Places we went 2016
Glentham – Lincolnshire
Devizes – Wiltshire
- Kennet and Avon Canal
- Caen Hill Locks
Andalucía – Spain April 2016
- Cordoba – Community: Andalucía – Province: Córdoba
- Seville – Community: Andalucía – Province: Seville
- Italica – Community: Andalucía – Province: Seville
- Tarifa – Community: Andalucía – Province: Cadiz
- Tangier – Morocco
- La Linea – Community: Andalucía – Province: Cadiz
- Gibraltar – British Oversea Territory
- Ronda – Community: Andalucía – Province: Malaga
- Crevillente – Community: Valencia – Province: Alicante
- Peniscola – Community: Valencia – Province: Castello
- Cambrils – Community: Cataluña – Province: Tarragona
- Salou – Community: Cataluña – Province: Tarragona
- Tank Driving
- Kennet and Avon Canal
- Winchester – The King’s City
Rhine/Mosel – Germany June/July 2016
- Oberwesel – State: Rhineland-Palatinate – District: Rhein-Hunsruck-Kreis
- Bacharach – State: Rhineland-Palatinate – District: Mainz-Bingen
- Geisenheim and Rudesheim – State:Hesse – District: Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis
- Muden (Mosel) – State: Rhineland-Palatinate – District: Cochem-Zell
- Geierlay – State: Rhineland-Palatinate – District: Rhein-Hunsruck-Kreis
- Neef – State: Rhineland-Palatinate – District: Cochem-Zell
- Kinheim – State:Rhineland-Palatinate – District:Bernkastel-Wittlich
- Trittenheim – State:Rhineland-Palatinate – District:Trier-Saarburg
- Trier – State:Rhineland-Palatinate
The Italian Lakes September 2016
- Lake Maggiore – in both Italy and Switzerland
- Arona – Region:Piedmont – Province:Novara
- Stresa – Region:Piedmont – Province:Novara
- Villa Taranto
- Isola Madre
- Isola Bella
- Lake Iseo – Region:Lombardy – Province:Brescia
- Mont Isola
- Lake Garda – Region:Lombardy – Province:Brescia
- Lake Ledro – Region:Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol – Province:Trentino
- The Grand Canal
- St Marks Square
- St Marks Basilica
- The Doges Palace
- The Campanile
- Cugnasco – District:Locarno – Canton:Ticino – Switzerland
- Keyserberg – Region: Grand Est (formerly Alsace) – Department:Haut-Rhin
- St Marie du Lac Nuisement – Region:Grand Est – Department:Marne
- Watten – Region:Hauts-de-France – Department:Nord
January 2016 – Glentham, Lincolnshire
We have returned from a lovely break with ‘family’ in Lincolnshire. Even though the weather was grey and wet we had a great time and the dogs were very spoilt by Auntie Eileen.
Derick taught me how to pluck and gut a pheasant (thanks Steven Tuplin) which was a valuable life skill and not as bad as I thought it might be. So now we have a beautiful pheasant to eat in our freezer – yum.
We had a great lunch of fish and chips and Papa’s Fish Bar in Gainsborough – it was delicious, the batter was crisp and no soggy bits in the middle, the fish was thick and melted in your mouth and the chips were chunky and crisp – perfect.
All in all a great short break visiting two very loved people……………
Devizes Feb 2016
On one cold day in February we set off towards Devizes and the Camping and Caravan Site in Seend next to the Kennet and Avon Canal. This is only 2 hours from home and so the travel time doesn’t eat into a 2-3 day break.
Once we had pitched up and drunk our essential cup of tea it was time to put on the walking boots and explore. The access to the canal is only 100 yards from the entrance to the site and we could see the narrow boats moored up from our pitch due to the lack of leaf cover this time of year.
There are approximately half a dozen permanently moored up boats along this stretch of canal with their brightly coloured livery. In the summer months there is so much more to see as the holiday boats take to the water from the nearby marina.
We headed west towards Bath taking in the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside as this section of canal is set upon an embankment. There are several locks to look at on the way, and various wildlife including swans, kingfishers and Canadian geese. There are also opportunities to sit and relax with many benches along this stretch of canal. Even though the sun was shining it was very cold and so we kept walking. After 1.4 miles we reached the much welcome Barge Inn and took a detour for a pint of cider. This is a lovely canal side pub that serves some superb food and drink, complete with a pub garden on the waterfront for the warmer months, even dogs are welcome!
Once we had warmed through in front of the open fire, enjoyed our drink and taken a toilet break it was time to head back towards the Caravan site before darkness fell.
Waking up to another sunny but cold frosty day we took to our bicycles. The great thing about being next to a canal is that we can cycle on relatively flat ground and the dogs can run alongside us without getting into any mischief or accidents. We are able to cycle so much further than we can walk and so this time we headed east towards the Caen Hill flight of locks. This is a magnificent sight on the Kennet and Avon canal with the main section of 16 locks forming a scheduled monument. The twenty nine locks start at Foxhangers Bridge and a placard reveals that the solar panels in the field behind power the pumping station that pumps the water to the top of the locks to alleviate water shortages during busy periods on the canal.
