We stopped overnight at the inland Spanish village of El Palomar, en route to the sun.
The village is surrounded by orange and olive groves.
We stopped overnight at the inland Spanish village of El Palomar, en route to the sun.
The village is surrounded by orange and olive groves.
Don’t trust your sat nav! This was our suggested route to the camping at Cala d’Orques. We would have got through, but without wing mirrors.
We stopped overnight near Tarragona at a campsite called Cala d’Oques, or the Creek of the Geese. Which explained the two geese in a pen by reception. Once we had put the name through google translate.
On the Beach.
Tomorrow we head off to another old favourite, Camping Marjal at Creveillente.
No, not me after a night on the town. It’s Salvador Dali, Spanish surrealist artist born here in Figueres in 1904.
We moved on to spend the night in L’Estartit, in the Bay of Roses.
We stopped off in Bordeaux for a few hours, to get a couple of bits added to the camping car and explore some old favourite places. Next stop is Figueres in Catalunya, and the Salvador Dali museum.
We are now officially homeless after selling Claybottom Farm; sale completed Friday, on the ferry Sunday.
We set off at 4am and drove down a deserted and misty M6.
The Krays took it easy.
We are towing a car for the first time to allow us to properly explore our destination, the Lot et Garonne department in Aquitaine.
We caught the 2.45 pm ferry from Portsmouth to Caen.
Aren’t the French matelots fantastique? They think of everything, even a chest full of emergency brassieres.
This is one of our newest warships, seems to be aground, fine on the port side as we steamed out of Portsmouth. If you look carefully you can see Theresa May. She is polishing one of the gunports, getting ready for a bit of gunboat diplomacy, should brexit negotiations not go in our favour.
We had a nice calm crossing and docked at Caen at 8pm, just in time for a walk on Sword beach then a quiet night on the aire at Ouistreham.
We left Spain a day earlier than planned, because of the forecast snow in the Pyrenees, and did a long (400 miles) run from Valencia Camper Park to Aire-sur-L’Adour, through the Somport tunnel. L’Aire sur L’Adour is a small town about 40 km north of Pau. We walked in to town along the river (the aire is on the river) and toasted France with deux verres de vin blanc.
Nice wine but a petite shock to have to pay €3 a glass after the €1-20 of Spain. And a chance for Nia to try out her French on the waiter.
And for me to stick my oar in:……”Ma femme, sa Française est superbe, n’est ce pas?”….What could he do but agree?
He moved on before we could ask about the whereabouts of my aunt’s pen.
The next day we travelled to Eymet, a small town in the Lot-et-Garonne department of Aquitaine, and stayed at Camping du Château. It is officially closed but the owner, Philippe, a most charming and delightful man, allowed us to stay anyway. Above is the view from the campsite…a little wet on arrival…
Jupiter is Phillipe’s swan….he bought him a year ago to keep his female swan happy. Mrs Jupiter (Leda to her friends) was on and off her nest and Jupiter was being very territorial.
This is the château under which the campsite sits.
And the church.
Eymet is an old bastide town with an arcaded medieval market square.
This is the old water mill at Eymet, once used to grind flour and now in the process of being restored.
On Monday we moved a few miles west to lodge on the drive of our friends Dave and Judy, who have lived in the Lot-et-Garonne for the last three years. They have a house surrounded by plum orchards and with stunning views over the valley to the SW of them.
The orchards are covered in blossom at the moment.
Nia with Dave and Judy.
We had a great few days exploring the region with Dave and Judy. There are many pretty châteaux scattered about.
And many vineyards, all just coming in to bud.
We visited a chocolate factory ( as much to taste as you like!). This is Penny being evicted from the drivers seat of Dave’s car, where she had moved as soon as we had gone chocolate tasting.
We walked round the pretty old village of Issigeac and found this be-flowered bike guarding a street corner.
This is the town of Nerac, once the stamping ground of Henri IV.
Henri IV château.
We took the dogs for a walk around this lake near Marmande, I guess the place where those lovely fat beef tomatoes first grew.
This is a tree frog, apprehended lurking near Judy’s cuttings and begging to be photographed.
Early (well 8 am) on Friday we left Monteton and drove 300 miles north to the aire at La Suze sur Sarthe, on the first leg of the journey home.
Evening at La Suze.
As I type this we are sitting on the aire at Ouistreham, near Caen, waiting for the Sunday morning ferry. So this will be the last post for a while.
[with thanks to Jane for reminding me of a useful stock schoolboy french phrase]
We had a sunny final week at Los Alcázares; it got a little busier as a few Spanish pitched up for the Easter holidays.
We spotted these Andalusians trotting through the shallows on the way to coffee one morning (us, not the horses).
