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Heading Home

Heading Home

Monday 12th March
Silly thing to say really as our home is where we park it however the UK will always be our emotional home. After four and a half months touring it is time to go home to earn some money and put down roots for 6 months. We didn’t get back to Barcelona for another day which is a regret but there will always be another year and the next time Molly will stay back and look after the motorhome and we will spend the €80 for two two day pass on the jump on jump off tourist sightseeing bus that covers the whole of the city. Our mind is now on the return journey. Along the coast into France to Perpignan and hopefully to try to see Carcassonne that our mishap last year denied us seeing.  Huge traffic jams – thanks to Gids!   On via Toulouse to Limoges for another night stop then just north of Orléans and then Honfleur for a day and a night before stopping at Ouistreham for a night grabbing the 8.30am ferry to Portsmouth on 19th March. Well that is the plan anyway we have heard that the weather is a tad grim going through France so we wait and see but we have five full days to travel the length of France. First things first Molly needs her check up and passport stamped.


Tuesday 13th
Our last full day in Spain but before we did anything Molly had a 11am appointment with the vet. She needed a thermometer up her bottom, a worming tablet in her tummy and a full health check. Twenty five euros later and her passport was stamped. Hurrah she can come home with us! In the afternoon we headed half an hour drive south for Tarragona and to see the Roman amphitheater. It was a nice afternoon and despite our hesitation with Tarragona as a city itself, the amphitheater was great, only ruined by the passing of millennium and hoards of noisy Spanish school children who were not in the slightest bit interested in Roman architecture and more interested in screaming and running riot in the “gardens of miracle” I hoped a miracle would happen and they would be struck dumb for an hour – no such luck! The harbour and marina were nice too with my pet hate – millionaires gin palaces a plenty. Pretty coves and beaches lay just a kilometre north of the city and we were glad that we had decided to finish our Spanish adventure with some historical culture and a pretty drive along the coastal road. So we are all packed and ready to go. We will enjoy traveling together in the motorhome through France with the car in tow when we get there hopefully tomorrow afternoon.


Barcelona Part 1

Barcelona part I

Big, Brash, Noisy, Bustling and Stunning! One day is not enough to take in this huge city and we have yet again only just scratched the surface spending the whole day in the old town and it’s area known as Eixample on foot with Molly in tow. Over 7.5 miles later we had walked Las Ramblas, seen two of Gaudi’s best known Art Nouveau buildings plus The Segrada Familia his unfinished masterpiece and finally Walked back down through Parc de la Ciutadalla to Port Vell where we had parked the car. We had still managed to miss the old cathedral and so many other sights in the old town and have yet to experience Barcelona’s other delights of Montjuïc (which was developed for the 1929 international fair and later for the 1992 Olympics) the water front and Park Güell Gaudi’s fanciful take on a garden city amongst so many others.

We decided to pay the toll charge to get to Barcelona as we had experienced the winding twisting slow N31 the other day and it added half an hour, effectively doubling the journey time. So for €7 we drove through the tunnels and bridges that formed 10k of the N32 north of Sitges. Our first introduction to Barcelona driving in from the N32 was docks and huge industrial port on the right and a city of the dead on the left. An enormous mountain was glistening with what looked like small windows and filled up the entire horizon to our left. At first we thought it was a massive holiday or business complex set into the cliffs but as we got nearer we realised that this was Barcelona’s massive Montjuïc cemetery and the windows were in actual fact the small openings in the walls for the urns or coffins. There is actually a tour of it if you were so inclined.

After a few incidents of horn blasting from irate drivers (mostly on their mobiles) who did not wish to allow an English smart car to get into the right lane and a few near misses with kamikaze moped riders who would rather be knocked off than give an inch or wait a moment we finally found a underground car park that later cost €15 to leave (we had been told that car crime was a factor in big cities so better that than a smashed window and stolen sat nav). The marina was full to the brim with million, multi million, billion and multi billion pound yachts. Showing the excesses that the world will allow to happen whilst beggars and homeless lay on the streets. [ I read once that if all the tax due, was paid from all the tax havens and off shore accounts there would be no more world debt or poverty.] Anyway enough of my soap box …. Despite my contempt for the floating monstrosities and all that they represent they were wonderful things to look at as walked to the monument of Christopher Columbus and the start of Las Ramblas.