The incline of the main section of locks was too steep for me to cycle and so I got off my bike and walked to the top where a much needed café awaited. The Caen Hill café is very small with only 4-5 tables but the cakes and pastries are delicious and once again dogs are welcome to sit inside with their owners. After refuelling our bodies it was time to head on. The canal circumvents the town of Devizes and like most towns and cities it is nice to see it from a completely almost hidden perspective. We continued on the tow path along Devizes wharf past the old wharf buildings and the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust Museum to the other side of Devizes before deciding that it was time to head back.
I am not exactly sure what happened but I stopped on my bike and whilst trying to dismount managed to get my shoelace tangled around the spring on my new bike seat and the next thing I was flat down on the floor with my bike on top of me and a very sore face that had hit the deck. I must be the only person who managed to fall off a bike whilst stationary and I am not sure what hurt most my body or my pride!
Having cycled a total of 9.2 miles the dogs arrived back at the van absolutely filthy as they are only small Jack Russell’s with their bellies so close to the ground they hoover up all the wet and dirt. We invested in some ‘doggy bags’ that we had seen demonstrated at the NEC Motorhome show and they are marvellous. They are like sleeping bags to look at, you place your dog in the bag with their heads protruding out and ‘hey presto’ some 15-20 minutes later they come out all clean and dry. Perfect for our travels and well worth the money.
The following day we took the bus into Devizes to look around the town which has many breweries offering tours. The bus stop is 100 metres from the caravan site and you can also catch a bus in the opposite direction to the beautiful city of Bath.
Devizes has a lovely market square which is one of the largest in the South West. There is a market held on Thursday and farmers and French markets held at various times throughout the year. After a wander through the historic Shambles market place which held an antiques fair on the day we visited we headed for the fish and chip shop for a delicious fish and chip supper, the perfect end to a perfect short break.
Andalusia – Spain April 2016
We left a sunny Somerset on Sunday and headed for Plymouth to catch our ferry to Santander. By the time we had reached Exeter it was pouring with rain!
We arrived at about 1.15 for our sailing at 3.45 so we had plenty of time to have a cuppa and sandwich. The check in was bedlam, queues of traffic in many lanes and then once we got the other side we queued ready to go through security. This was amusing to watch as they called forward 3 vehicles at a time into a makeshift shed on the dockside, checked the underside with one of those mirrors that are reminiscent of the IRA times and got everyone to open their boots. We looked at the amount of traffic and quickly realised that we would either be sailing out at midnight or they would have to change their tack. Well once we got to 3.30 they realised that they had probably nearly 300 cars/motorhomes etc to still check and so security was abandoned and we were ushered to another waiting area to board. We got on the ship at about 4.15 some 3 hours after we arrived! My patience was rather strained and we still needed to get the dogs to the kennels. An official came along and proceeded to usher us and the dogs to the lift to take them up to the kennels via some extremely tightly parked cars; how we managed to squeeze through with two dogs and two carry-on bags I do not know but we did. Up in the kennels it was chaos; there was no running water and no food and water bowls that they stated on their website they provided. We put Freddie in Molly in the separate kennels we had booked and looked around for the bowls. Needless to say we only found one and so we decided to put the dogs in together as there was plenty of room but they did not look happy and for once Molly did not grizzle at Fred (blue moon tonight?).
We found out our cabin, small but clean and then went to information to complain about the lack of water for the dogs. Apparently the ship has just come back from Poland for some sulphur emission filters to be fitted and when it returned there was no bowls and the water tap had been broken among other things!
Water was provided in the form of bottled water – two big crates of it and we took the dogs out for a walk along the very small deck and even smaller dog walking area provided. They didn’t like this much and wouldn’t ‘perform’ – not surprised, I wouldn’t want to either.
Having looked at the food on offer in the main restaurant, motorway service station sprung to mind we decided to go to the fancy restaurant and were told we didn’t need to book, which wasn’t correct. Fortunately for us the manager took pity on us and found us a table. We had a lovely meal made even more special as the couple next to us were really friendly and were interested in where we had travelled and any tips we could pass on and this was their first trip abroad in the motorhome although they had travelled a lot in a caravan in France. It was a lovely evening and we stayed in the restaurant for 2 ½ hours enjoying their company and the four course meal:
Marc had: Prawns wrapped in hair like pasta, spiced lamb, cheese (yes Larissa he had cheese!) and a Grand Marnier soufflé.
I had: Mushroom burger thing topped with a poached egg and a delicious sauce, some artichoke ravioli (which I didn’t enjoy) and millefolle with baby crème caramels and of course cheese.
We didn’t sleep well, the movement of the boat along with a very full tummy made me feel extremely sick, and the room was very hot. I think I probably dozed in the early hours and then it was time to get up.