We said goodbye to Mike and Marilyn who had to set off home a few days earlier than planned…storm Katie had scuppered their booked Bay of Biscay crossing so they had to drive up through France for the tunnel. The couple on the right are Anne and Gerda, two friends from Holland.
Colin is watching Marilyn, his new best friend, who had been slipping him biscuits.
Nia tried to dog nap Acer but was caught dog handed.
This is Luca, a Podenco, one of four dogs rescued by Jan and Frank, who we met on the beach at Mar Menor. We shared a great day with them sampling the tapas at La Encarnacion.
Los Alcázares celebrates Easter in a big way, with events that also commemorate an invasion by North African pirates several hundred years ago..the ‘Berber Incursions…’
There is an Easter market with loads of medieval themed stalls packing the narrow streets. We bought some soap and beeswax skin cream from this lady.
And some earrings from this guy.
This man was selling pasties straight out of the oven.
There was a parade of geese through the town in the morning.
And a troupe of Arab dancers/musicians.
We stopped for a lunchtime beer with our Irish friends Ray and Patricia.
Several camels turned up for the party.
There was a torchlit parade in the evening.
And much food.
The evening was rounded off with a firework display.
After Easter we set off to drive north in to France, on the way home.
This is our pitch at Mar Menor….Mavis is parked on the left, in a front corner next to a section of nature reserve which separates the campsite from the town of Los Alcázares.
This is the boardwalk through the nature reserve to Los Alcázares.
At the far end of the beach from us is the restaurant, the ‘Thai Beach’. Opposite the restaurant is this jetty which runs out in to the Mar Menor….I’m the hombre at the end.
The restaurant is open at weekends only at the moment. It is run by a nice Spanish guy called Peter, a physiotherapist, who arranges free paella every Sunday lunchtime.
Quirkily, he also provides free blood pressure and blood sugar checks every Tuesday for those who want them. Don’t get it checked after one of the chocolate croissants that Tomas, from the local panaderia, hawks around the site every morning.
We did go along for a check up, just for fun, and met Peter, who is charming. He invited us to come along early to the Sunday paella feast so we could see how it was made.
Last Tuesday we biked north along the coast to San Pedro del Pinatar, where there is a long cycle track out along a strip of land separating the Mar Menor from the Mediterranean. At first there are Salinas…salt pans..to the left and then, about 4 miles out, the track reaches the sea.
The buildings in the distance are on La Manga Strip..the other side of the horseshoe seaward side of the Mar Menor lagoon.
There is much birdlife here.
We have made friends with Mike and Marilyn, a lovely couple from Grimsby who are also staying here, along with their chihuahua, Acer. We had a drink or three with them when we returned from the trip to San Pedro.
After a bit of a walk around the airport and nature reserve the next day (anyone recognise the plane spotter on the right?) we had lunch back on the site.
On Saturday morning we biked up to the market in Los Narejos, about a mile away. It’s difficult to resist the crazy prices and we stocked up with lemons…50 cents a kilo, potatoes two kilos a euro and so on.
After the market we walked in to Los Alcázares for a wine and tapas late lunch at La Encarnacion…the old spa hotel restaurant we like at the far and of the promenade.
On Sunday morning we had a long coffee break with Steve and Pat, new friends we have made from Kent, who are enjoying retirement cruising around Europe. They have taught us a great way to improve our Spanish…tune in to ‘Boom’, a Spanish TV quiz show.
Tuesday was my birthday and the Spanish air Force kindly put on a display to mark the occasion. Nia said she had to ‘phone the control tower to request a display but I don’t believe her. I’m sure they already knew it was my birthday.
Birthday lunch at La Encarnacion.
The next day we cycled in to San Javier which is a small town about two miles inland.
We cycled though a lettuce farm and spotted a Hoopoe but not quickly enough to snap it.
A couple of days ago we cycled in to Los Alcázares and met Mike and Marilyn for a fish and chip lunch at the ‘Penny Farthing’. Not very Spanish I know but we did wash it down with some nice Spanish wine. And the fish was delicious.
The last week has been spent parked overlooking a beach on the Mar Menor, a large natural lagoon just to the north of Cartagena. Recommended by our friends Dave and Judy it has turned out to be one of the nicest spots we have found in Spain.
The site is called Camping Mar Menor and for any motor-homers following us it is fairly quiet, very informal…’park where you like, pay when you go (10 euros per night including electricity and wifi)’ and easy access to the beach at all times.
The Mar Menor is separated from the Mediterranean by a thin tongue of land – the La Manga Strip- which leads on the other side of the lagoon to the much better known Camping La Manga; a big site with many full time expats. We have parked facing east in a corner of the site and can watch the sun rise over the La Manga Strip each morning.
There is a small restaurant called the White House at one end of the beach which serves up free paella every Sunday. You just have to buy the drinks.
The site is next to a section of nature reserve, crossed by a boardwalk leading to Los Alcázares.