Half expecting it to be like Valencia (a gorgeous park that joined the coast to the top of the city) we were a little disappointed as it was just a long predestined tree lined promenade – very nice mind with entertainment, stalls and shops but no grass flowers or water features to be seen. The umbrella shop with its dragon was an interesting sight as was Marilyn Munro displaying her underwear under that classic white dress on the first floor of a museum of erotica.


Gaudi’s Casa Batlló with its mask/ skull like balconies and highly decorated walls was lovely yet his most famous apartment block Casa Milà with no straight walls in the building at all left me un inspired. Perhaps I’m not a architectural devotee but it must be a nightmare to place furniture or hang curtains!!!

Next on the agenda SEGRADA FAMÍLIA. Yet unfinished and due to be completed by 2040 it is a magnificent piece of fantasy crammed with symbolism and started in 1882. Each of the 12 bell towers represents an apostle. The largest tower will represent Christ when it is completed. Tickets needed to pre booked with a time slot and as we had Molly we were happy just to gaze in awe from outside. Perhaps in 22 years time we can revisit when it is finally completed.

The walk back to the waterfront was delightful through a large park – Parc de la Ciutadalla where a saxophonist was playing birds were singing and the sun was out. We sat and enjoyed its warmth resting our feet for half an hour before returning to the car.



SITGES Spain’s “GAY” resort.

SITGES Spain’s “GAY” resort.

Everyone said we must go and see Sitges when we were near Barcelona. So we did. It has a reputation as being a gay resort so we were not quite sure what to expect however it turned out to be a lovely old town with old church jutting out in to the sea. The weather was overcast but the atmosphere definitely wasn’t. The promenade was typically Spanish with palm trees and a wide tiled walkway and the ten beaches along it to choose from were immaculate.

The buildings behind the promenade were however low rise and interestingly different, each with its bar or restaurant underneath and each with a different facade to its neighbour. There was a carnival feel to the place despite the overcast conditions and a craftwork exhibition and festival was in town with hoards of ladies dressed in matching highly flamboyant home made dresses coats and jackets. Some of the statues around the town seemed to be dressed up with blindfolds, aprons and one in a bikini (this one was a bit obscene so wasn’t photographed) we were not sure if this had something to do with the gay scene or the festival but it added a certain quirkiness to the place.

Excepting the few outrightly camp shops and the odd flamboyantly dressed individual walking around there was nothing to make you feel that this was a gay resort. Perhaps in the summer things may be different but on a Thursday in mid March it was just a nice seaside resort.

Tapas for lunch and despite a very tactile waiter who kept touching my bare arm as often as he could when he passed to ask if all was ok, and here was your next dish, and here is the bill etc, (at least six times) it was an enjoyable albeit chilly (we had Molly so sat outside) lunch. We walked back to the car only to find a huge hairy builder asleep on the pavement next to it and the zebra crossing behind us. Now I’ve heard of the term siesta but surly he could not have been so tired that he could not have found a less busy spot.


Tomorrow we head into Barcelona.

Barcelona Beckons … but first Alcossebre & Mutley

Barcelona Beckons … but first Alcossebre & Mutley

Monday 5th March

Alcossebre- Never heard of it? Neither had we and by the looks of it neither had mass tourism. It is a lovely small village/town with a small centre a great beach, promenade and marina and no high rise apartments. It feels relaxed and like a community should. So far out of all of Spain this place feels right and if we were to move out here (which we are still considering in years to come when we have fully retired) it would be one to explore further. We walked the three miles along the promenade to the lighthouse.


(well it looked like one from a distance but when we got there it was more of a large white tower with the usual graffiti on the bottom – Graffiti is something we hate about Spain it is everywhere despite Spain having so many wonderful things for teenagers to do – and we couldn’t see any light at the top either). It was a lovely afternoon and shorts and flip flops were the dress code. As we returned back the wind picked up and the sun was hidden by black clouds. It was really cold and the return three mile trip was NOT as enjoyable and my choice of footwear definitely dubious. In the evening we met up with Alan and Karen for a meal and drinks having a lovely evening finally returning to the van at 11pm.

