I am pretty sure that we will move on tomorrow.

We enjoy a great evening with Margot and her Spag Bol - including tablecloth, napkins, sideplates and the works. Thanks Margot - I wonder if you ever ate the leftovers? Lovely as it is in Silves, a week is long enough in a car park however so this will be our final night here!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday April 15th - Maybe not as tough as we thought......

As we sit and decide that we will go to the pool at Silves - me to swim and the technical department to use the free Wifi that is available, we are puzzled to see an official pick up truck turn up and then horrified to realise that it is in fact the municipal dog catchers. It is like something out of 101 dalmations. We watched as Robert tucked his tail down and offered himself up to be caught in the big net. In honesty the catchers were not cruel and actually seemed very gentle as they loaded him onto the truck and away.

'Robert' an hour or so before his capture

It became obvious that we would need to get out but that the rain was apparently not going to cease, hence our decision to use the pool. It is a really good pool or three pools in fact and you get an hour and a half swim for three euro fifty. I thnk I have done about 50 or 60 lengths but feel pretty sure that it is not a full length pool.

Despite the lack of room and equipment I turn into a culinary genius in the kitchen tonight, creating three meals out of the beef mince I bought on Monday - a spaghetti bolognese and two shepherd's pie's with a twist (recipes will appear on our website if they work out OK). I sincerely hope they do as we have decided to invite Margot, who has agreed that she will be the subject of an article for Club Motorhome for us, about lone women travellers, for dinner tomorrow.

Dinner over for tonight, I don't settle down until after one, as I must finish my book. It occurs to me that Robert's earlier, easy submission must have been because he had seen the weather forecast! We are treated to a wild night of torrrential rain and wind and one of those nights when I lay and wonder why I choose to stay for weeks on end in this little white box??

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monday 12th April - A campsite

The start of another week and a fresh supply of money. We head to the supermarket before finding a cash machine and so pay by card. We top up with food for several days - at least four. We spend only 34 euro but as we have campsite fees and washing to pay for decide that as only multiples of tens are available at the cash machine that I will top up by a further 40 euro. This weeks total is accordingly 105 eoro. Campsite fees and washing / drying machines put paid to a further 22 euro. A wine box from the campsite mini market further reduces this weeks remaining budget to 42 euros. That said with a third of last nights curry remaining which with a couple of potatoes will make another dinner and the one left from last week we have plenty of food and drink for several days to come.

We are amazed on the drive down to the campsite which is near Amarcao de Pera at how green Portugal is and wonder if this is as a result of the rainy winter or whether this is normal. It is very pretty and the traditional houses very attractive. We did not really know what to expect as our collective previous experience is many years ago for 'him' and more recently a day trip for us during our road trip honeymoon.

We find the campsite and get booked in.

What an investment the spend turns out to be - we meet our new friends Lorna and Steve and are able to christen our barbecue. One of those 'must have' buys but still boxed from the day it was bought a little over a year ago!  We share a meal of grilled meats and salad and a few glasses of wine in our little home, all managing to squeeze round the table dinner party style, minus of course candles, flowers and napkins. Well I figure candles might be dangerous; a vase would fall in transit and folded squares of kitchen towel were much more accessible that the napkins!. We really enjoyed the evening sharing travels stories, life stories and in some cases the usual techy stuff. We have also washed two weeks of laundry and are now refreshed and set up for the remainder of our stay however long it lasts.

After a little bit of planning I am informed that we can spend a week travelling towards the point of the Algarve, a week travelling back for another few days in Altura and then a week getting back home. We are now roughly in the middle of April so I am not sure how we will fit that many days into this short month. The look of disappointment when I pointed this out! What a good job that he normally (always) does the toilet and I normally (almost always) do the planning.

We spend the day watching the washing dry, leaving late afternoon for a short trip to a cliff top stop which proves to be, as promised, stunning and includes a beautiful little whitewashed chapel right on the point which has been there centuries. The weather however turns to heavy rain which makes it very exposed so we head on to Silves for a pretty wet and wild night. From the aire at Altura, Jeff and Ilda are already here and Margot arrives mid-morning. 'Robert' is also here still chasing his infuriating back legs! We had been told about Robert by others who had stopped by Silves - particularly cute and quite healthy looking this little dog is ripe for adoption by any suckers who can't bear to see his hound dog expression whilst enduring the current heavy rain - not us of course we're tough!

Now the torrents have ceased we will have a look at Silves and let you know what we think later.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday 11th April - The day after...