The boardwalk connects with a long tiled promenade/cycleway which extends the length of the neighbouring town of Los Alcázares.
It is a pleasant walk in to one of the local cafes for coffee or wine.
A monument to the local fishermen, this lagoon side tableau depicts two sirens riding seahorses and finding fish for the poor fisherman.
At the far end of Los Alcázares is La Encarnación, a restaurant/hotel converted from an old spa hotel. This is a great place for tapas and wine, sitting in the sun after the four mile walk to get there.
On Sunday night we cycled along for a flamenco dancing demonstration at La Encarnación…very impressive and intense.
The campsite is close to San Javier/Murcia airport. This has about three commercial flights each day and is home to the Aiguilla Patrulla or Eagle Patrol…the Spanish air force air display team. Their equivalent of the Red Arrows. They fly their home designed C-101 training jets. On Friday we were treated to a practice air display.
As plane geeks (yes, even Nia) who have travelled hundreds of miles in the past to go to an airshow, this is a real delight.
The Krays also seem to like the locale…we will probably spend another week or two here.
Next stop after Marjal was Cartagena, about 60 miles south down the coast.
We stayed at Area Autocaravanas Cartagena, a small and friendly site on the outskirts of the city, about 5 miles out from the harbour. 10 euros a night, including electricity and wifi, and dog walking in the adjacent olive grove.
We cycled in on Saturday for a quick look round and lunch on the main plaza by the town hall.
We came across a replica of the Nao Victoria, tied up in the harbour. Its namesake set out with 4 other ships in 1519 to circumnavigate the globe, under the command of Captain Ferdinand Magellan. 243 men were in the flotilla. Three years later one ship…the Nao Victoria..and 17 men made it back, after completing the first circumnavigation of the world. Magellan had perished along the way, at the hands of Philippine Islanders.
On Sunday I abandoned Nia and cycled in to Cartagena to see the sights.
Arriving half an hour before opening time I refuelled with cafe con leech y tostada. Actually it was cafe con leche…coffee with milk…but autocorrect seems to prefer coffee with leech. Nice thought.
There is a tourist office by the Punic wall and I picked up a book of tickets for the wall, Roman theatre, naval museum and Castle of the conception for nine euros..not bad for a days entertainment.
Also on display here is the 13th century crypt of St. Joseph, containing the bones of the brothers of St Joseph…a religious order of that time.
Cartagena was founded by Asdrubal in 229 BC, as a jumping off point into Spain for the powerful Carthaginian empire. Asdrubal was the son-in-law of Hamilcar Barca, (Hannibal’s father), the Carthaginian general after whom Barcelona was named.
The Punic wall is a section of the extensive fortifications which the Carthaginians built around the city; at that time the Carthaginians were the major power in the Mediterranean. However the Roman empire also had ambitions in the region and after three protracted conflicts between them (the Punic wars) the Romans became the local superpower.
The massive roman theatre (second largest in Spain after Merida) was apparently a political as well as a cultural institution, being plastered with frescoes, busts and inscriptions of the head honchos of the day. Just so that the plebs didn’t forget who was in charge.
Next stop the lift up to the hill top Castillo de la Conception, built by King Alfonso the Wise ‘El Sabio’ in the thirteenth century.
After the lift, there is a short walk to get to the tower at the top of the fortification.
There are good views over the city from the tower at the top.
There is a large natural harbour here, of great strategic value and much fought over for millennia.
There is a lot of impressive architecture in the old city. This is the town hall, on the harbour front plaza opposite the entrance to the Roman Theatre.
On the way to the Naval Museum I came across this band marching and drilling along the seafront. It was an impressive performance, but I wasn’t sure of the significance of the spades, saws, pickaxes that they were toting in addition to the muskets, and musical instruments. Maybe someone out there knows or can ferret out who they were? My Spanish wasn’t up to working it out at the time.
There is an extensive display of model surface ships and submarine stuff in the Naval Museum, which sits close to the town hall looking out to sea over the harbour.
The model is the Santismo Trinidad, for a time the pearl of the Spanish Navy but destined for a sticky end at Trafalgar. I moved on quickly.
The exhibits cover naval history from earliest times to the modern era, including the Spanish civil war….Carthagena was a key strategic harbour and was the last big city to hold out against Franco.
A Sea Sparrow ship to air missile. We shall get a couple fitted to Mavis to help with those awkward moments when the last space on an aire is in contention.
Incredibly, the earlier Spanish submarines had full sets of ornate silver for dinner…. I can picture depth charges exploding all about whilst the Captain and Officers get stuck in to their five course dinner. ‘Pass the paella, Pablo’
One of the statues on the seafront.
After the naval museum it was a leisurely cycle back to base, via the seafront and then along the track by the city wall.