Tuesday 6th March

Two weeks today we will be back in England. Anxious to make sure we enjoy every bit of the improving Spanish weather we planned another walk in the opposite direction. The weather was better today but learning from the flip flop fiasco yesterday I chose walking sandals (sexy I know!) but definitely NO socks!!! As soon as we reached the beach Molly found a little friend in the shape of a lovely Yorkshire Terrier cross Border Terrier who was a cute as could be, and all alone. He followed us for two miles and Molly and ‘Mutley’ as we named him had enormous amounts of fun running and playing in the sand and water. They resembled something from a romantic movie as they ran next to each other onto the beach. He stayed with us so long that we wondered if he actually had an owner and he was so cute we even considered how we could bring him home if he refused to leave us. Mum & Dad – you nearly had a new addition to your household. Just as we arrived at the restaurant and as quickly as he had appeared he was gone. We grabbed a “menu de Dias” at the end and then returned for home with a cooler walk back.

Wednesday 7th March

We arrived at Villanova park about 25k south of Barcelona. GPS N41.23198 E00169074 and it is a massive site.

We have seven nights here giving us five days to explore the area and especially Barcelona. Having read the guide books it looks like a sizzling city and we are really looking forward to it. We purposely planned that this should be the last stop before heading home and we hope it will be the cherry on the top of cake for our four and a half month holiday. Let’s hope we are right.


Boing …. back North

Boing …. Back North

The weather had turned again and rain was forecast. After a very windy day on a nature reserve where even the wild birds decided not to venture out ( how does that happen?) we decided to leave our Aire in Valencia and move back up north to split the journey to Barcelona. It was also Sunday which meant that the roads were quiet. We are now at a great little Aire for a few days at Alcossebre. About 200k south of Barcelona. GPS N40.245300 E000.271620 it’s about 500m from the beach and town.  Our Aires & Stop Overs  Alan & Karen that we had met in La Manga are only 1k away in another site so we agreed to meet up for a bottle of wine or 5 at some point. It may get messy!

Valencia “A city of contrasts”

Valencia is stunning.  We parked at the southern end of the old river bed park as we had decided to walk most of the length of the park to the historical centre to visit the largest covered market in Europe and visit the various sights in the old quarter. The decision was perfect as the new architecture of the city of arts and science including an imax cinema, planetarium, concert hall, conference and exhibition centre is truly stunning. The blue of the water created an azure blue shimmer on the white of the rendered concrete. The glass expance and futureistic shapes left you with a feeling of a surreal experience of being in another time and on another planet, albeit it is supposed to represent the blinking of an eye ( I think it does when it is opened in hot weather).

We walked the 3 miles through the landscaped park passing water features, unusual trees, and a huge model of the giant Gulliver pegged down so that hoards of children can play on him.


The old old quarter was lovely with stunning buildings, large squares, narrow streets,bars,restaurants and history galore.

We then headed into the historic indoor market for a real taste of Spanish. It felt as though it had remained unchanged for years.


It was a long day with an eight mile round walk with the walk back exhausting, however the park seemed to connect the old and the new and provides a gorgeous haven in a stunning city where people jogged, cycled, danced did their exercises and just enjoyed being outside. There is a really relaxed yet vibrant buzz about the place, we had barely scratched the surface but we loved it. Our friends stayed a month and we can understand why. It truly IS a city of contrasts and only 25 min drive from our Aire. Our Aires & Stop Overs





South again for Valencia & Lladró

South again for Valencia & Lladró

Valencia was always on the agenda but our last site was just a bit too far for a day out. It was an hour away. So against my measly nature we headed an hour back in the direction we came to spend a few days in an Aire GPS N39.579630 W000.444750  Our Aires & Stop Overs  On the outskirts of this supposed beautiful city.

