19/02/2018 Calpe, Spain,
We have said our goodbyes to Wendy and Brian, the Aussies’ friends. Whilst camped there we met Dave and Pauline, friends of theirs, and the six of us have been out- and- about together. We will definitely meet up with this new pair sometime in the future. They are English but live in Northern France, not too far from Cherbourg.
We drove 14 miles northward and pulled into Calpe. Calpe is like Benidorm as chalk is to cheese. What a beautiful place. We are now parked in Calle Finlandia, a street just up from the beach and there are about another 30 motorhomes either side of the road. It is a beautiful day, so we set off to explore the town. There is a mighty rock outcrop called the Penon de Ifach which towers over the bay and is the nesting place for many birds. We headed towards the rock along the promenade and unlike Benidorm, we didn’t see one noisy bar. All along were nice shops and Spanish restaurants. Other than people on the beautiful beach we only saw one man walking along the front without a shirt even though it was a gloriously, sunny day. We walked round the base of the rock and followed the promenade alongside as far as we could go.
Way up on the side of the rock face we spotted some intrepid young people climbing up quite a sheer side and thought rather them than me.
The promenade didn’t take us all the way round the front of the bay, so we stopped at the end and watched a boat that was waiting around for some divers that kept popping up and when they weren’t on the surface you could follow their progress by watching the bubbles from their air tanks. A nearby sign told us that there is an underwater trail along the sea bed for divers to follow. As we headed back to get lunch near the harbour we kept an eye on the climbers. All was good with them so far.
After lunch we walked back around the bay and near the end of the beach we spotted a walkway that would take us towards a beach bar the we could see in the distance. The path took us up and then all along the front of all the large houses above us and we passed small bay after small bay. The path meandered all along the cliff edge and finally we reached the bar. What a disappointment. They must have the slowest kettle in the world. When we arrived, we asked the waitress for two cups of tea. A quarter of an hour later, we reminded the girl and she said it was on its way. After twenty-five minutes, we left, because we decided it would be quicker to walk all the way back to the van, to put the kettle on for ourselves. By now, we should be used to the Spanish “manana” style of service; but all we wanted were our reviving cups of tea.
When we got back we learnt that the English van that was now parked opposite us had been broken into when they we parked in a quiet spot by the lighthouse. It will be pretty off putting for the couple as they haven’t had their motorhome long and it was their first trip abroad. While the were away some “nice” people had forced a window of their motorhome and stolen some of their property. Let it be a reminder to us all to take care where park our beloved vans.
20/02/2018 Castellon de la Plana
From Calpe we drove 145 miles further North and reached Castellon de la Plana. We both agreed that we would spend as much of this week “wild” camping so we headed for an aire that we found from one of our favourite source of overnight stopping points, Park for the Night. When we arrived, there were the promised free facilities like free overnight parking (for two nights only), free water and drainage and the town even provided a week Wi-Fi signal and quite a clean toilet and at the top of the site there were some picnic benches for the motor homer’s use
The aire was right by the beach and the town itself was about 8km away so we asked a Spanish man where we could catch a bus as it was too far to walk. He waved his hands about a lot and spoke many Spanish words and on our non-understanding, he raised his voice a lot. I think we do that to try to make a foreigner understand us? He was trying to help so we thanked him and smiled to each other. We found a bus stop and we tried again with a “Spanish” lady who was waiting for the bus herself. It turned out she was French so communication became much easier. She was going right to the centre itself, so she said she would signal us when we had to get off the bus. When we were there she pointed out which way to go to find the cathedral and other places of interest.We wandered around following the map we got from the tourist information bureau. To be perfectly honest, we found the town a little bit of a disappointment and all the information on the map was in Spanish, so we didn’t really know what we were looking at. In the centre of a large square was a large stone, double sided sculpture but there was no explanation what was being depicted.
The cathedral had a separate tall, bell tower which we could understand was used once to keep an eye out for invading pirates. So why it was in the middle of the town, approximately 5 miles from the coast will always remain a mystery.
We failed to find out who the artist was as the map didn’t mention the bronze at all. We had a quick look around the shopping area and spotted this colourful scene, high up, at the end of a row of buildings. We are glad we went to see what was there, but it wasn’t too long before we were catching the bus back to the beach.
21/02/2018 Sitges (The police came knocking!)
