Week 30: Storm Gloria met us with a bang!

A Lull in the Storm

Having been into Valencia on a gloriously sunny day (we do have to remind ourselves its January), we were hit full on by Storm Gloria. We asked each day if we could stay as the weather was so bad. Each time we asked we were met with a little smile (as if we were going anywhere!)

The storm continued into Monday and whilst it started to look a little better, it came back with avengence. We settled down in the Motorhome downloading programmes to watch and waiting out the storm. On Tuesday, there were more weather warnings, high waves (8 metres), wind and snow above 300m. A thunderstorm raged for over two hours complete with hail and heavy rain. Spain was on alert – the port of Valencia and the airport at Alicante were closed, three people were known to have died. We and others we knew were safe and sound, but just staying put in various places. Mid-afternoon, there was a lull and we took advantage to have a wander, walking down to the beach for some fresh air and the scene that met us was unbelievable. The roads were flooded, as were the vegetable fields and the cycle path we had used on Saturday. The sea was a murky grey and the horizon was hard to distinguish. There was even a shipping lane buoy washed up on the beach. We were nearly caught out by a wave but managed to stay dry.

Wednesday, the storm had relented, despite being woken by giant hailstones and more thunder, followed by some sunshine. We headed off up the coast, through Valencia to Benicassim. The full effect of the storm was evident all around. We had made the right decision to stay put. We arrived at a campsite, pitched for the night and had a walk to the sea.

On Thursday, we continued our trip along the coast to Peniscola. We saw even more damage caused by Storm Gloria, and the seafront road to the campsite was closed to general traffic, as it was being cleared of sand by JCBs, Bulldozers and Bobcats. There is an underground car park on the beach, which is being pumped out of water (it was still being pumped out when we left on Monday).

We went out on the bikes, up to the castle and the port, before trying to get to the Ermita de Sant Antoni, a mere 5 kilometres away, but with about a kilometre left the path turned too steep and we turned back. As we returned, the fishing boats were coming back into port and the fish sales began.

We decided we would stay in Peniscola until Monday, it’s a lively town with a lot to see and do. Despite being the low season, Restaurants and Bars are open and the weather was fantastic. We set off on our bikes to Benicarlo, just up the coast. The road here has not yet been fully opened and in places the sand was about two feet deep, if not more. It was like giant snow drifts. Shop owners were sweeping out their shops and apartment building and hotels were sweeping and jet washing their frontages. The Fire Service was also pumping out basements. The bikes needed cleaning before we could put them away as there was sand everywhere!

Saturday, we knew the weather was a little doubtful today so we planned to go to the castle. It has been used in several films, including El Cid and in the TV series Game of Thrones. The castle has an interesting history too. It was part of the Arab reign of the region, then Spanish and a Templar Castle before being the pontifical seat of Papa Luna – Pope Benedict XIII. It stands high on the rocks and partially built into them, overlooking the bay and the port and it is easy to see why it was built here. It is cheap to enter and you can wander around at your leisure.

Sunday, after a night of rain, we went off to explore more of the town and the surroundings on our bikes, the sand is still being cleared. We think this will be a long term operation. We took a trip back to the lake where we’d seen jumping fish to see if we could capture it in a picture – we did!

Tomorrow, we’re off up the coast in the hunt for Flamingos! Will we be lucky? As always, thank you for reading this. We really appreciate it. We also apologise for the intermittent postings, due to the storm, WiFi has been very hit and miss!

Week 29: Spain (7 months on the road)!

Seven months ago, on 19th June 2019, we were handed the keys to Nortia, and we haven’t looked back since! Don’t get us wrong, there have been some testing times – we used to have a fairly large house, we rattled around in – we even had a room, known as the dog’s room! So, transferring to a motorhome was going to be different! We had jobs we liked and loads of friends and family for support. The time had come though for us to do something we’d talked about for years – TRAVEL.

We sold our house and downsized to a flat, which we could rent out, if needed. We sold surplus belongings and quit our jobs. We set off up to Darlington to collect the keys to Nortia. Nortia, as we’re sure you’re aware, is an Etrusco T7400 QBC and has a front dining / lounge with a pull down bed and a fixed rear queen-size bed, under which is the garage. Separating the two areas are the shower and toilet – both are separate, but can be closed off to make a big bathroom or en-suite to the bedroom.