Breakfast was divine, the choice wonderful:
6-8 different cereals, cheese, ham, croissants, bread, rolls, boiled eggs, salmon, tomatoes, yoghurts, fresh fruit, dried fruit and that’s even before you start on the hot cooked stuff; sausages, tomatoes, bacon, fried egg, scrambled egg, toast……..
I didn’t do breakfast justice as I was still feeling full from the night before.
We stood up on the top deck to watch the ferry arrive in Santander; it was wonderful, the river that pulls up along the city is really quite small and it was interesting to literally drive through the city in the ship.
All in all, some good points and some not so good; not sure if I would take to cruising though – I always thought that as we got older we might take up a cruise package or two but the sensation of the boat and my lack of sea legs (must have been at the back of the queue for those) has put me off.
Travelling out of Santander was not difficult although the Satnav didn’t like it much and thought we were driving ‘off road’. we just followed the signs and headed for the motorway – ‘simples’.
Our first stop was a Camperstop in a village called Sepúlveda (www.camperstop.com). This was literally just a car park but it was safe, clean and tidy. There were a few shops in the village square but by the time we arrived it was all closed up for the day. We had a walk around as my guidebook states that the town has many remains of Roman fortification and a lovely church which dates back to the 11th Century (also closed). We did however see some storks nesting rather precariously on the bell tower of another church and Marc seen through the binoculars five Griffin Vultures circling.
The following morning, we continued our journey South: We got stuck on the Madrid version of the M25 with many ‘cocks with ears’ as Marc calls them, switching lanes just so they are 2 cars ahead and even worse my big hate those who travel up an outer lane even though they need to get off or take the inner lane and then they slam on their brakes because they need to pull into said lane and wait for some poor sod to let them in!!!!! Put we did travel over the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama just south of Madrid and on our approach it was quite surreal to see the skyline of Madrid with the wild snow covered mountains behind. When you think of Spain you don’t think of snow but this was one of many ranges in Spain that still had snow including Pico’s de Europa near Santander which we intend to visit one day!
We did pull into a lovely but windy aire in Puerto Lapice, south of Madrid to top up on water and empty out as our camperstop book said that the stop in Cordoba has no facilities.
I love our Satnav ‘James’, he has a silky smooth voice and is usually correct, however he let us down in Cordoba according to Marc, I just think they moved the entrance to the Camperstop!! A domestic was on the cards as we pulled into a narrow barrier entrance with no way that Boris was going to turn into a bendy bus anytime soon to get into a car park that ‘wasn’t the aire’. A car pulled in behind tooting her horn and soon pulled out to let us ‘back up’ after Marc gave her his best Spanish!
Fortunately, a young lad witnessed all this and pointed out that the entrance was in the next street and whilst it was a one-way system with no traffic in sight we committed the ultimate HGV sin and pulled into the entrance ‘going the wrong way’. At last we had arrived in Cordoba, tempers frayed but in once piece.
The camperstop/aire is right in the centre, set in a park and with brand new water and waste facilities for €11 per night it is perfect. It is set on the main road with the fortified wall just opposite so all the old town and its delights are within easy reach.
That evening we just went to explore, to get our bearings for the next day and wandered the myriad of narrow cobbled streets in the warm sunshine. It was delightful, and remarkably quiet for a city, we found the Mezquita (the former Moorish mosque and now catholic cathedral) and the entrance to the Alcazar (princely palace and gardens) and planned the next day.
We slept really well, like I said for a city it was really quiet, either that or we were just ‘dog tired’.
We set off early so that we could get to the Mezquita for when it opened and enjoyed the beautiful and fragrant atmosphere of the Court of Orange Trees before buying our tickets. We were booked into the first time slot for the climb up the baroque Campanario (bell tower and former minaret). It was wonderful, divided into sections we climbed so far, walked out into the sunshine upon the bell platforms before climbing again and again. The views were magnificent across the city and bells bigger than I imagined and more than I imagined.
After our exercise for the day we entered the interior of the Mezquita and I was completely blown away by its beauty. There are not enough words to even begin to describe this marvel of architecture. It is a massive space filled with double arches topped with red and white designs, beautiful wooden windows carved to let ‘just the right’ amount of sunlight through. The carvings, paintings, chapels and the whole atmosphere was unbelievable; as stated in the brochure “the cathedral of Cordoba may awake the demand and quest for a greater beauty that will not wither with time. Because beauty, as truth and righteousness, are an antidote for pessimism, and an invitation to take pleasure in life, a shaking of the of the soul that provokes the longing for God”.
Well it certainly shook my soul and I spent the whole time with tears in my eyes at the sheer beauty of the place looking vacantly at all around me.
For me it was a soul enriching experience.