After a fond farewell on Friday night which lasted a marathon 10 or 11 hours (really Pete, why did we have to start at 3.30?) we had a quiet day yesterday. A couple of coca colas and an ice cream relieved us of a further 4 euro and we venture into next week with the princely sum of 32 euro. It is Sunday and we have everything we need so I guess that is where we will start on Monday.

He couldn't resist an 'arty' pic :-)

We are committed to a campsite tomorrow and some much needed washing so that start will soon be diminished. One good thing, however, is that we do have a meal in hand since Friday night ended not unusually with nobody bothering to cook merely bringing a selection of bread, cheese and other bits. Happy days!

Friday 9th April - The cost of friendship...

The promise of a farewell drink with our new found friends sends us scurrying to the mini market to top up with wine which relieves us of another 6 euro (mind you, it was for 5 litres!!) - 36 left........

Thursday 8th April - Lazy days!

We have arrived at Thursday and felt it time to catch up with the blog. It seems that finding a place to chill out makes you very lazy and results in doing very little.

A quick resume (should have an 'accent' but I cant find it as I am typing in the dark):

We found a little local supermarket which as had a bad effect on the budget. You know it makes you a little lazy and things are always a little pricier. A loaf of Bimbo 'Cereales' at over three euro, a pack of ten fish fingers, three euro eighty - I don't think so! By Wednesday we need a dinner however and ended up with a Pizza and some remaining salad. The stores are by now getting very low so it is clear we have to haul ourselves away from this lovely place. It will however be only to fill, empty, shop and catch up with the free Wifi. Over the last couple of days we have met new friends, walked, cycled and relaxed.

The beach is just fantastic for long shoreline strolls watching the shellfishers at their task. Looks like they know what they are doing. We have also had fun with our new friends. Enjoying each others stories, some wine and as usual learning from each other. I have never before discussed toilet things in so much detail!!

Today gave us the chance of some real good admin and the home is like a nearly new pin! Bathroom, kitchen, floors, cloths, mirrors all had a good spring clean today. So as well as filling, emptying etc. we feel all relaxed - that is before the next trip to the beach brings in the next dose of sand! It's gonna happen!

Well the all important budget is still looking quite good - firstly we have not moved the 'van' for three days so no fuel costs, secondly we have been to the supermarket today and filled up with food until Sunday. That means no more buying overpriced stuff at the local mini market. Of course we are happy to buy the usual top ups at the local places and in fact some stuff was normal prices - cheese, bread, wine, rice, even vegetables and so on were all acceptable! Anyway the end result is that we have 42 euro left in the purse. Having spent nearly 32 euro at the supermarket today. Well you can do the math. but it seems to me that we have actually only spent 10 euro on incidentals over the last couple of days. It did seem like more but as you see not bad! So far we have not been tempted to eat out although I have a birthday coming up so it will happen!
It is likely that we will stay here until at least Monday and we have food in the fridge until then.

The sea is warming up and if the waves mellow a bit I might be tempted to get in it. In the meantime I will continue with the shore walks as I am still counting the points too!

This place really is a delight!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monday 5th April - Portugal!


...and the beginning of the week. For the purpose of this trip, I think 29 euros to start the new week is a good place to start, especially as last week's shopping has provided an additional two nights dinners. After getting water at Lidl which we were surprised to find open it being Easter Monday we head on. Perhaps the fact that there has been a week long celebration the people are glad to go back to work for a rest - as we know the Spanish can party very hard!  Along our route we drive into Punta Umbria a place that mum in law had visited and said was very pleasant. There were no obvious motorhome facilities so readjusting Tom Tom we find we will be in Portugal in about an hour. Crossing at this point (Ayamonte) you discover that the road that meets the border has been left in disrepair - not sure what if anything it means but it is comical to see that neither country seems to want to maintain right up to the other country.

We are delighted when we arrive at Altura to find that it is a huge car park so no trouble getting in and that it is located just a walk over the dunes from the lovely beach and the ocean!

The town is small and more or less a beach resort but has quite a good selecton of bars, restaurants, shops, cash machines, a small supermarket and a free Wifi zone - so a good place to catch up with anyone you might be missing at home. I also got to the farmacia for antihistamine. The weather has become warmer as we have arrived at the coast and it is likely that I may once again be in need.

Having topped the budget up to 100 (i.e. an additional 70) euro we spend about 14 on essentials - fruit, beer, wine and mossie relief - leaving the grand sum of 86 euro until next Monday. We have food for both today and tomorrow at least but will we be tempted by some of the lovely little restaurants vey close by - well we are on holiday!!! We have decide to stay as we have arrived here full and empty at least for a couple of days - maybe longer?????????