The weather had turned wet and cold and we felt a bit cheated from our holiday in the sun until we heard that northern Spain Bilbao and most of Europe including our blessed southern England was a white out under “The beast from the east” snowstorm that had engulfed it. Friends that had left for home we’re stuck in Northern Spain with cancelled ferry crossings. We counted our blessings and headed for the Lladró factory and museum. We have always loved the detail attached to Lladró figurines but had never had sufficient funds to warrant its indulgence. A factory tour was therefore a must and allowed us to wizz around the streets in the smart car to get a feeling of the city gather our bearings and decide how to spend the next day or so.
The tour was truly magnificent watching the painstaking time and effort involved to create these amazing works of art. The number of man (woman mainly)hours that it takes to create one figurine or vase is mind blowing and two ladies we witnessed had worked for 35 and 40 years respectively painting and just making minuscule flowers. No wonder hundreds of euros are asked for their craft and tens of thousands of euros for their limited edition pieces. Their signature piece for 2018 is the carnival in Venice and costs a whopping €185,000. They make only 100 and expect to take ten years to sell them all.

After the visit we decided to reckie the city and drove along both sides of the once river bed which after huge floods in 1949 & 1957 was diverted away leaving the old river to be transformed into a huge park running the length of the city. Imagine the course of the River Thames as one long park and you have got it. On the park there are numerous points of interest culminating in very modernistic area at its seaward end. More on this on our next blog.




Benicássim & Vilafamés

Benicássim & Vilafamés

Thursday 22nd February

We had a long drive from Calpe and although the roads were typically Spanish and of superb quality they were very busy and full of Large lorries driven in the typical Spanish fashion (little consideration for other road users and Spanish lorry drivers seem to be the worst). It was therefore quite stressful, especially around the Valencia area. The whole journey was alongside orange groves for as far as the eye can see and all of them full of oranges ready for the picking. The N332 also had its fair share of prostitutes sitting on plastic chairs on the roadside by the orange groves in the middle of nowhere plying their trade and waiting for passing punters. Where they go to conduct their trade I would not start to imagine. We arrived at our campsite (GPS N40.037280 E000.041020) Our Aires & Stop Overs quite tired and eager to put down roots for a week.


Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd February

Friday was a lazy day where we cought up on washing and setting up. Benicássim is a very clean and manicured town with an impeccable beach and promenade and we look forward to exploring it and the surrounding area. We decided to visit the hilltop village of Vilafàmes on Saturday unsure what to expect. It was a really lovely village of red stone houses and narrow steep streets leading up to a church and a ruined castle on the top with shear drops to three sides.



A huge rock resembling a “happy whale” seemed to defy gravity and remained perched on a 45 degree slope.


A few hundred years ago, Locals fearing that it would slip off and destroy the town tried to dislodge it and finally admitting defeat gave up. Perhaps in thousands of years time the gap between its base and the rock face which is slowly eroded by water will become so large and the connection so fragile that gravity will prevail, but for the moment it remains where it has been for centuries. Spain has more than its fair share of castles and fortified towns, it feels that every rocky outcrop hill or mountain has a small village or town on its lower slopes and a castle on its top to defend it. The last 500 – 600 years in Spain must have been severely troubled times.

Guadalest, Xàbia & … BENIDORM!!!

Guadalest, Xàbia & …. BENIDORM!!!

Tuesday 20th February 2018

A month today we sail for Blighty to start our summer contract so with four weeks to enjoy between now and then we headed for the very touristy village of Guadalest. The drive was yet another lovely one through a valleys of orange and lemon trees and over a small pass. The mountainous road cut back and forth until suddenly perched on a hill top was Guadalest.


Despite being a huge draw for coach loads of tourists I had never heard of it. It was stunningly pretty and also quiet in February. A small village on a peninsula of rock with shear drops to three sides and the fourth side providing the only way in by way of a natural tunnel through the rock face.

Amazingly fortified by nature, not man. No wonder it has been a settlement since time itself. After spending a couple of hours in one of the smallest places we have visited we wizzed down the mountain and onto Xábia (pronounced Javea) which also turned out to be a very attractive beachfront resort with a pretty bay and rocky headland and a place we will definitely return to to explore in greater detail.

A good day all in all.

Wednesday 21st February ~ Benidorm!