Since leaving Cleveland Motorhomes in Darlington, we have travelled 21000 miles, been to 26 countries, travelled to the top of mainland Europe, Nordkapp, the two centres of Europe – old and new, visited the three capital cities on the Baltic Chain, met lots of wonderful people and made new friends, we drove to Croatia to meet my (Sarah’s) mum, on holiday. We have travelled through the Dolomites on the recommendation of Marcella and Julian, http://www.theofficeisclosed.com/. We were filmed for Etrusco in Riga, where we first met Karen and Colin http://www.rewindthegap.co.uk/, then we met the again in Poland – unexpectedly, and again, last week – planned, in San Javier. We went to Auschwitz, Salaspils and various other memorials, including Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Menin Gate. Experiences have not always been pleasant, even remembering the stinky fish – Surströmming, in Sweden, makes us slightly green!

Last week, we said goodbye and good night to one of the team, Albi Dog, in Spain. We’re continuing our adventure with him in our hearts and with so many memories.

What has this week had in store? We left Karen and Colin in San Javier and headed up the coast – eastwards towards Benidorm. We stayed at Villajoyosa, a short bike ride away, and had our first look at the town on Monday! It was just as we thought it would look with large numbers of sky-scaper buildings (hotels) and an amazingly large beach. We were going to come back and explore tomorrow, so for now it was time to head back. On Tuesday, we went back to Benidorm, we had brunch – a full English Breakfast – in a cafe on the sea front and though how peaceful it was, nothing like we were expecting. We thought we’d find the hotel where the TV series is filmed, so put the address into Gloria Google Maps, and off we went. This is when we realised we hadn’t even scrapped the edge of the town. It was heaving with people, cars, bars, restaurants and shops, interspersed with amusement arcades. Every other person appeared to have a hired mobility scooter – including tandems, and there was even parking for them at the hotel. Having found the hotel, we headed back to the campsite, but not before being told off by a Policeman for cycling in the pedestrian area (full of mobility scooters)!

From Benidorm, we headed further east, up to Altea, where we had planned to stop for the night. We’d been told how lovely it was and wanted to have a mooch around the old town, but it was so busy – it seems everyone had the same idea, both the campsite and the stellplatz were full, so we negotiated the one way system, along the beach and pulled up in a lay-by overlooking the bay for lunch. From Altea, we headed up to Calpe and on to Moraira, where we found a small campsite at the top of the hill, with views over the bay.

At the bottom of the hill, we spotted an Indian Restaurant with Take-Away, so we unloaded the bikes and headed for a tour around, just to see what was there. We went up to the point westwards, but there were no real views over the bay, just villas. We did find a supermarket, another Indian Restaurant and two Chineses along with a number of bars. We had already decided we were having an Indian and cycled back down the hill later to collect one!

The next morning, we headed off on the bikes to Cova des Arcs, at Cala del Moraig. It’s stunning bay with natural coves and the most perfect blue green sea. We stopped for lunch before setting off up the 22% incline of hill from the bay to Cap d’Or. Cap d’Or is another beautiful bay with a cafe and bar and sandy beach. We’d been recommended it by one of our neighbours we met that morning.

On Friday, we set out to Javea, and spotting an English Supermarket, felt compelled to stop. It wasn’t as great as we expected but we were able to get a few home comforts – crumpets and a warm sausage roll! We continued onwards up over the hill (and hair-raising bends) to Denia, before heading up towards Valencia. We stopped for the weekend at a campsite just outside Valencia, in El Saler. It’s right on the cycle route to the city and has a bus stop right outside. The beach is also about a five minute walk. We’re here for the weekend, trying to slow down our trips and enjoy what we see more.

Saturday, after a slow start, and chores completed – laundry, bed changing etc., its not all glamour and sight seeing, we sorted out the bikes and headed into the city. Valencia is a welcome mix of old and new with beaches and green spaces and a cycle route that takes you right around the city. We headed to the port then up to the old town and back through the park, which seems to span the whole of the middle, before cycling back along the beach and the prom.

Sunday, there was a weather warning for today, there was due to be coastal disruption from 12:00 to 00:00, generally, we have learnt this means high wind and coastal based activities are put on hold. We awoke to rain and it carried on all day, putting paid to our plans of cycling to the nature reserve and around the local town, but we haven’t done bad for the weather recently! We’ll wait and see what tomorrow brings and where we head off to.

As always, thank you for reading and following our blog. We hope that you are enjoying it. We’ll be back next week, internet permitting with more news and tales!

Week 28: Spain – not a good week.

Goodbye little dog, what a wonderful life we have been able to share with you.