Easter Sunday

We decide that we should in the spirit of research go and check out the aire at Priego de Cordoba. Whilst only 28ish kilometres it is in totally in the wrong direction. However we drive to the aire take lunch and leave to return to Cabra. A little naughty as there is a 48 hours restriction at Cabra and we do like to play by the rules. Our justification for returning is that we had left for a few hours, so if anyone had wanted the space we were not preventing this. As it is our stopping a further night is vindicated by the fact tha no other 'vans' turned up except for our German neighbours. It seems the Spanish long weekend was at an end. As an aire we did not think that Priego de Cordoba had as much to offer as Cabra. That said the town itself did have a collection of fortified buildings at it's heart which we did not check out! Arriving back to Cabra we take a walk along the disused railway track that runs alongside the auditorium. If you can bear the heat it seems that the auditorium is well used in the summer months for a programme of free concerts including classical dance and music.

Saturday 3rd April - Easter Weekend

He says...

Another very lazy start to the day, anyone would think we're on holiday.... oh, we are!

The mountain bikes came off the back of the motorhome today, quite a rare occurance and with tyres pumped up we set off to explore some of the town in Cabra. As we got to the centre it was clear that there was about to be another procession so we claimed a bit of barrier, with a ringside view, by propping our bikes up against it - this gave us some space by stopping everyone crowding around and pushing in front once the procession approached. Again the photos say more than words so some of the highlights: (you have to remember that everyone is supposed to look sombre)

She says...

Breakfast and a hair wash later, (thats me not him as regards the hairwash!) we head out on bikes first to the font which is adjacent to the Aire and then on towards town again. We are lucky to arrive in the main square just in time to hear first and then see another procession this time the 'float' depicts the sadness of Mary. Everyone is 'dressed to the nines' except us, on bikes, in jeans and t-shirts.

We take a prime vantage point, this time where I cannot be used as a 'gangway' and enjoy the procession which lasts around an hour before heading back for some lunch. A quick stop at Lidl's relieves us of 4 euros but provides us with much needed soap and not needed, but desired beer.

The sun is shining and it is lovely to just relax and feel the warmth and 29 euro left in the purse

Friday 2nd April - No room at the inn (Aire)

He says...

Using the services at Venta Del Peral meant that we were full of water, empty of waste and full of diesel so we were ready for anything the day had to chuck at us!

TomTom directed us mostly along the A92 which is nearly all smooth Autovia with only a few slow downs to negotiate the coned off areas wher either the road had been washed away or the surrounding ground had landslipped onto it, all courtesy of the recent excessive rains.

Our target was a small hilltop fortress town called Alcaudete where there is motorhome parking allowed right at the top outside the church and fortifications. Except this was Good Friday and the world and his wife, or should I say mujer?, was visiting for the Easter festivities. Having carefully scaled the narrow streets with incredibly steep gradients getting to the place we had to gingerly do a multi point turn and roll ourselves back down.

Again we resorted to plan B which was to head to our next destination about an hour further on at Cabra. We really should be used to the chaos of these fextivities by now but we just headed into town to find the Aire only to be met by barriers as the town centre was closed for the duration. A fairly long detour later we approached Cabra from a different direction and found our spot before the barriers. What a great place! Real Spain and not set up for tourists other than passing travellers - just how we like it.

Once settled in we headed the 10-15 minute walk into town to catch the Good Friday Solemn Procession. We've seen many of these by now but they are still fascinating to watch the very serious participants depicting the crucifiction. A little reverence may be lost by the youthful spectators who seem to treat the occasion as an opportunity to wear their very best finery and strut their stuff infront of each other - but everyone has a nice time! As always pictures tell much of a story so these are a few from the event:

She says...

Well of course we managed to spend a little in the cafe bar - a couple of beers. It was a bit like being on a date sitting across a table with lovely background scenery. Well we have only been married four years so we can still pretend. It's strange that you can still really chew things over when you have no outside - TV, PC Laptop, camera for instance - influences! Anyway a late Spanish time dinner for us comprising pork, potatoes and veg. We did feel relaxed having chatted awhile to the owner of the Venta and exchanging motorbike talk, we felt indeed very comfortable and secure.

33 euros left!

A very late start! We had shut the skylight blind and it being so dark and actually quite cold there was no temptation to get out of bed too early - well it is a bank holiday (puente). Following breakfast we emptied and topped up, once again being totally sucked in by the very sweet, verbal and very pregnant local puss. I am sure that opening a new pack of ham for her shows that I am becoming very soft and to think all that cats do for me is stop me breathing while rubbing my eyes out! However we now head west and before long the huge expanse of Sierrea Nevada comes into view. What a pretty route, still the blossom, the unbelievebale cave houses and the fantastic and distant mountains. As we turn off of the main road towards our intended stop the landscape turns to one of rolling hills covered as far as the eye can see with olive groves.

