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.

The aire with Morella to the right of the photo
We wanted to use the service point at the aire at Benicàssim before leaving, which involved waiting for ages, probably a good 20 minutes, for a chap faffing around taking his time including emptying his grey water tank filling a bucket at a time and pouring it out. During this time a Dutch van arrived and sat watching and waiting with us too. I can’t see why he wouldn’t just position over the drain to empty the tank, and embarrassingly he was British. From here we went inland following some scenic roads into the hills to the hilltop fortified town of Morella. Pulling into the free aire (GPS: 40.62361 -0.09223, Free inc. serv. pt.) we spotted an Elddis Encore with an NK65 registration which I thought might be the van of fellow motorhome travellers and bloggers The Grey Gappers. There didn’t look to be anyone in it to find out, so after parking up with a great view across the valley to Morella we had some lunch sat out on one of the picnic tables there.

The dramatic approach to Morella
In the afternoon we had a walk into the town along the main street which is lined with restaurants and small shops. The shops are good quality ones selling local produce including cheese, honey and wine. There was the finish for an endurance cycle race set up in the main square with a timer showing it had been going on for over 9 hours. The main attraction in the town is the castle so we paid our €3.50 each to go in. The castle set at 1072m altitude was built around 950-960 in Moorish times, and has been adapted over the years for military use. It is unusual in that it is built on multiple tiers approaching the top of the hill so you wind your way up seeing different parts until you get to the top. From here on the top of the hill there are fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

Near the end of the night after Bev & Terry had gone home
I spent some time on the phone after receiving a call dealing with renewing the motorhome insurance while still in the castle, after which we headed back to the aire. A couple were sat outside the Elddis so we went to check if it was David and Karen of The Grey Gappers, which it was. They have taken a year off work to tour around Spain in their new motorhome provided by Elddis sampling the cuisine in a Rick Stein kind of way which you can read about on their blog here. We got talking and they offered for us to join them for a drink so we got our chairs and said we’d have to slip away for dinner at some point. With some beers we talked about our travels, then before long the chap from a British van that had parked next to us that afternoon walked by and spotted David as they had met previously in Spain. Terry and Bev have been down in Spain and some of Portugal over winter as their first trip away after retiring early. They joined us and we all chatted about travels and allsorts with music playing on a Bluetooth speaker, while working through the beer stocks of the three vans, a couple of bottles of wine and near the end Karen brought out a bottle of Limoncello they’d bought in the town, which went in no time. It was a great night with lots of laughs. We never got away to go for dinner so were quite under the influence along with the rest of the group by the end of it. Jo particularly got more familiar than she’d have liked with our toilet bowl before going to bed that night! I tried to be sympathetic at first but decided to have a lie-down while waiting it out and then promptly fell asleep!

The following day we had planned to move on but after the night before decided to stay put and have a lazy day to recover as we were feeling the effects. We had a chat with the rest of the gang and showed them our van before David and Karen got on their way, with David being the only one amongst us that was unaffected. After spending some time getting caught up on blog and diary log writing we had another walk into Morella to look around some of the other streets we’d not seen.

In the morning we said goodbye to Bev and Terry when they headed off, and a bit later got on the road ourselves back to the coast. Our next stop was the Delta de l’Ebre National Park which is an area of wetlands for rice growing and wildlife with lots of birds to see at some times of the year. We drove along small raised roads between rice paddies to near El Poble Nou del Delta where there’s an aire (GPS: 40.65979 0.67465, Free with €3 serv. pt.) next to a restaurant and cycle hire shop. Approaching the parking we noticed a familiar van; Bev & Terry were there, and we bumped into them as we went for a look around. We got the bikes out and spent the afternoon having a cycle ride past a lagoon area with flamingos to El Poble Nou itself, a new village, and on to the large sandy spithead at the coast. There’s a compacted track across the sand used a lot by vehicles to get to the beach which faces onto the sea at one side and onto the sheltered lagoon on the other. There were “No overnight parking” signs at the entrance but there were plenty of campers parked up at various points along the spit. We cycled nearly 2.5 miles along it, which was maybe about halfway, before turning back. It was a pleasant ride and one of the longer we’ve done for a while at 15 miles.