Monday morning, a fiesta day in Spain and there was evidence of last night’s celebrations in every town and village we drove through – confetti and foil streamers in the roads, it must have been a great night. We left our little overnight stop in the mountains and drove towards Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Granada looks like a lovely place to visit properly and has been added to our list! Our goal for today, was to drive the road we’d seen featured in Top Gear several years ago, up to the Pico de Valeta – a ski resort where the road stops! The peak (Pico) is at 3,300m above sea level and there is snow at the top. We checked the weather and ski reports and felt it was safe to do so. The road, was fantastic although we did hear a lot of popping in the MoHo – we stopped and checked all the bottles, as they’d started to pressurise at altitude, but couldn’t find a reason, so on we continued.

The weather was wonderful, clear blue skies and sun. There were cars approaching us laden with skis and people dressed in ski wear – we were still in shorts but… (we do have our whole wardrobe with us, so we are able to change on a whim)! We arrived as close to the top as we wanted to, the final part was full of parked cars and people, and we knew we would have to turn around to come back. At the top we repressurised the fuel tank, by undoing the cap, and with a loud hiss the cap opened – when we were in the Vosges mountains in France the fuel gauge took an age to give us the right reading when we came back down the mountain! We stopped for the night in a lovely little campsite in Otuta, a short distance from Granada and accessible by bus. There were only four vehicles parked there and it had a lovely view of the mountains.

The following morning we set off along the southern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and stopped for lunch in another little village, before heading to Roquetas de Mar. Our aim was to stop here for the night, before heading up to Tabernas and the desert, famed for spaghetti westerns.

We had a pleasant evening, although Albi started to be a little unwell. He occasionally suffers with sickness and has medication to help him, so although a little alarmed we thought we’d see how he was in the morning. We awoke and although he wasn’t much better, he seemed OK in himself and we thought maybe all the driving, might have upset him, we decided to stay another day and let him settle. As the day progressed he worsened and we went straight to a vet, we’d had recommended – without an appointment, but they said they’d see him. Unfortunately, Albi’s condition had worsened considerably during our wait and he was put onto a drip and had an ultrasound carried out on his stomach. He was diagnosed with an engorged gall bladder, and would need surgery to remove it once he had perked up a little. We were warned his condition was serious and there was a 50:50 chance of survival. We said our goodbyes, just in case and unfortunately, following the operation, his heart failed and he was unable to be resuscitated.

Goodbye, little dog. Albi has been part of the family for almost 11 years, he has been to over 28 countries in Europe, he’s walked the Coast to Coast with us, he climbed Haystacks and Hellvellyn, he’s been to the Inner Hebrides, the Outer Hebrides, the Isles of Scilly. He’s camped in tents, a campervan and the Motorhome. He’s been on boats, ferries, cable-cars and vernacular trains. We hope we gave him as good a life as he deserved and we know we did as much as we could to enable him to live a good life. He will remain, here in Spain. we know where we’ve left him and we can return to his resting place.

After a day of upset and heartbreak, we decided we would continue our adventure and Albi will always be a part of what we do and where we go – he was (is) part of the team – it’s Three go Travelling after all! We headed along the coast towards Mazarron and stopped at a campsite by the beach – we later saw there were a number of wild campsites nearby, which would have been nicer, and allowed us to wake up with a view of the sea. Here, we found out our friends, Karen and Colin a.k.a Rewind the Gap http://www.rewindthegap.co.uk/ were just along the coast at an incredibly cheap campsite, and they would be there for the next day, so we arranged to meet them there. It was a very busy campsite and they had been able to reserve us a space, much to the annoyance of those turned away. The campsite is in San Javier overlooking the Mer Menor, by an airport now used by the Air Force.

We spent an evening with Karen and Colin, and caught up with their news and shared ours. We found out a few places to visit nearby and despite only thinking of staying for one night we stayed for two. On Sunday, we set off on our bikes to Cabo de Palos. Gloria Google Maps told us it was an hour and a half by bike, so easily doable on our bikes! After an hour and ten miles, she told us it was another hour and 23 Kilometers (15 miles) away, we stopped and returned to the campsite. There is a boardwalk, through the nature reserve from the campsite to the promenade, with lots of restaurants and bars (many aren’t open in the low season) but it was very busy on a Sunday Afternoon! We even found a cafe serving Full English Breakfasts – if only it had been a bit closer!

As always, thank you for reading and sharing our adventure. We’re continuing around the coast next week, so we’ll share more of our trip with you when we can!