Having awoken to the clicking of the fridge ignition we knew that we should replace one of the cylinders as we are uncomfortable relying one just the one with an unknown content. A very helpful Cepsa petrol station owner wants to send us back 15 minutes in the wrong direction to obtain a cylinder. Confidently we press on in the right direction and you have no idea how many petrol stations along that route are not only the wrong sort but do not have a cage of cylinder's at all. Just at the right time, that is, before I get upset because it was me that exclaimed confidently 'We're bound to find one!' We do indeed find one!

We make our way up to Alcaudete and in the distance spot motorhomes making their way around the fortified hilltop. It is only at the top we realise that they were simply doing what we had to - find a way down as cars had 'taken' any possible motorhome parking including the service point. Well it is their big day, they can do exactly as they please! Our next possibility is Cabra.

All is well until we attempt to drive into Cabra with all roads blocked due to the Semana Santa celebrations. Tom Tom cannot do it all and so reference to a map and the signs direct us around the south and east (although we came that way anyway???) we are happy to find that Cabra has a lovely Aire located in a smart part of town and has all the required facilities. Conversing in our 'most excellent' Spanish we establish the way to the centre (about 2 km's) and that a procession will indeed be held, it being Good Friday. Part of the desire of travelling south was to witness Semana Santa here as it is apparently celebrated, if that is the correct term, in a really big way. we reached town just in time to enjoy the procession.

The 'float' (I am sure that is the incorrect word) depicts the crucifiction although it did not appear to be as sombre as that we had previously witnessed in our local 'big' town of Gandia or indeed the very small village that we live in.Nevertheless we enjoy the procession and as we are keen to return 'home to get dinner, as we skipped lunch, we find we have not used any money - still 33 euros left!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The long and winding road...

Thursday 1st April

She says...

First off after breakfast we leave our predominantly German neighbours basking in the lovely sunshine. It appears that some have almost set up home here particualrly the van that boasted a window box full of herbs. The lady owner of the site had already explained that she has special terms for long stayers. We however head towards the beach which though fairly average is however set in a beautiul rocky bay. The beach is surrounded by a small village with a sprinkling of bars and shops.

After only a brief stop we head inland and drop by the second of the motorhome sites along this road. This time owned by a charming and very helpful Spanish gentleman who was keen to provide us with details of what he has to offer.

A long journey through some stunning countryside leaves us feeling a little bit more understanding about the 'net' and 'plastic' farms. The route towards Aguillas is fantastic, beautiful, rugged and green and above all unspoilt. As we head to Granada the plains open out and we are treated to miles of orchards bearing blossom, reaching as far as the foothills of the fabulous sierras either side.

Towards our planned stop of Venta del Peral we begin to spot the snow and know that we are getting close to Sierra Nevada. How's that then? A sea view one night and snow capped mountains the next - more than makes up for staying the night in what is simply nothing more than a car park, albeit, very well set up for the motorhomers and other driving visitors in terms of services provided.

We will not need to spend any money here but will most likely call into the bar or the shop. I will have a wander to see what is around. Didn't notice a farmacia!

He says...

A very peaceful night lead to a lazy and quite late start, but with only a couple of hours drive to our next nightstop we were in no real hurry. We made a small detour to visit another aire locally to research it for Club Motorhome, dropped by the beach for a quick look then pressed on.

TomTom gave us a couple of surprises en route taking us for many kilometers along single track (bumpy) mountain and valley roads before letting us on to some beautifully smooth Autovia across Andalucia to our next destination Vental Del Peral, an off-the-beaten-track service area with all facilities, except electric, that we would need - filling station, cafe, toilets, showers, bar and restaurant, even a hostal. Bonus was wifi available from our parking space! So an opportunity to update our blog and catch up with emails etc.

Not tonight Cartagena!

Wednesday 31st March

She says...

After a lousy night sleep when I was worrying about everything - especially it seems that I could not remember the capital of... Norway (what was that all about??) - we awaken to find all our neighbours have departed, which is not actually that unusual for us, so we have our breakfast and depart. That is not before a very precarious shower taken whilst at the service point (a full waste tank determined this!) which would have made Darcy Bussell look clumsy!

En route to Cartagena we find an easy parking Carrefour and having guessed that 40 euro would cover shopping for the rest of the week I am delighted to spend only 43!

