Saturday 30 April 2016

Barcelona and Dia de Sant Jordi

Spain, 20th – 23rd April 2016

Situated between the Serra de Collserola mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after the capital Madrid, and is the capital of the region of Catalunya (Catalonia).  It’s ideal city break territory, with lots to see and do between sightseeing, art museums, shopping and plenty of beaches.  We’d also been warned by a couple of people that it’s supposed to be rife with pickpockets, and is a hotspot for campers having their vans ‘done over’ (meaning having it broken into and stuff nicked).  I’m glad to report that the van is still safe with no broken windows or busted locks, and if anything has been stolen from our pockets it can’t have been anything of more consequence than lint.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Morella and the Delta de l'Ebre

Morella lit up at night

Spain, 15th – 19th April 2016

We’ve hugged the coast pretty much all of the way up the east of Spain from Almeria, but we had recommendations of a few places north of Valencia to try.  The first of these was in the mountains at Albarracin, but as we’re at the stage now where we’re starting to think about how many miles we put on the van for resale we decided it too big a detour for this trip.  The second recommendation of Morella wasn’t too far off-route, so we’ve visited there this week as well as a couple of places on the path to Barcelona.

Monday 25 April 2016

Touring a Continent for a Year: Cost Breakdown

On the 24th April last year, we woke up in a parking bay on Dover seafront and caught a ferry to Calais with no booked return journey.  We had a vague plan of what route we wanted to take, as well as what we wanted to spend.  It’s now a year on and it seems we massively over predicted the amount of countries we could cover in a year, not quite realising how ambitious an undertaking it would be to try and fit Scandinavia and the Baltics into our schedule.  Similarly our estimate of how much we’d be spending over the year turned out to be a rather loose estimate, but the good news?  It was an over-estimate.

People in our age-group are a minority when it comes to motorhoming, and we’re very lucky to have had the opportunity to do this.  We’re certainly not rich however, and this trip was the result of a lot of time rigorously saving.  A few years ago, we spent 16 days on a 3000 mile trip down to north Portugal in a self-build campervan, a holiday in which we kept written records of all our spending.  To choose a target of how much we’d need to save for this trip, we looked at what we spent during that previous holiday, making adjustments for what we expected we’d do over the long term (such as a lot less time driving!) and extrapolating it out over a year.  This brought us to the nice round target of £10000 (£415 per person per month) excluding the van road tax and insurance, which works out as a £192 weekly budget.  We also allowed for a £2000 contingency in case the money didn’t stretch as far as we hoped or something expensive cropped up like a van repair.

Twelve months down the line, and how’s that 10k looking?

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Paella of the Past and Buildings of the Future: Valencia

Spain, 11th – 14th April 2016

A bus journey from the hustle and bustle of Valencia, Spain’s third largest city, lies the lagoon known as l’Albufera.  You can glimpse the lagoon from the road running directly south of the city, where egrets stalk the water beyond the rushes that shelter it from the rush of traffic.  One particular turn-off from this road takes you towards El Palmar, down a road running between fields of rice paddies and various growing vegetables.  In contrast to the plastic sea of tomatoes further south in Spain, the fields appear to be more like allotments with potatoes, cabbages and the like.

Of course, any area known for lagoons and rice is generally going to be a flat wetlands area where mosquitoes thrive in the summer, and there were already a few of the blighters about at this time of year.  A few of you who have been reading for a while may have picked up that I generally don’t do well where mosquitoes are concerned, so you may be wondering: why?  Why had we chosen to come to this particular area?  Was it to wage war on their species?  Well, no, although it has to be said that at least one met a squashed end that night in our van.  To justify our visit, these three words should explain all: origin of paella.

Monday 18 April 2016

Alicante to Javea via Benidorm!

Spain, 6th – 10th April 2016

View from Alicante castle
When we met up with Julie and Jason of OurTour in November we spoke about getting recognised in public through having a blog. I remember saying we didn’t have that many readers so didn’t expect we’d get this, but Jay said it would happen in time from their experience. Sure enough it has now occurred for the first time. We got a message through our Facebook page from Kim to say that while having their breakfast they’d spotted me at the beach parking spot at El Pinet where they happened to be staying too. I'd been having a wander to take photos of the area just before we left to head to Alicante so unfortunately they didn’t get chance to come over to say hello, maybe another time Kim!

Sunday 10 April 2016

Puerto de Mazarrón, Cartagena and onto the Costa Blanca

Spain, 2nd – 5th April 2016

From our freeparking spot in La Azohia we had a day trip out in the van to visit nearby Puerto de Mazarrón and Bolnuevo. From here we next went to Cartagena then onto a couple more beach spots whilst heading for Alicante.

The main thing at Bolnuevo are some unusual sculpted sandstone rocks in the cliffs which have been formed by water and wind erosion. We parked in the area next to them to have a look before a walk out of the edge of the town. From here the road becomes a rough dirt track leading around to Calnegre passing some nice bays but we didn’t want to drive it in the camper, remembering how rough, potholed and scattered with rocks it was when going along it in a hire car with family when I visited this part of the Spanish coast some years ago on a holiday. We stayed in a house in Puerto de Mazarrón so I wanted to revisit it as it was a nice town and to see if it had changed. Finding a spot to park on a wide quiet street near two other British vans we’ve spotted three times previously while we’ve been in Southern Spain, we first had a look in a large Chinese shop and picked up a couple of bits. We had a walk along the length of the paseo (promenade) before getting some lovely gelatos from a shop on a street back and ate them sat by the marina. Mazarrón seemed about the same as before, with some improvement works to the beachside and port area, and is still a pleasant place to wander around with a large selection of restaurants.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

The Golfo de Mazarrón

Spain, 29th March – 1st April 2016

After a night of stormy weather we’re currently looking out at cloudy skies from our latest free beachside location, but after days of sunshine we’ve got few complaints to make.  We’ve been in Spain for a month now, and so far it’s been proving a great place to tour in a motorhome.  Our overnight costs for the duration of March have been a grand total of €24; for anyone who is curious as to how we can finance this lifestyle, there’s your answer.  I sense this sum will be significantly higher for the duration of April as the stretch of Spain between here and the French border is known to be stricter on overnight parking and we’ll have to get a few more paying aires/campsites under our belt in order to visit some places (Barcelona, I’m looking at you!), but I still imagine our total costs will be far less than what we’d have to pay for just a few days of hotel accommodation to see the same places.