After a lovely lunch we then took in the beautiful gardens of the Alcazar. All I kept saying to Marc was “if I win the lottery I am going to have a house with a garden like this”. It wasn’t just the beauty of the flowers, trees, cut and neatly trimmed hedges, fountains and ponds it was the assault of the senses, the lemon and orange flowers, nicotainia and many other scents that I couldn’t identify.
Another soul fulfilling experience, I could have stayed there all day but we wanted to get to Seville before nightfall and so we dragged ourselves away with a promise to return to Cordoba and spend a lot more time here, especially now we know where the camperstop is and that it has a service point.
It was an easy drive to Seville and the AIRE (All the Aires Spain and Portugal – www.vicarious-shop.com) which is set in an industrial part of Seville next to the very large canal and a busy, noisy working docks. The aire is situated in a large car park that is part of an industrial complex that transports cars/trucks/jeeps on low loaders.
We were able to park near to an electric point and whilst this is not usually something we go out of our way to do as most of our gadgets were out of juice we needed to. It is a good 20-minute walk from the aire to the edge of tourist attractions and we set off on our bikes early the following morning. There are many cycle routes alongside the roads or on the pavements and also many bike parks so for us it was an easy ride into the centre of Seville parking our bikes just around the corner from the cathedral which doesn’t open until 11.00 am.
In many parts of Seville there are horses and carriages to take you on a ride around the city; whilst waiting for the cathedral to open I had to say ‘hello’ to one of the waiting horses. All of the carriage operators are licenced much like our taxi’s and have a set price to take you around the city. Marc knows how much I love horses and so we paid €45 for an hour long trip. It was sooooooooooooooo wonderful – I cannot describe how I felt – I thought the cathedral at Cordoba was soul fulfilling but this……………. As I look at the pictures ready to put them on the blog I am left in tears (happy tears) as it was such a wonderful emotional trip. The architecture around the city is amazing but the Maria Luisa park and Plaza de Espana were breath-taking. I would certainly recommend this form of travel to see the sights as it is so relaxing, the horses and carriages have precedence over the traffic and you get to see so much of the city in one trip. We have already decided we are coming back next year, doing the trip again and exploring the park on foot in more detail.
The cathedral was great but not because of its beauty; for me it was the scale of it, it was a bit like the Americans in the queue behind us BIG and NOISY with a ‘look at me attitude’ that wasn’t worthy of all that noise. The part I enjoyed most was the bell tower as it went around in a circular motion but you were walking along all four sides on a slight incline and not steps. The views from various vantage points on the way and the top were awesome and we added the bullring to our next trip of places to visit.
After some refreshments we decided to head back as it was nearing 30°C and we had naturally left the dogs in the van. This means that the Alcazar will also need to be added to another trip.
Just North of Seville is the Archaeological complex of Italica. This was a fascinating trip and for EU residents it is free to enter. It was the first permanent Roman settlement in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and Hadrian was born here! The amphitheatre was stunning but for me it was the mosaic floors that won me over. It was extremely hot in the 30°C sun and we didn’t really do the place justice only spending about an hour here before heading off for a few days R&R.
Thanks to Dick our allotment neighbour we are now in a lovely campsite just to the west of Tarifa. Dick lived in the area for a while and suggested this as a place to visit, thanks Dick. It is so us, quiet, hardly any people, large private pitches, really friendly staff and a large almost empty beach just 500 metres down a small lane opposite the campsite entrance. It is called Camping Valdevaqueros and can be found in ACSI book. We have just been relaxing, cleaned the van, sat in the sunshine and I even had a G&T whilst uploading my blog yesterday a rarity for me the person who seldom drinks. The dogs are loving it and the ‘beach bum’ called Fred is in his element! We might even take a trip out to Morocco – yes you have read correctly Morocco. There is a fast ferry from Tarifa to Tangier!
Tangier – Morocco
We did it, booked the fast ferry guided tour to Morocco. We left the campsite in a taxi to the port as it is too far to walk or cycle. The process of getting our pre-booked ticket was easy, the process of getting through security not so. Unfortunately, we arrived just after a coach full of people; mainly in Arab style dress with loads of suitcases, there was an old woman in front of us with two big wheeled suitcases she couldn’t control and a big shopping bag, and her husband had three suitcases and two shopping bags – what on earth had they been up to – buying stuff up or was it their worldly possessions.
Health and safety would have had a field day as we walked up the drive on ramp whilst cars were being loaded at the same time and then had to climb up to the main travelling decks via some very steep steps.
The biggest shock was the weather, we were not dressed for it, we assumed that Morocco would be blistering hot and so I had on a sun dress and small cardigan and Marc was in shorts and shirt and it rained the whole time and was so cold! Apparently they have had a really strange weather this winter with the snow coming late and no rain until today. The tour guide said he was glad it was raining and I said well we toyed in here on Boris just for you and you can keep it!
My first impression of Morocco was ‘what a shabby place’, there were so many buildings half built, and so many half demolished it looked like a war-zone. Even the so called plush villas renting at £1200 per night (yeah right) were awful.