As we drove into Cartagena I was very excited to see El Corte Ingles. Of course excitement like this could easily blow the budget! We find the site and are very disappointed to be stuck on the side of a petrol filling station in the LPG store and with a petrol tanker as a neighbour. Checking out the services we find a 10
euro charge sign as opposed to a donation box and decide to move on an hour down the coast to Calnegre where there are two motorhome sites. No El Corte Ingles - budget intact!

As we pass on down towards Calnegre we go via Mazarron Port where there are a large number of wildcampers just opposite the beach. We are a little disappointed by the landscape along this route which although undoubtedly beautiful is hidden by vast areas of plastic sheeting or netting. Obviously a living has to be made by the residents of this area and we know that Spain doesn't exist solely for tourists or travellers I am simply commenting on the way such a naturally beautiful land can be marred by intensive farming. I wonder is this huge reliance on protection from the elements to farm more intesively or simply supply the need for 'organic' answers - mmm !!

Spending 5 euro on the campsite for the night means we have 38 euro left until Monday but we have food until at least then! I am sure we will find a way of spending it but wish me luck.

We saved a bit today as we had no time for lunch, due to looking for a 'home' for the night but it did mean because we were so hungry we had to start on Friday's crisps as a snack to keep us going before dinner as we needed to stretch our legs before settling in for the night. I should explain 'Friday's crisps'; salt and vinegar crisps are a big craving of mine so I have Friday as a treat day. I previously forgot to mention another aim of this trip is for me to maintain the
weightwatchers points diet and all this with budget and economy cooking and shopping - well as I said I like(d) a challenge.

38 EURO LEFT UNTIL MONDAY!! Maybe because we failed to stop at any of the ubiquitous green crosses for mossie protection and relief!!!

He says...

With a leisurely start we set off for our next stop at Cartegena. On arrival we were a little disappointed with its surroundings, a chained compound alongside a gas storage area of a petrol forecourt, we would also have to share with a parked up petrol tanker - second thoughts maybe? No definitely, as we found a sternly worded sign declaring that whatever information we had prior to our visit there was now a charge of 10 Euro to stay the night!

So to plan B and new co-ordinates were plumbed into TomTom and we set off for another aire less than an hour away. On arrival at Calnegre, close to the coast we were greeted by the German owner and relieved of just 5 Euro - much better, and a much nicer location surrounded by mountains except for the sea view to the south. Apart form a couple of dutch motorhomes all the others (probably 20) were German.

Onwards and Southwards

Tuesday 30th March

She says...

We arrive back home to collect the few things we have forgotten (that's the beauty of Daimus!) and on to a neighbouring town where I collect the remaining 80 euro of our weekly budget from the cashpoint.

The drive to our night stop at Ibi is familiar to us as we have used this route to Alicante previously. On arrival we have our sandwich lunch, a very quick walk around Ibi in a very cold wind and a bit later our swordfish salad and potato dinner. By now I am tending to my whoppa mossie bites - presumably a souvenir of our night in Daimus and the promise of a visit to a Farmacia (well they are everywhere) tomorrow.

He says...

IBI is our next stop, an aire on the side of a sizeable town near to Alcoy. the only other motorhomes were an empty Spanish one and a couple of French who arrived late and left before we rose the next morning.

Its a basic aire but provided some entertainment with the local 'old boys' playing petanca alongside.

Off we go again...

Monday 29th March

She says....

So we start on Monday with a bonus of 10 euro left from last week. Following final packing and cleaning before leaving the house we make our way to Daimus (see ClubMotorhome). As we do not have our own home garage for our van it is a very handy first night stop, only 25 minutes from home, where we can get sorted out, unpacked and remind ourselves of all the things we have forgotten.

En route from home we stop at our local Mercadona for a couple of days food and some essentials - total bill 18.97 euro. That's until we decide to take a late lunch of takeout bocadillos - well that's seven of the bonus ten gone!

We arrive at Daimus take on water and settle down to the sorting out which actually takes only a short time as this is a trip for just us - no extras such as Christmas pressies, special outfits, stuff to sell or return to the UK. (see previous posts).

After a strolll along the very long prom at Daimus, we return for a relaxing drink and olives on the grass out front to enjoy the sound of the children enjoying the first night of their Easter break - oh and to protect our precious (see previous posts!) windscreen from the football!

The seven euro spent on bocadillos becomes more acceptable when we both decide that we are too full up to eat a full dinner. So now we have food until and including Wednesday!

Not a bad first nights sleep despite the sudden appearance of the 'hurricane' - ok I exaggerate - winds which roll up from nowhere!