We had arranged to catch up with Alan & Karen and George & Lynn who were joining a coach trip from La Manga to Benidorm today. Their company was lovely. Benidorm WAS NOT – Enough said? No! – Everyone is entitled to their opinion and for some it may be an amazing holiday experience but it certainly was not our cup of tea, (or even pitcher of beer, or fish & chip supper come to think of it). Mobility scooters everywhere, overweight fat people making way on the pavements for even fatter people to whizz past on scooters, sex shops, striptease clubs, massage parlours and British pubs jostled for prominence along the main strip, high rise ghetto like tower blocks tried to out grow each other to offer a sea glimpse from their upper floors and there was more tat to buy than even a car boot sale could offer. The promenade was nice though – as long as you kept looking out to sea! Benidorm has to be seen, but once in a lifetime is more than enough.

Calpe & Climbing Penyal d’Ifac

Calpe & Climbing Penyal d’Ifac

We arrived in Calp (Pronounced Calpe) via the amazing N322 and then the CV746 which twisted it’s way into town.

The first two Aires we tried were full the third and fourth wanted €32 a night and although we had just had 3 free nights it was just too much. We found the fifth up the hill and it was only €10 with bigger pitches. GPS N38.658060 E000.077500 Our Aires & Stop Overs We walked to the all you can eat Chinese and overfilled our tummies. After a quick snooze back at the van we needed a walk to combat the massive calorie intake we had just inflicted on ourselves and I also wanted to check out the details on climbing the rock. Calp is a lovely town set on two gorgeous beaches one either side of a huge lump of rock that sticks out into the sea called “del Penyal d’Ifac” and resembling a mini Gibraltar. The information on the board was typically Spanish in its vagueness but said that dogs were allowed but only on a lead, appropriate footwear should be worn and it would take about 2.5 hours to complete. Sorted! It was on the agenda for tomorrow. We wandered along the promenade on the South beach for a while before returning home.

11.45 am – After a 15 min steep twisting walk to the entrance we were informed that the path was closed today until at least 2pm. We trudged back to the car wondering why a simple notice at the car park (the only way in) could not have been provided to save scores of people walking to the entrance only to be turned around and sent back down again. No matter, we would grab a coffee from a beach cafe and return in couple of hours.
1.45 pm – The ‘walk’ had been opened before 1.30 so we made our way up. NOW – one guide book classes this as a walk on gentle slopes, the other calls it a strenuous walk and the Spanish information board didn’t bother to give any difficulty rating at all. I have done a lot of walking and a bit of scrambling in Wales, The Lake District and Scotland in my time and let me say that this is a difficult walk on exposed rock with perilous shear drops and is more similar to a “grade 1 scramble” than a walk. The first part to the tunnel was easy on a fenced path. The small upward sloping tunnel that was made in 1958 gives access to the rear of the rock.

Immediately after leaving the tunnel however it gets a whole lot more exposed. Don’t get me wrong if you have done hill walking and scrambling in the past and are physically fit then this is a relatively easy scramble/walk and in fairness there are ropes and chains attached to the very exposed bits of the cliff face (quite a few of them) to hold on to but you do need to use both of your hands and feet on occasions. if you do not have a head for heights then think twice or just go as far as you feel safe to do so.

Angie on one of the LESS exposed bits

We also had Molly with us and she was required to remain on the lead which was ‘interesting‘ on some of the more difficult parts, but we managed despite her occasional excited lurch towards a perched seagull. After about 1.5 hours of climbing we finally reached the summit which was a major achievement especially for Angie who had become very nervous and a bit wobbly on her feet on occasions. She was however determined to make it to the top despite many suggestions by me that we could head back or she could wait for me if she wanted. The top was smelly and we didn’t stay long. Covered in Seagull mess and the Feral cats that seemed to live up there had also contributed their fair share. Molly was having a lovely time eating various bones (seagull we presumed) which we were worried about.

The views however were truly stunning

but it was not a place to linger so we made our tentative way back down taking in a detour to another viewpoint on the way.

We were pleased to see the entrance to the tunnel and firmer ground. Although I have climbed and topped out many mountains and Munro’s in my younger days I can honestly say this one was my most nervous. Perhaps it’s my age, or perhaps it was that I was worried for Angie’s safety, Mollys antics and continually pulling and getting tangled in her lead didn’t help and the smelly, bone strewn summit was the first that I was not sad to leave. We had however DONE IT and I was immensely proud of Angie who tackled her fears and topped it out with me.