26.11.2010 - 04.12.2010
It’s difficult leaving a place once you’ve got settled in and made friends, especially after a month. And so it was leaving the Turiscampo at Espiche in the Algarve. The rain the morning of the 26th November seemed to hint at the weather to come over the next few days. We drove off heading for a small place called El Rocio (from there planning to head north through the centre of Spain - we’d spent so long at Espiche that it left little time to see the rest of Spain and arrive in Paris for the 12th December).
It was still raining when we got to El Rocio late in the afternoon, it rained all evening, and it rained all night. It was cold and wet and miserable; there was only one thing for it – we’d watch a movie. Now Tom (you remember, the chap who got our telly working) had a huge selection of movies saved on his Hard Disk Media player. He’d suggested when we were at Espiche to buy a player, and he would copy all his movies over for us. We did the former and he the latter. It also meant that we’d have no more cold wet nights trapped in the van with nothing to do.
We left El Rocio the next morning (it was still raining). We changed our minds on our path through Spain. If we didn’t delay in any one place we could still see a bit of Spain AND reach the French border by about the 9th.
We headed east instead of north and made for Granada (in the rain). It was a 350km journey, but we took it easy; arriving late in the afternoon at the Reina Isabela campsite – in the rain. We made friends with the dozen cats and kittens who inhabited the site, obviously smart enough to know that campers were more likely to feed them titbits than the general population. They were so funny – when we opened the door to the van they’d be howling for food (especially the kittens); we couldn’t help ourselves - we fed them whatever scraps we had and some milk (and a tin of tuna for a special snack).
Because it was raining (and very cold), we had dinner and then watched a movie. It rained all night.
When we awoke in the morning however, the sky was clear blue and the air crisp and cold. We didn’t do Granada justice though, because we only took the bus into town in the afternoon for a couple of hours before returning to camp. The famous Alhambra palace would have to wait for another trip. What did inspire me though were the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, white with snow and looking just like someone had thrown a large sheet over an old sofa.
Watched a movie and went to bed on a cold night (it got down to 2oC), and it started raining again. The drive the next day left no doubt in our minds that winter was on its way. It was very cold and it rained. The drive east to the El Berro campsite near Murcia was another long one, taking us high into the hills. For a good deal of the way the landscape was covered in snow; and at times the fog caused by the clouds sitting on the mountains was so thick, I had visibility of no more than ten metres.
Driving in the van in these conditions was not easy but we were both warm, and the van ran well.
We stopped for a day in Valencia, a lovely town with fabulous architecture, both new and traditional. The weather as in Granada was kind – mostly sunny weather helping to keep the cold winds at bay. We couldn’t find the El Saler campsite detailed in our ACSI handbook because the GPS co-ordinates were not recognised as having a valid route anywhere, whatever that meant. As it was, after a frustrating half an hour searching we happened upon a very ordinary campsite in El Saler, one which charged what I thought was an exorbitant amount.
Thursday saw us on the road heading north on a cold but lovely sunny dry day, making driving a pleasure. Ann managed to post off three months worth of retail expenses by sending 55 kilos of shoes, clothing, linen and trinkets in the three biggest boxes that Spanish mail could provide. As if we weren’t short enough of space in the van, these three boxes took up a huge amount of it – no wonder I’d been feeling hemmed in!!
We stopped at a well-run campsite at a coastal village called Ametlla de Mar, and we stayed put in the van on an evening becoming ever colder as we marched slowly north.
The drive to the site just short of Barcelona at Sitges saw us arrive at midday on a cold sunny day. We installed ourselves in the sunniest spot we could find, had a nice salad lunch and we got some washing done.
Miraculously I managed to get the British news channels on the TV (thanks Tom); so for this weekend in Barcelona at least we can keep up with the news. Mind you the news that hit us about the freezing over of Britain and northern France didn’t fill us with hope.
Spain has been easy to drive through, although it has to be said that because of our hurry to get to France we’ve spent most of our time on the motorways. We’ve eaten mostly in motorway service stations where the food has been so-so; unfortunately we’ve not had much opportunity to stop in at local cafes to try the local fare. Luckily though yesterday, off the motorway, we had a great paella lunch at a truck stop café.
One thing I am less than impressed with is that all the southern Spanish campsites that we stayed in have a most unsavoury habit; that is that the toilets provide you with bins in which you are supposed to dispose of your ‘used’ toilet paper. How disgusting, walking in to a loo and seeing bits of toilet paper with other people’s skid marks staring up at you!
Now let me ask you – this is supposed to be a modern Western First World nation. Can’t Spain provide modern sewage systems? You expect to see this in India or China – I saw it once at a youth hostel in Rio de Janeiro – but for God’s sake Spain, get your finger out and fix your bloody toilet systems!