Week 27: New Year in Spain and onto Gibraltar

Another week, and we’re still in El Puerto de Santa Maria, we will leave soon, but its still lovely to be settled and we’re looking forward to New Year here, before continuing our adventure.

Monday, we headed out in the lovely Nortia. We felt it was her turn to go out and about (and we needed LPG (GLP in Spain), not desperately, but we would need to fill up at some point). We headed out to Cadiz and had a drive over the bridge we’d cycled over last week. In the Parque, today, there were flamingos! Cadiz, was very busy, there were two cruise liners in port, including the Mein Schieff 4 which we think we’d seen before in Honningsvåg, on our way to Nordkapp, Norway!

From Cadiz, we headed inland to the town of Arcos de la Frontera, on the recommendations of our lovely neighbours. Time was a little short by now and although we drove there, we didn’t have a chance to look properly, so its added to a list for our next trip (along with Seville)! We returned to the campsite via the Supermarket, but forgot the LPG!

Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, we’d been told you can see the fireworks in Cadiz from the beach so we were hoping to make the midnight hour and be on the beach! We didn’t really do a lot, got bread, sat in the sun, tidied and joined our neighbours for New Year’s Eve drinks. Thank you Sheila and John. Before midnight, we put the dog back to bed and headed to the beach with a bottle of fizz in hand, eagerly waiting for the fireworks… there wasn’t an organised show this year! We had a laugh, made more new friends and sang Auld Lang Syne, before heading back to our MoHo.

New Year’s Day. We awoke a little later than normal and had another relaxing day. I (Sarah) went for a swim in the sea – it was freezing. The sun more than thawed me out though, so worth doing (my sister had done the same in England, so the challenge was set)! We’re setting off in the morning to continue the adventure, so a few last chores were completed, too.

Thursday, we said our goodbyes and were genuinely sorry to be leaving our lovely neighbours, but the adventure needs to continue. We set off to get the LPG we’d missed out on before and filled up our Gaslow system, headed to the Supermarket, stopping in the Motorhome stopover. In the car park of the Centro Comercial El Paseo, there are about four stopover pitches and a service point, which is free if you present your receipt from any shop to the Management Office, who give you a token for water and electricity (about 2 hours). Once sorted we headed off along the coast to Tarifa, where we stayed on a campsite close to the beach, which was full of kite-surfers.

Friday, off again, this time we went into Tarifa and had a drive around before heading off along the coast to La Linea de la Concepcion and the camperstop at the Marina. It’s a great stop for Gibraltar and we set off through the Border on our bikes, over the runway and into the country. First stop, as you do, was to Morrison’s the grocers! Just a quick check to see if what we’d heard was true, and yes, it was, it sells English food, exactly as you get at home, sausages, bacon, Hovis bread, pork pies etc., after our little trip around the rock, we’d buy some bits! We headed off up the rock on the bikes, stopping at the edge of the National Park, partly as you had to pay for the privilege of going further up, but mainly because it was so steep I (Sarah) could no longer breathe and pedal, and Ric had stopped on a fairly steep incline and couldn’t get enough momentum to get up the hill!

We looked over the Pillars of Hercules, also the Strait of Gibraltar, to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Disappointed we wouldn’t see the monkeys at the top, we headed back down the hill, carefully as it was so steep, and there was a big male monkey. Another couple were trying to take selfies with it, but we went for a quick photo and as it decided to move towards us we took off – they are quite large and threatening! We cycled down to the 100 pound gun and then back to Morrison’s, where we did enough shopping to keep us going. We do like Spanish food, but sometimes, you just need a bit of home!

The next morning on the dog walk, we discovered some Haus-Boats, which you can rent out. They are little floating wooden huts, with a kitchen, bedroom and living area. We headed off towards Marbella.

En route to Marbella, we stopped off at Puerto Banus and have a drive around, we headed off to the campsite we’d found, thinking we could cycle on into the town. The campsite wasn’t the greatest and there were so many cats! One thing we know is Albi loves to chase a cat, and he promptly took off, on the lead, causing me to drop a bottle of wine – he was not in the good books! We set off on the bikes following Gloria Google Maps, over the road (the busy A7, via footbridge – thankfully) and down to the beach, where we were told to turn right – no road, path or prom, just sand and beach, so we turned back and tried again, same thing! After about an hour we gave up and headed back to the campsite.

