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!

We had an aire in mind at El Campello to visit Alicante from but arrived to find it closed down and the land in use as storage for truck trailers. Instead we decided to cough up for the pricier Camper Area Campello Beach (GPS: 38.39488 -0.40998, €12 + electric) which was a nice well-kept site with toilets and showers, and a helpful lady running it. We took the tram from the nearby stop to the castle where we walked up the hill and looked around the ruined fortress (free) and at the views over the surrounding area from this vantage point. We walked down the walls into the old town where there are lots of bars with pricey tapas, and got some nice gelato. We wandered around the harbour area where the restaurants looked touristy covered with pictures of the food. There’s a Volvo Ocean Race museum here which was closed but had a couple of yachts on display outside. Alicante was a pleasant place to look around but didn’t have that much to offer we thought. After a return tram, back at the aire Jo prepared a very nice four dish tapas for dinner with Sangria, and at less than the cost of one dish in the town!

The "limo scooter" - all the rage in Benidorm
The next place I wanted to go, just to see and experience it, was Benidorm. After a drive into the town looking for parking being unsuccessful we went into nearby Altea and got parked at the roadside by the sports ground (GPS: 38.60666 -0.04357). Parking was limited and it got very busy in the evening when football training was on, so not an ideal stopover but did the job for us. Due to tramline works we took the bus to get into Benidorm, however it took us rather a lot longer to get there than it should’ve after getting off too early! Been unsure where we were, a longish walk to a signposted tourist info figured out we were in the separate resort of Alfas del Pi, which was followed by a long wait for another bus to get into Benidorm. It turned out to be as you’d expect, we hadn’t even got off the bus before we saw a tandem mobility scooter with a large tanned shirtless man and wrinkly old lady on, unfortunately the camera was in our bag at the time. The streets were full of shops, hair salons, bars, restaurants (English ones galore), and very busy with holidaymakers including many Brits. We walked along the seafront and with a map from the unhelpful tourist office we looked around the old town which was like the rest of the town but with narrower streets. A couple of hours was enough for us so back in Altea we walked back to the van via the nice sea front area.

In heavy rain in the morning we headed for Javea (or Xábia) with the roads becoming quite small in places as we went through the hills and with the wet surface the van lost traction a few times on the steep uphill’s but the ASR managed to keep us going. Arriving at what we thought was the main camper freeparking area there were no vans so we had a drive about to see if there were any other spots and had a look online too. In the process of doing this we found that the Repsol garage had a self-service laundry so with the weather being dull we thought we’d get this job out of the way. By the time the washing was done the sun was back so we parked in the town for a look around. We were pleasantly surprised after not expecting much, it’s a nice coastal town, still expat oriented but quiet and not built up with high-rises like Benidorm. Down at the port some large fishing boats were just coming in with the crews sorting through their catch of mainly prawns. At the far edge of the port we saw some signposted walking trails so followed the short 40 minute one up and across the rocky hillside to the small Cala Tango cove which was very scenic. After a look around the old town we moved the van to the original parking area we’d seen (GPS: 38.76969 0.18974), where there was now a couple of vans, which happens to be right next to Scallops. This is a British restaurant that Mike, Bev, Dave and Fiona who we met down at El Rocio recommended as the place everyone goes to. They have a series of three set menus of differing prices starting at €9.95. It was this cheapest one we went for which included three courses and a bottle of wine per person! Plus it also includes a voucher for a free breakfast too, and while we were there they were doing an offer giving away double vouchers. The place was full of expat or overwintering Brits. We both had steak pie & chips which was good but we saw most people were having fried cod and chips which were huge. As we didn’t get far into the second bottle of wine we took it home with us.

Back at Scallops in the morning we sat outside in the garden for our full English with just the drinks and any extras you wanted to add to the basic breakfast to pay for at reasonable prices. It was Greek week at Lidl so we called in to pick up some of our favourite foods from Greece before hitting the N332 which took us through orange grove after orange grove, and also lots of hookers. Fellow travellers Haz and El told us about Font Salida, a warm natural spring pool that you can swim in so we thought we’d check it out on our way past. It was a nice spot with a café by the pool, so we went in for a dip.

Afterwards we continued on to Simat de la Valldigna to the aire in the village next to an orange grove (GPS: 39.04080 -0.30770, Free inc. serv. pt.). A short walk away are the ruins of the old Monastery Santa Maria de la Valldigna which are well worth a look around, especially as it’s free. A lot of it is remains of parts of the walls still standing but there are some full buildings too including a large church complete with internal decor. Originating from the 13th century it has gone through transformations and rebuilding after earthquake damage in later years. After being abandoned in 1835 the monastery became privately owned, buildings were knocked down and pieces of its architecture sold off. Some Gothic arches that were bought and used to decorate a mansion in Madrid were given back to the monastery in 2007.

The next spot we moved onto was an aire at a picnic area, Hort de Soriano, near Carcaixent (GPS: 39.06962 -0.40959, Free). It was at the end of a road through orange groves with walls lining the sides which was narrow in places making it awkward with oncoming cars. When we arrived a guardian lady directed us to a reserved camper area as the parking was heaving, with it being a Sunday lots of local families were there for the day with gazebos and tarpaulins strung up for shade, picnics, all the built-in barbeques going, and we saw one huge paella pan around 80-100cm diameter. It appears the place was previously a campsite on many tiers on the sloping ground with a disused swimming pool at the top fenced off. In the afternoon, walking boots on, we set off on a 2:45h indicated walk which started with an ascent up a hillside through a valley where the path gradually became more challenging and obstructed by bushes. Eventually after 45 minutes it became impassable so we realised we must’ve gone the wrong way and turned back. Sure enough when most of the way back down we spotted where the path should’ve gone but by this point we were hot and sweaty and covered in battle wounds so decided to go back to base. By around 6pm everyone had left the site apart from the one other motorhome and we had a peaceful night.

Next from here it was on to Valencia area, home of Paella.

- Matt


  1. Hi Matt,

    I think you have more followers as you write really well. In particular you write about the social side of motorhome travel - people like to know what a place is like and descriptions of the food, beaches, sites and eccentric people (people watching is a well-known pastime for us campervanners!).

    The warm spring pool looks great - I'll send the link to my wife who's a keen wild swimmer.

    Keep 'em coming...


    1. Hi Paul, Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, it's always good to hear from readers, new & old, and to know people out there are actually reading it! Thank you too for the kind comments we'll try to keep it up.
      Regards, Matt

  2. Yes, it is a good read; you have obviously embraced the education that many appear squander.

    Well done to you both of you for having the guts to do what we all dreamed of, but put off for later. We are of the generation that watched Cliff Richard and the Shadows go on that “Summer Holiday” first time round, and said we would work hard and retire at 40 to do it.

    Of course material lust stopped us doing it, but now that we are retired, (and very aged!) we do have more time and do enjoy the life in our van and have grown especially fond of Portugal.

    Keep up the blog and have a great life.


    1. Thank you for your comments David. I think we were in a rare and privileged position to be able to do this, and are very glad we went ahead with it. It has changed us significantly, we value material things much less now and when back in the UK we are aiming to work hard on getting ourselves set up to retire early to continue touring.

      We too enjoy Portugal and I can see that we'll be spending more time there in future. Keep enjoying your travels and maybe we'll see each other on the road one day.
      Regards, Matt