He says...
Well, first night out sees us back at Daimus, fairly busy with motorhomes but no Brits - just Dutch and German together with a couple of Spanish this time. A pleasant evening sitting outside with a beer - and it must be warming up because I am back in shorts and flip flops for the first time this year!

Not much beats camping on the side of the Mediterranean under a full moon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A challenge

Spain on a budget (he says...)

We've had a 4 week break from our travels and this has given us the chance to catch up with some post winter maintenance on our old Spanish house. And, with the 'luxury' of broadband, an opportunity to get a lot more work done and content/features added onto our Club Motorhome website.

Well, we're itching to get back on the road again and have decided that we will head across southern Spain with Portugal as our target. We intend to do this trip on a strict budget and plan to spend no more than we would by staying at home. Of course, we don't have to budget for any ferry crossings so the only potential extra cost is fuel. By our reckoning, the amounts we save on water, electricity, logs, fuel for the car and 'excess'  food shopping will let us break even - we'll see...

So the route will take in Aires where possible, which is our preference anyway, and we will avoid any road tolls - again our normal preference. The basic route plan is as follows:

The Aires en route are:
  • Ibi
  • Cartegena
  • Venta el Peral
  • Alcaudete
  • Cabra
  • Valverde del Camino
  • Tavira

 Very happy to hear advice from others who may know of some good stopping places close to this route.

If all seems to be going according to our budget planning we'll then spend a little while exploring southern Portugal as it seems that the weather has improved following the attrocious winter. Inspired by some of the excellent blogs I've been reading we'll stay at some great sounding wildcamp spots. We have little experience of wildcamping and, although we are happy with our leisure battery and solar panel arrangements, it seems water and waste capacities will dictate how long one can stay in such places, again, we'll see....

Mission Impossible? (she says...)

Getting the call of the wild when no extra budget has been set aside can be frustrating to say the least.

A challenge they say is good, and so in the spirit of research for clubmotorhome and not, of course, because there are some
 fabulous fiestas to experience during the very important Easter 'celebrations' here in Spain. We have decided to set off again

With three very important aims:
- the first to spend no more per day than our 'home' budget
- the second to limit our fuel to our 'home' energy costs - this includes electric, wood, gas, and water.
- to have fun and experience what the southern areas of Spain and, fingers crossed Portugal, have to offer us. This is of course
 without spending over 'budget'.

When at 'home' I figure we live reasonably on 100 euros a week for food, diesel and the odd 'pint'. It does not cover celebrations, birthdays, catastrophes or clothes or any of the extras that come along. So the blog for this trip will include a brief expenditure up date, to let you know how I am facing up to the challenge.

Diesel is likely to be the problem due to its ever increasing cost. The one card we have tucked up our sleeve is that we are pretty sure we are starting on nearly a full tank - I'll let you know.

Speak to you on Monday.....

Saturday, February 27, 2010

26th Feb - 23 degrees and rising....

She says...

Well this is the last blog of this part of our journey.

An early start and we make our way from snow patches decorating the high hill to the odd tree bursting into blossom. The lower the altitude we reach the more trees are in bloom until in parts the landscape is a carpet of pink and white blossom. Sadly as we approach the coast the ugly buildings and over development become the norm' and we look forward to the route the east side of Valencia which takes us through the town and then down through the paddy fields and the natural park of Albufera.. Unfortunately whilst the waders are about by the score there is just nowhere to pull in to get any snaps. We did however see some heron, egret and grebe I think. My eyesight can be limited at a distance and I am no bird spotter although I think I may treat myself to some binoculars and a bird book. People still distrust me when I tell them I saw pink flamingoes there once!

After our old favourite lunch of bocadillos we catch up with our weekend shop before heading on towards Daimus. Our final stopping point before returning home and spending sometime at out lovely village house away from the madding crowds about 20 minutes inland from here.

Will blog if anything motorhome turns up otherwise I'll write again next time we are on the road in a month or so!

He says...

A good nights sleep, despite the buffeting wind and then a nice leisurely start to today with only about 3 hours drive ahead of us. The route we took has become familiar to us over the last year or so but the scenery changes so subtlely with the seasons. as we came down from the mountains onto the plains the fruit and nut blossoms increased massively, so tempted by the sight we pulled into a 'cami' for some pics...

For once we ignored TomTom and headed through Valencia rather than round it knowing that we would pass the incredible Arts and Science buildings - worthy of a visit of their own.

Valencia Arts & Science buildings
Cheating slightly as these were taken on a previous visit

Our only other stop was just a brief call in at the resort of Far, just north of Cullera, a very Spanish resort and therefore very quiet outside the Spanish summer season.