Sunday, we headed along the coast to Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Málaga. Tomorrow is a Fiesta day, known here as the Day of the Kings and a lot of places have special events happening tonight. We headed through Málaga. and up through the Montes de Málaga towards the Sierra Nevada, spending the night in Viñuela, behind an incredibly busy Restaurant, we had to wait for a car to be moved, before we could access the site.

Tomorrow, we’re planning to go up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains – we can see snow up there, so we’ll see how far we get. As always thank you for reading and again apologies for the late post – WiFi in Spain is not as widespread as we had been led to believe!

Week 26: Christmas in Spain

Having decided to stay at El Puerto del Santa Maria until after Christmas, we settled in to the campsite quite nicely and made friends with our neighbours. The campsite is made up of about three separate areas for motorhomes and caravans and another stepped area for tents. Within the area we are based there is also a road which splits the area and each little cul-de-sac off it has eight pitches, plus another four which back onto you, giving you a little community feel!

On Monday, we had a little drive around the local area and went up to Jerez, to see the MotoGP circuit and the Monumento Michelin ( a giant Michelin Man on a roundabout!). On our trip we passed a fire station tower, with Santa waving at the top and then popped into the Hypermarket to stock up for Christmas. Food shopping in Spain at Christmas is no different than at home – it is chaotic and manic and the shops here only shut for Christmas Day! Once back at our little home from home, we checked the weather forecast and saw we were due more sun for the week!

Christmas Eve, we set off in search of a bread shop (Panaderia) and ended up on the bridge to Cadiz. We had planned this and not just found ourselves several miles away. You can see the bridge from the beach and as you may have discovered by now, we have a thing for bridges! It was too good an opportunity to miss. Cadiz is a peninsula into the Atlantic Sea, connected to the mainland by a number of bridges. We set off through the town of El Puerto del Santa Maria and then passed over the river – there is also a ferry from the harbour to Cadiz, here. We headed down to the village of Valdelagrana and into the Parque Natural Los Toruños, a lovely oasis of riverbed and grassland, and a natural habitat for a number of birds.

On the other side we exited the park by the University of Cadiz, and headed towards the bridge – Puente de la Constitución de 1812 and found you can cycle up the service road and across to Cadiz, we only ventured halfway across, as we’d already cycled 13 miles and it was 20° C. On the way back, we found a Chinese takeaway and stopped to pick up our dinner.

Christmas Day and the sun is shining. We started the day opening the cards and presents we’d brought with us from home, before setting off in search of bread. We’d read that bread is a staple in Spain and that a meal is not a meal without it, so surely there must be one open, We checked Gloria Google maps and headed off to one that looked like it might be open, no, then off to another, again no, right one more… YES and the bread was still hot. We bought one for us and each of our neighbours (it is Christmas after all!) After a light lunch, we sat in the sun for a while more and ten strolled on the beach, before heading back to Nortia and sitting some more outside, but with our nearest neighbours – our pitch and theirs adjoined! We prepped our dinner and rang the family, before heading over for a couple of drinks with them in their awning. Needless to say one turned into two and our Christmas dinner was postponed until Boxing Day!

On Boxing Day, we decided to stay at the campsite until the New Year, it feels so homely and comfortable, moving around over the Christmas break felt a little too stressful! We headed out again for bread and found another bread shop, this one had little cakes too – well it is Christmas! After completing a few chores, having lunch and sorting the laundry, we set off on the bikes to the nearby town of Rota. We knew there is a large Military Base there, as we’d been listening to the US Military civilian radio station, and after a few miles, Gloria Google maps decided we should turn right into the Naval Base, faced with a large Marine with a larger gun, we returned to the campsite, relaxed some more in the sun and had our lovely Christmas Dinner.

Friday, another day chilling in the sun, we had a cycle around the town and went to the supermarket, but not much else! Relaxing in the sunshine can be such hard work!

Saturday, another lovely sunny day – we emptied out and cleaned the garage, before heading out again on our bikes and mooching around the town, before more sun and another walk on the beach.

Sunday, we set off again on our bikes to the town of Valdelagrana, with its fabulously long sandy beach. We cycled along the prom and back into the Parque Natural Los Toruños, cycling a different route and seeing various types of wading birds, herons, storks, curlews and guillemots. After 13 miles we arrived back at the Motorhome and sheltered from the very strong winds, before setting out to the beach, to walk the dog and feeling like we were being sand blasted with the sand whipped up off the beach!

Not the only Etrusco – our Spanish Etrusco Neighbours!

Again, and as always, thank you for reading our post. We hope you had a very Merry Christmas and will update you with our New Year’s adventure soon….