Our first stop was at small layby where there were camels for photographic opportunities and a short ride if you wished. There was only 6 of us on the tour and so I got on a camel and had a ride the length of the layby but when some of the others got on they only walked about 4-5 steps before it was over for €2.00. Then the guy said to me to look at the baby camel which I did and Marc took photos and then he charged us €2.00! The baby camel was cute though.
Next we pulled in to a point that overlooked the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea but it was so gloomy it was hard to see the Spanish coast some 11km away.
Next stop was the caves of Hercules but we were not given any details about the place which was really disappointing.
We were then taken for a bit of a tour around the city in the minibus with various buildings pointed out to us but we didn’t stop so that we could take photos.
Next was the Kasbah a labyrinth of alleys and ‘dens of iniquity’! There were some nice features of architecture but the overall impression was of poverty. Today was the Berbers Lady’s market where they were selling all the fruit and veg and some were even selling milk in plastic drinks bottles.
We had our lunch in a traditional style Moroccan restaurant of a nice hot soup (much needed as I was freezing) kebabs on metal skewers and then chicken on couscous. The meal was included in the trip but drinks were not. We didn’t want a drink as we had brought our own water and the waiter got really snotty because I put the bottles on the table to rest them whilst I got settled. Never mind perhaps in Islam manners are banned because when others in the group ordered drinks he barked the price at them when he wanted payment. We were given a mint tea and some sweet pasty thing but didn’t have the time to drink it as our tour guide wanted to get going so we didn’t miss the ferry back.
After this we had a tour of the souk and I was amazed to see an old lady lying on the floor with her husband using rope to tie two very big sacks to her back before pulling on the rope to raise her to her feet so she could go about her business. I don’t know how she managed to carry them!
We were constantly badgered on our way around as is the Arab culture when you walk around the souks but we didn’t want to buy anything as it was so wet and cold I just wanted to get out the there. We were taken to a spice shop where the poor guy had a really hard sell, apparently all the herbs and spices were miracle cures and they even had something to cure cancer!!
We had a nice trip back on the catamaran and got chatting to another couple on the same tour as us who were staying in Cadiz and they very kindly gave us a lift back to the campsite where I am presently trying to warm up.
Overall I was a little disappointed as I thought Morocco would be a beautiful place with wonderful bright vibrant architecture and have some mysticism about it (Arabian nights) but it was dirty and grubby. The tour could have been better with more explanation of the things we seen but it always seemed like we were being pushed for time. I had always fancied a holiday in Morocco but after seeing the place I am glad that I only paid €59 for the trip and not several hundred for a holiday. I don’t think I would want to go back to Tangier and it maybe that the main tourist areas of Marrakesh and Agadir are nicer.
La Linea and Gibraltar
It rained all of last night and it was time to move on. We headed for the Camperstop at La Linea which is a town right on the land bridge to Gibraltar and the marina. It took a bit of finding but after going around some roundabouts a couple of times we arrived. It is a lovely place to stop and we are looking right over the million pound yachts ahead of us.
The weather is still a bit inclement but it has stayed dry. After lunch we walked to the border that is Spain/Gibraltar and after showing our passports off we went. I am not sure what I expected but basically it is a ‘rock’ jutting out of the sea with a small land mass to the west of the rock with many high rises. In front of the rock the natural land bridge has been extended either way to accommodate a runway and all that stops a plane landing on your head is a level crossing stopping you from walking and driving across the runway whilst a plane lands or take’s off – where in the world would you find that!
It is quintessentially British with the red buses and post boxes and a Marks and Spencer. The bus drivers must have gone to the same course as the ones back home as they were grumpy and unhelpful, one even shut the doors as an old couple were trying to disembark and he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t close! There are many duty free shops selling tobacco and perfume at a really cheap price and even the fuel is a much better price than back home so the tax situation must be very different.
It was a strange place with many high end shops and apartments and then next to that areas of council house tower blocks and many areas currently being redeveloped.
We walked to the cable car as I wanted to see the monkeys and it was a delight. The views were fantastic and we could even make out exactly where Boris was parked in the marina on the mainland of Spain. The monkeys are exactly how they describe, mischievous and sometimes dangerous.
As we got off the cable car a lady in front of us had a monkey jump down off the wall and headed straight for her child’s buggy grabbing a packet of crisps in the basket underneath and running off with it.
One of the people that we met on our trip yesterday to Morocco was bitten by a monkey as it made a grab for her camera case and when she pulled it away it bit her! We had a wonderful time with them and one sat on my shoulders for quite a while – just resting his head and having a look around.
At least with this trip we were prepared for the weather, we had our rain coats on and woolly hats and we needed them on the top of the rock as it was cold and blustery but back at sea level it was really hot, a real microclimate.
I have managed to upload the short video Marc took of the monkey in Gibraltar that sat on my shoulders:
I am feeling rather pleased with myself – and I did this without the help of my children!