By early afternoon we arrived at our nightstop beachside at Daimus, a suburb of Gandia. The parking is informal wildcamping but seems to be well tolerated and popular. 4 other British vans this time, the other times we have visited (by car) the visitors have always been from elsewhere in Europe - word must be spreading!

Sea mist and sunrise at Daimus

Reading the Spanish press we were, I suppose, not really surprised to discover that Northern Spain had been having terrible gales. Winds of 100mph had been recorded uprooting many trees - this was in the region of our nightstop there in Renteria - see we weren't exaggerating!

Tomorrow we'll be back at our Spanish base for a week or two. First job will be to upload this blog as we have been out of the range of wifi for days.

25th Feb - Exploring a castle

She says...

Totally refreshed we wake up and, because we are staying again tonight, we take a relaxing wake up and then a walk up to the town of Morella to get a bit of shopping for todays food.

What a fabulous place - full of narrow streets, steps, loads of shopping and all topped by the fabulouse castle, oh and did I mention the steps! Still under restoration we decide to splash out two whole euro to visit the castle and are very pleased we did. So after many steps we reach the top. That was after a lot of steps you understand! A fantastic panorama with distant views all around. There's still patchy snow in the higher mountains in the distance.

Descent was naturally so much easier although that was when I noticed my thigh muscles - a total surprise as I had forgotten I had them, so infrequent has our exercise been this trip. Still only two more days and I can recommence swimming.

Luckily for us the bread shop also sold beer. A little refreshment later we carry on our journey back towards the Aire - who put that long drawn out uphill in since we had climbed to the town I do not know? Oh and by this time the sun is shining like a summers day. Thankfully it waited until we had climbed all of those steps!

He says...

Cloudy with lovely warm sunny spells today. Just right for a walk up to the town of Marella. A walled fortress in its time, it has been carefully restored and other than houses comprises shops, bars and restaurants along its narrow cobbled streets. Hilly would be an understatement, but we climbed to the level of the church and saw a notice explaining the castle above is open to visitors. Not wanting to miss the opportunity we bought a couple of tickets and wandered around and upwards to the top. The restoration is an ongoing work and seems to be very sympatheically done.

The views from the higher levels were quite amazing helped by such a clear day. Some photos:




Back down to high street level we couldn't resist a beer at one of the bars and were delighted to be back in the land of sensible pricing - none of the inflated French prices here! After another 20 minutes walking back to the motorhome we were happy to just have our lunch and put our feet up for the rest of the afternoon.

Our compatriates from yesterday had all departed in their different directions and a new UK registered arrival has parked up. We met the occupants briefly as we walked down from the town. We recommended the castle visit and judging by the tired expressions they had on their faces when they returned I think they took our advice.

24th Feb - Wind in the night

She says...

Oh what a night! What with him and his bad back and me certain that a tree would fall on us any time, very little sleep and a lot of solitaire was endured.

Just what is needed for a long journey ahead. Still, a steady journey passes initially some lovely scenery and then Zaragoza - well I guess it must have it's good bits! Maybe we should try a visit to it, rather than bypass it. After Zaragoza and into Aragon you notice the change in the landscape. I always think it is a little unearthly with great fields interrupted abrubtly by little mounds. A bit like upside downs craters, or for those geologists out there............??? Anyway onto Morella and our first stop totally surrounded by English speakers. made quite a nice change really.

A totally shameful early night - lets say nineish!

He says...

Another sleepless night partly due to my back but also the strength of the gales blowing outside seriously buffeting the van. The expectation was for one of the many surrounding trees to fall on us at any time. Eventually the morning came and we both prepared for the long drive ahead. Breakfast and services sorted we set the route on TomTom and started our 450km journey.

The roads were great, mostly smooth motorways and main roads. Normally we like to stay on back roads and take in the surroundings but today we were happy to keep our speed up and just see the terrain pass by. We are always struck by the difference in the towns and landscapes entering Spain from France, everything seems to be 'rougher', more rugged and has a very different sort of charm. Pretty French villages give way to functional, outwardly grubby housing - although we know from our own experiences that it is the insides of Spanish houses that are kept immaculately. Green, almost Alpine, scenery becomes arid plains and looks like a Wild West film set. Further south into Spain the fruit and nut trees become predominant with acres of olives and masses of pretty pink almond blossom developing (a little late this year?).

We were in need of some drinking water (we use bottled for drinking) so called into a garage for some. Unfortunately the place was shut but as we sat on the forecourt a young lady came out to see what we wanted, then opened up the shop just to sell us a couple of bottles - can't imagine that sort of service elsewhere.