We aimed to stop next at some beachside parking near Tarragona that Wayne suggested in a comment on the blog, and that we’d read about on OurTour. Unfortunately when we got there, there were “No motorhome” signs on the road in and the majority of the previous large tolerated parking area was fenced off for re-establishment of the dunes. There was a small strip of grass and a patch of parking at the far edge by the side of a restaurant but with there being signs and no other motorhomes here we took it as a sign of possibly not being tolerated now (If you’re reading Wayne and have used this spot whilst it was like this with no problems we’d be interested to know for future reference). We stayed to have our lunch here then researched and chose a campsite for visiting Barcelona so that we knew which way to go from here.

We drove on to an aire close to Barcelona so that we didn’t have far to travel to the campsite, which was in Colònia Güell (GPS: 41.36528 2.02572, Free inc. serv. pt.). We’d done more driving in a day than usual for us lately, covering 119mi, making good use of our time getting through three financial and property podcasts while cruising along the main roads. Next to Santa Coloma de Cervello, Colònia Güell was established by Eusebi Guell to relocate his textile industry here which involved building accommodation and services for the workers. It is a small town that doesn’t take long to walk around, with some unusual c.1900 buildings and a square with a few café-bars. We had a short walk around the area and had a look at the main sight here the Gaudí church which has an unusual interesting design.

The Gaudi church

The next morning we got away by 10am intending to go to the campsite and into Barcelona for the rest of the day. We needed to get a few bits in stock from a shop so attempted going to a Lidl from our satnav points of interest in a nearby town en route. It turned out to be a small one with a small full car park as most of the parking was underground, so we couldn’t stop. Continuing following the route I noticed the sat nav was trying to take us onto the AP-2 which we thought would be a péage so ignored it and eventually found somewhere to stop and look at alternative routes. By this time it was getting on for 11, and as we’d not got far the previous day reading the Rough Guide chapter on Barcelona we weren’t very well prepared. Jo suggested going back to the aire to get better organised and stay there another night then get away earlier in the morning. After a quick visit to a nearby Mercadona we got parked up back at the aire and got on with reading up on Barcelona and planning what we wanted to see, only stopping for another walk around the town mid-afternoon.

Next time: Barcelona

- Matt


  1. Hey chaps, of course I'm reading. To clarify (for future ref.) Yes, there are 'No MoHo' signs up as you come down the hill & enter the parking area, but it was tolorated on the far side of the reservation area, toward the closed down camp site, right on the beach. The beach photo (above) looks like you were right on it. It was also tolorated, behind and beyond the restaurant, where the small triangle of unused land is. Hope you got to go into Tarragona. I would also recommend also 'Barcelona Camping' for your next stop and 3-4 nights/days in Barcelona. The 'Bus Touristica' is worth every penny. Kindest...Wayne.

    1. Thank you for clarifying Wayne, I think we were at the same spot, it would've been a nice spot to stay by the beach we were just a bit dubious with no other vans being there. We didn't get into Tarragona, we decided we needed to get moving north a bit quicker, it's one to come back to though! We did stay at Camping Barcelona though after your recommendation in an earlier comment, had 4 days there, it was a very good, the free shuttle bus was a big bonus. Thanks, Matt

  2. JJust remembered, don't miss the Museum of Catalonia, just along from the harbour, we loved it and its cheap. Kindest, Wayne.

  3. Great to see you bumped into the Gappers, it's a small world! We stopped at that patch of beach in Tarragona, even though the campsite was open then there were still loads of motorhomes free camping there.
    Hope your trip is going well and our paths cross again someday.
    Ju x

    1. Hi Ju, It was good to bump into them, you're right it is a small world in motorhoming! From your photos at the Tarragona beach I think they've blocked off most of the grass area since you were there unfortunately just leaving a small patch.
      I've actually been meaning to drop you guys an email about a few things, will do when I get chance/have spare laptop battery! Going great here thanks, if we don't see you on the road this year maybe we will when back in the UK.
      Keep enjoying Croatia, Matt

    2. That's a shame as it was a great place to stop, hopefully they might put a proper aire in instead.

      Do drop us an email, it would be great to catch up without the rest of the world reading it :)

      Keep truckin'
      Ju x

  4. I was already wandering ... Do these bloggers never meet? And here's your night together post! Great to read. Yes, I do read OurTour and many more. It's fun to follow and travel with you...

    1. Cheers Chris. We met up with Julie & Jay in northern Spain in November, it was through them that we found out about the Grey Gappers, and then we happened to cross paths with them now! It's a small world out on the road

    2. Yes, indeed, a small world! But a lovely one!
      All the best,
      Chris, Belgian Beauty