We left a sunny/cloudy mix in La Linea and headed inland to Ronda. The road from the motorway in the South to the Ronda was a real mountain pass. We climbed steadily, twisting and turning, turning back on ourselves and all through the pouring rain and rapidly declining mercury. By the time we arrived (a 40-mile stretch that took 1 ½ hours) it was only 3°C and still raining. We pulled into the campsite called El Sur one that we noticed our friends Peter and Nia had used (www.peterandnia.com) and booked in.
The first pitch we were allocated was waterlogged and Marc was not happy; he had a look around the site and decided that he wanted another pitch and asked the lady to change us – which she did.
This was only marginally better and we even burnt some rubber on Boris’s wheels trying to get him up on the ramps as we were on ‘the lean’.
After lunch we walked into Ronda with the dogs in the rain! It was not at all what I expected and so much more touristy than I imagined and a bit of a disappointment because there were so many people. We couldn’t find the walkway down to the bottom of the bridge that spans the two sides of the cliff linking the two halves of Ronda but we did find the bullring and the dogs were allowed in. After a quick tour we decided that we were wet enough and we got a taxi back to the site approximately 1 ½ miles away.
When we got back to the site we seen a woodpecker on a tree on the next pitch whilst waiting for the kettle to boil!
We decided to try out the restaurant attached to the site and it was well worth it. They had many set menus in which you had a choice of two items for starter and main and after some deliberation I had a goat’s cheese salad, and an absolutely delicious chicken breast stuffed with meat, and wrapped in a type of bacon cooked really crispy on the outside and soft and moist in the middle with a mushroom sauce, chips and French beans. Marc had grilled red peppers stuffed with cod, and a fillet of cod on a tomato, ratatouille dish with French beans. We had a class of white wine, some warm bread and for desert I had crème Brule and Marc had panna cotta and to finish we had an aniseed liquor all for €38.70. A bargain and thoroughly delicious.
We left Ronda and instead of going to Granada we decided to carry straight on and leave Granada for another day as Marc was concerned about parking in the city and was generally having a grumpy moment. We headed for Camping Marjal again a site that Pete and Nia had visited that looked really nice. Little did I know that there are two of them and we have pitched up in the wrong one!! By the time we realised I had done a load of washing and so we are going to leave here tomorrow morning and head for the sister camp some 23 miles away that looks so much nicer than this and is apparently a lot quieter – this site is full and we would need to leave on Friday anyway. To say that Camping Marjal in Guardamar is not our sort of site is an understatement and I can’t wait to leave.
We took the dogs for a walk on the beach which is quiet a walk away and the whole area is really run down and horrid. The river next to the track to the beach is full of plastic drinks bottles and how any wildlife survives in it I really do not know, but the beach was clean and the dogs loved chasing for sticks in the water.
I am getting really blonde in my old age; when we pulled into Camping Marjal we both remarked that it looked nothing like the pictures on Pete and Nia’s website but we didn’t really take much notice, we were tired and just wanted to set up. It wasn’t until much later that I realised there were two sites!
We have just spent the last few days at Camping Marjal Costa Blanca and it was wonderful. The site itself is absolutely massive with 1200 touring pitches. Even though it is in effect a mini city it wasn’t crowded and we loved it. The sanitary blocks are huge with a village square atmosphere alongside them to sit and relax in. The laundry room was the footprint of our bungalow with 5 washer, 2 dryers and 10 hand washing sinks, along with 3 ironing boards and enough room to swing 50 cats!
We have enjoyed just swimming, sunbathing and relaxing. We went to the market in Catral yesterday and bought 2 kgs of strawberries for €3.00 – a bargain.
It has been in the high 20’s and it is amazing how quick you get used to the temperature. When we first arrived in Spain we seen the locals in jeans and jumpers whilst we were in shorts and t-shirts but now in the early evening we find it cold at 25ºC!
The site has many full timers and they certainly pack some stuff. The British couple behind us have a caravan, awning and a seperate campervan that they find to small to live in! The guy next to us had a caravan, awning, seperate tent for the kitchen and the whole pitch was layed down with artificial grass! Our pitch was so big it could have housed 2 Boris’s. Everything about this site is big but it is beautiful as it is a village just for campers and is set in the middle of no-where. The best way to get around is via bike.
When we arrived at Camping Eden in Peniscola we had the yearly domestic regarding the pitch! The one I wanted Marc said that we wouldn’t get onto but I was insistent – guess what we didn’t fit and so I stomped off and said “well you chose it”. Nevermind we had just driven nearly 6 hours without stopping and I was hungry and grumpy. We set up and then relaxed by the pool with Tony and Rosie before walking into the ‘old town’ that evening for supper. Not many places were open and we stopped at a little taverna that had seats overlooking the beach and had a ‘moderate’ dinner – not the best thing I have ever tasted but not quite the worse either.
Marc went to walk the dogs early in the morning only to discover that dogs were banned from the beach and as the police station was right outside the campsite he didn’t ‘push it’!