Arriving at the aire in Morella we were pleased to see another couple of vans parked up, and British as well, Roz and Duncan in their Burstner, Joan and Dennis in their Timberland and an Irishman and his dog who's names I forgot to ask. We said hi and passed the time of day - nice to chat with other travellers with similar experiences.

Really tired by now so another super home made curry and a very early night, maybe catch up on some lost sleep.

Clear Spanish sky

23rd Feb - The sun has got his hat on!

She says...

The coast just across the road from the Aire is absolutely stunning. We walked along the pathway towards Spain and its lovely mountains which we think we can see in the distance still have a little snow. Today however it is the rollers that are just breathtaking, smashing down on a few rocks that lie just off the waters edge. An old gentleman speaking in a language we recognise  that is Spanish tells us that the birds perched on top of the rocks are cormorants and that they can see fish from 200 metres away! Wish we understood French as well as we do Spanish and that is far from great!

After our walk we decide to leave and take a drive around the coastline - a repeat of what we had driven when travelling up to UK in December only in reverse of course! We will have a lunch along the way. We miss every turn off along the way drive through Hendaye Plage and end up in Spain and before long at the Aire we had settled on for the night! We decide not to stay as although it seems well set up, it is simply a car park so we head for Renteria which is also, just a car park, this time in the middle of nowhere. Oh well, if I don't sleep it'll only be another night not sleeping well. It is very windy and a little wild - well good night!

He says...

Not much sleep due to back twinges at every move but an early start nonetheless. Bright sunshine and tee shirt weather at last! Another walk down along the shoreline to wonder at the power of those Atlantic waves.

We watched a group of cormorants sitting out on a rock - they seemed to be defying the sea to move them and they won!




Drying out!

Deciding to move on to find a beachside lunch stop we set off for St Jean de Luz and the coast road. But, unable to stop at the only likely looking spot we carried on and suddenly found ourselves across the (non) border and into Spain!

Our plan was to go to Donostia San Sebastian and stay at the aire there. Its very urban at the rear of a university and too much  'concrete' for us so we upped sticks again and moved slightly inland to Renteria. The aire is at a picnic spot in what seems to be the middle of nowhere but we're staying the night anyway!

Other than the occasional vehicle passing it is very remote here. Mountains all around so very scenic and great for walks if we were staying longer. We're well topped up batterywise and we have enough water and tank capacity to be self sufficient. The aire has water and waste services anyway to use before we leave tomorrow.

So, hopefully, tonight will be a quiet one and tomorrow we'll set off on the long haul south towards Valencia on the other side of the country. Our target is Morella, a walled fortress town high in the mountains........

22nd Feb - On the road again

She says...

We made our getaway as planned and so far I have not been driving.

Southwards we travel first to Seignosse to have a look at wherre we knew an Aire was being renovated or constructed. seems to be all singing and dancing with the lovely bollards that you think will rise into the cab beside you just as you pass over it. We decide to give it a miss and go on to Contis Plage. Certainly a lovely place but with the weather we were having thought it might be a little wild. took a walk to the beach and decided once more to move on. This time to Capbreton where we stopped for lunch but with everything turned off we decided to move on again.

So finally we make it to Biarritz and with quick visit to the beach it is now time to make dinner and with electric thrown in of course, another film - our stock will run down very quickly at this rate. Our supernarket purchases from Christmas gift money are keeping us well entertained so thanks Mum and Dad and also John who saved us all his Daily Mail freebies! Poorly back

Not before I demand a little cruelly that my poor old photographer attempts the sunset. Think he did good!

He says...

24 hours later there was a little improvement in my back so we headed off after a leisurely start to the day. We called in at an aire at Contis Plage just a little further down the coast but didn't stay as there was little to see - Mimizan kind of spoils you! The next stop was Capbreton where we had spent a couple of days last summer, it's a very busy aire with all services available..... not this time! 4 or 5 vans were there, no electricity available and the water services were all disrupted due to construction work. So, a quick look at the beach and we were off again.

Our original plan was to stop at St Jean de Luz before leaving France but, I had been given advice that it was a very small aire and quite noisy so we chose Biarritz instead. A very busy aire but plenty of space and close to the southern end of the town and the fabulous shoreline. 10 Euro for the night - our most expensive nightstop yet - sad to see some motorhomers departing just before the police arrive to collect, then reappear for the night after the police have left. I still wasn't up to much walking but, encouraged to do so, went down to the beach at sunset with my camera - what a fantastic place!