174 miles drive further up the coast has found us at Sitges which we loved right up until 9.30 that evening when the police came knocking on our door. Again, the Park for the Night app had given us the coordinates of a very tried and trusted motorhome, overnight parking place right on the beach front, about a mile from the centre of the town. As soon as we parked up, just behind another English van, we eagerly walked along the wide promenade to get us into this fascinating town. Sitges is located about 35km south of Barcelona, and has seventeen beaches, various lively nightspots, and an annual International film festival.
The town is in the autonomous community of Catalonia and protest flags and the odd graffiti can easily be seen. Once a sleepy fishing village, Sitges developed a reputation as a centre for Catalan art sometime in the late 19thcentury, so lots of painters, writers, sculptors and musicians set up home in the town. Sitges is a quaint town with whitewashed buildings, narrow streets and a lengthy seafront esplanade. The town is considered to be the gay capital of Spain. The Rainbow flag (the gay pride flag) flies from many houses.
Sitges is a photographer’s dream location and I got lots of practice with my new camera and I am going to let the pictures tell the story of what we found there. We decided that there was so much to see that we would stop another day here, so we walked back along the esplanade. We had a nice chat with the English couple in the van in front of ours and then settled down for the evening and continued with our Rummikub tournament. For once, I was having a fairly successful time when, at 9.30 pm we heard a loud rapping at our door. It was two policemen. To be fair, they were quite polite about it, but with a limited English vocabulary, one kept saying it was not possible to stay here and we must move to another street. We asked why but the answer came back the same.
We watched the other vans around us drive off; I had to drive very carefully to a street just up from the beach, so I didn’t disturb the tiles spread out over the board. I was doing really well in this game so didn’t want to start again. I will admit, if I had been losing I would have taken the corners quicker. It was a shame that, in a way, the day had been spoilt. We both decided that we would move on instead of the extra day here.
22/02/2018 Roses (near Figueres, Spain)
The weather forecasts do not look too good for the next little while and the temperatures in northern Spain look to take a big dip. In view of this and our want to get south as soon as possible, we have decided to speed up our travels. The plan now is to race through France and Italy as we done a lot in these countries on previous tours.
We left Sitges and took the road northward out of town. As usual we ignored the sign for the toll road. Almost immediately we entered a narrow two-way road with concrete walls on our side. There were orange reflectors every ten meters sticking out making the wall on our side look even more menacing. I didn’t actually clock the mileage, but I think we travelled about 10 miles on this, the windiest road I have ever travelled on. The road been cut out of the side of the cliffs and followed every contour for the complete length. If I had been driving a car I would have loved the experience but our 7meter long motorhome was not the ideal vehicle for such a road. As soon as we started, all I could think was, mustn’t scratch the side of the van and why hadn’t we taken the toll road.
We encountered strong side winds for the rest of the 157mile journey so was very pleased to pull in to the carpark of the castle at Roses which was going to be our resting point for the night. Roses is passed Figueres and from here the French border was quite close. I got out of the van to take a picture of the harbour way below us and had a job standing, the wind was so strong.
23,24/02/2018 Port Vendre, France
After an early start, we drove back to just before Figueres and then turned right and the border to France was just a little further on. Both sides of the border have shopping complexes and we headed to the huge outlet stores just on the Spanish side of the border called La Jonquera. “Ladies of the night” could be seen on the roads around the border area and huge clubs (brothels) are situated around the vast lorry parks. The prices of the clothes were too good to resist and we both returned to the van with bulging shopping bags and a lighter wallet.
Once through the border we completed the 53mile drive of the day and pulled into the police aire de camping car, 1km walk from the town centre of Port Vendre.
Here we spent two days and had two great evenings with my friend Paul who has lived in France for ten years. Thank you, Paul for your hospitality. We like Port Vendre and enjoyed the market and bought some superb cheese which made a great lunch when combined with the French bread we bought from the boulangerie. Elaine has got lots of information about Paul’s driving holiday around Poland which will be invaluable when we eventually get there.
25/02/2018 Campsite near Montpelier
We have had a great run today and it has only taken us just under three hours to drive the 144miles to get to Camping Altea, a 15euros a night campsite. The sun is shining, and Elaine has just announced that the washing is drying nicely in the warm sunshine and we will be able to leave tomorrow. It is quite refreshing to have the afternoon relaxing after the busy, last few days.
We will have one more day in France. Tomorrow we will head for Mandelieu la Napoule before crossing the border into Italy. At this rate we will be in Slovenia by Friday. Elaine says we are legging” it. I think that is a quaint Yorkshire expression for travelling quickly.