That morning we left Rosie and Tony to their bike ride into Benicarlo and we walked up to the castle. The views were stunning and the architecture of the old town wonderful.
That afternoon we again lazed around the pool and got in the very cold water!
That evening we tried out the campsite restaurant – nothing to do with the fact that we got a free bottle of wine per couple! We were the only ones in their and it was a lovely restaurant and the food excellant.
Cambrils & Salou
We left Peniscola and took a leisurely drive to Cambrils buying some oranges from the street side vendor near Amposta that we have bought from before; a 5kg bag for €7 and a 2kg bag of lemons for €2 – a bargain.
When we pulled into the campsite it was like ‘coming home’, we were made so welcome by the receptionist who said she recognised us and welcome back. We arrived before Rosie and Tony as we had left separately so that we could both do what we wanted and stop when and where we wanted; this enabled us to take the dogs down onto the beach for some much needed exercise.
When Tony and Rosie arrived we decided to give them a bit of a tour and walked into Cambrils town some 2 miles away.
We were treated to a delicious BBQ by Tony and Rosie and so when they suggested that we cycle to Salou we asked if they would like to come to a local restaurant in Cambrils with us called Ramons. This is a place that Marc and his family used to visit many years ago when his uncle had a villa here. It is really basic in decor but so nice to support a local business. Unfortunately our Spanish is extremely limited and the only other language they spoke was French. Usually we just point at what everybody else is having but we were the first there. Although it is a set meal there are options and the starter was cold meats and cheese or lentil something or other. We all had the delicious variety of cold meats and cheese. Main was a little harder to work out but we understood Calamari and Tony had some meat on the bone as the waiter pointed to his elbow! It ended up being a whole squid and pork elbow but delicious all the same. Desert was apple pie, lemon cream mousse thing and ice cream. Along with 4 beers and a bottle of white wine it was lovely, entertaining and good fun.
With extremely full tummies we continued our cycle to Salou but it was so windy we only got part way before deciding to head back.
It was just as well as it started to rain not long after we got back to the site and continued through most of the night.
After a very wet night we awoke to a clear sky and sunshine and so decided to ‘try again’ our cycle to Salou.
There were many beautiful buildings and fountains but unfortunately they weren’t switched on.
After calling in at the market in Cambrils on our way back we managed to clock up 15.90 miles!!!! Time for some updates on the blog and some sunbathing.
We left Cambrils on an overcast day and started our slow journey North towards the border with France and the campsite where we met Tony/Rosie and Peter/Nia last March at L’Estartit. We called in via the GP Supermarket and picked up some essential items and some non-essential ones including another 2kg box of strawberries for €1.90! The butcher in the supermarket certainly had a smile on his face after Marc spent 30 minutes buying various salamis and I bought some bits for the BBQ.
We pitched up in glorious sunshine but no sooner had we eaten our lunch a big black crowd loomed over the hills with the ominous sounds of thunder rumbling in the distance. We just about got the dogs in and the chairs put away when the heavens opened. There was a real sense of déjà vu as this was the site we were flooded in last year!
We awoke to sunshine even though it had rained all night and took in some rays whilst waiting for Tony and Rosie to arrive as they stayed in another place last night – somewhere they intended to visit on their trip. We were going to spend the afternoon lounging by the pool, but the owners must have seen the forecast as there were no loungers out and by the time Rose got back from the pool area it had started to rain again! Never mind we still managed to have a BBQ thanks to Tony and the van awning.
Next morning it was time to say our goodbyes as we headed home; Tony and Rosie have a few more days exploring before their ferry home. Thanks to Tony and Rosie for a glorious few days together, for providing the entertainment, for laughing at us and with us and being such good company.
Especial thanks for teaching me how to cook mussels which we had for lunch later that day before arriving in Grisolles.
For those who know us well it will come as no surprise that we often call our beloved Molly dog ‘grizzles’ as she …..well grizzles – a lot – mainly at Freddie. So it was only apt that on our journey back towards the ferry port we stopped at an AIRE in the town of Grisolles! We try and pick aires that we haven’t been in before that are approximately a 4-5-hour drive apart so that we can leave at about 10 o’clock in the morning, stop for some lunch and arrive in a place mid-afternoon. This gives us time to explore the locality, walk the dogs and rest before the next day’s travel.
Grisolles is next to the Garonne Canal in a car park behind the village hall and is really quiet. The village itself is the usual strange French mix of derelict buildings right next to lovely clean tidy lived in ones. We even discovered on our walk to the vets a building that only has the front wall remaining, sandwiched between two other houses, complete with windows and a front door. How it remains standing I do not know!
After an overnighter we duly took the dogs to the vets for the Passport stamping bit so that they can return to the UK without quarantine. The piece de resistance however was the patisserie – yes Dick we are still on track for my book on the cakes of France – well the French do produce the best bread and cakes I have ever tasted.
St Georges des Coteaux
The trip up from Grisolles was a good one with the motorways as clear as always in France and the sun was shining. We arrived at about 4.30pm and were busy having a cup of tea and just ‘watching the world go by’ when all of a sudden we heard a big crash. Marc said oh my god he just knocked his bike off – well that’s what I thought he said and me being the stupid blonde that I am I thought that the motorhome that had just pulled into the aire had knocked his bikes off the back of the van! I rushed out to see if I could assist and came back in and said “his bikes are still there”. Marc replied “no stupid, that women just knocked that bloke off his motorbike” and lo and behold there was a number of cars stopped in the road next to us with a biker in the middle of the road. Not exactly sure what had happened as neither of us had witnessed it but we spent the next hour just watching everything unfold. The guy did get up and walk though we have no idea how badly injured he was and the women in the car was flinging her arms wildly about her to all and sundry whilst describing in a high pitched French what had happened. The Gendarmes came and it was really funny to see the guy get out of the car and put his police cap on as if to say “ok, what’s going on here then, I’m in charge”. Eventually a truck came to tow away the bike and the car with the falling off bumper and everyone dispersed as if nothing had happened. I told Marc that I had arranged the whole thing and it was a show just for him as it is his birthday!
Pont Rean, Roscoff and Home
Our next stop on our three day trek to Roscoff was an aire at Pont Rean just south of Rennes. It is a lovely riverside location but it was rather breezy and cold.
The next day it was our final drive up to Roscoff. We stopped at the aire with views over the estuary for our lunch before the wait on the quayside. It was really interesting to watch the customs and security as this is a training centre apparently for French customs officials and so they are really through – thank goodness. I don’t mind how much they check, they came in our van, looked under the bonnet and in the garage area as I feel much safer if I know that proper checks are being carried out.
Soon it was time to board and the ferry was in a much better condition than the one we travelled over in, we had a little sleep, a shower, a very bracing walk on the deck before some dinner. The next thing we knew we were in Plymouth and on the M5 heading home.
Winchester May 2016
Time to head off the Winchester for Marc’s tank driving experience – yes another one.
The site at Winchester – Morn Hill is a Caravan Club site that is over two sections. We chose the quieter lower section and practically had the area to ourselves. We just lazed in the glorious sunshine – a rarity in Britain.
Next day it was off to Juniper Leisure – who Marc had booked his experience with. I was really impressed with the whole set up. There was a catering van complete with awning, a massive log stove (for the normal British weather) and many tables and chairs both inside and out. There was tea, coffee, squash, water and a variety of cakes and biscuits free of charge. There was a toilet block that was plumbed in, not the usual portable ones that usually smell but ‘proper jobs’.
It was the little things that impressed. Free to use sun cream, wet wipes and tampons in the ladies for all eventualities.
You could purchase bacon butties and other snacks and it was a lovely friendly atmosphere with the organisers taking a real interest in who we all were and where we had come from. There were 19 people taking part in the experience which consisted of driving a Chieftain Tank, an Abbot, a Armoured People Carrier and a Stoermer. There was the opportunity for the many spectators to take a ride in an APC but I decided not to as I have had so much trouble with my back the last thing I needed was a bumpy ride.
Needless to say Marc loved the whole experience which is evident from his Cheshire cat grin.
The next day we caught the bus into Winchester. This is a beautiful city and I had not realised the full importance of the City until now.
On the buses there is the logo “Winchester the King’s City where King Alfred ruled a Kingdom”. King Alfred may have burnt the cakes just up the road from where I live but he did manage to keep the vikings and bay and became the main ruler of England. Winchester was his home and for many years was the capital of England before London became the principle capital, even becoming the capital once again when the plague was ravaging London. Fortunately so much history has in Winchester has been preserved.
The first prominent building we came across when we got of the bus was the Guildhall a gothic Victorian building built in 1870. From here we entered the high street which had a market along with the many timber clad black and white buildings from the medieval era.
At the end of the high street is the Westgate, built in medieval times it stands on the place of the former Roman gate.
This led us to the many beautiful buildings around The Great Hall.
The Great Hall is the hall from the Castle of Winchester, the main Castle building being used as local council offices. The Great Hall houses the Round Table from The Knights of the Round Table. Although an imitation now hangs it is still surrounded in legend as being from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
The building itself is beautiful and has been used over the century’s for many purposes including a law court for the infamous Judge Jefferies (from the bloody assizes).
From the Great Hall is a passage that leads to the Long Gallery which houses many paintings and interesting facts regarding the history of Winchester.
Once outside in the sunshine we walked around the corner to the Military Museums. There are six museums representing different regiments and we had a good look around the Horsepower – The Regimental Museum of the King’s Royal Hussars. This was fascinating for Marc as it lead to Tanks and for me as it all started out as a Cavalry regiment.
Winchester is a former military town and the barracks have now been converted into some very luxurious looking housing and the parade ground is a beautiful garden called the Peninsula Square.