A Travellerspoint blog

On the way to Conil

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After Malaga the A7 is a bit of a dual carriageway nightmare, bit like the A34 with sun, all the way along the coast. Jacqui had found an Iceland in Fuengirola so we stopped to buy real cheese and bacon; we also were after a coffee and ended up adding a bacon sandwich in the Iceland café with thick sliced white bread, so British but it had to be done. We also bought pork pies, baked beans and mince pies.
Campsites are not all that common near the coast below Malaga, we had stopped north of Marbella last year so opted for a small site just north of Estapona, again WiFi was a bit iffey but it was nice enough and near a bus stop. So the next day we went into Peurta Banus, hoping to stroll around the famous millionaires harbour.
What a let down this place was, cigarette ends and chewing gum all over the pavement, even outside the likes of Gucci, the only clean area was around the big boat marina. We have passed some lovely harbours and we wondered what brought these people to some dodgy marina with shops and restaurants with more flash than substance, rose tinted specs maybe?
We had hoped for some more wild camping on a beach down the coast from Marbella but we couldn't turn up a thing, so when we left the site we drove through Estapona expecting a market. It looks a pleasant seaside town with a good prom and cycle paths, no market today and, sadly no parking for us, next time on the bus then.
We didn't much like the Gibraltar, Algeciras route to Conil last year, it goes via Tarifa which once you have been there it's done really. So we turned into the hills on the only other road north and, to our delight, saw our first storks since Portugal and egrets and vultures and eagles all in about half an hour. I don't know why but such sightings always make jacqui and I smile and search the skies for more.
We stayed at a site up in the hills which was unfortunately too far to cycle back to the nearest village which was the first of the white villages on this route north toward Sevilla. We cooked dinner as the restaurant was shut, Jacqui had an omelette and I cooked sardine spaghetti which I had seen a recipe for using tinned sardines, that I love, with a bit of sicilian spices thrown in, brilliant!
Back to Conil tomorrow, which we are looking forward to, but will be a new experience staying somewhere we have spent a bit of time at again. It'll be fun, I know!

Posted by cjpolley 10:01 Archived in Spain Comments (0)


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We had spotted a couple of aires at Almerimar, a small harbour town and on our route to Malaga. We somehow missed the parking on the quay and ended up at the aire near the beach, oh well! This was run by an English woman and her Spanish husband and they couldn't have been more helpful. The promenade provided cycle ling and running opportunities and we biked into the little port for coffee and then for dinner one night, we both had fish and it seems easier to let someone else cook it and not make the van smell of fish.
The weather had turned fine again with less clouds so we enjoyed a bit of sitting in the sun at about 25C, not been in the sea in Spain yet though.
Still on our leap frogging of places we had visited, we found a really good aire at Rincon de la Victoria, a bus ride away from Malaga. Some people get these places right, free Internet, big bays to park in and really well thought out water and waste; a little bar too selling beer, wine and pizza, a small heaven really!
We caught the bus for our 17km ride into the city, cost €1.65. It dropped us right by the port area near the castle and the old town. Although I go on around an open mind I still expected wall to wall, skyscraper hotels and jammed beaches but the villages on the outskirts of the city are small and obviously Spanish holiday destinations and Malaga itself it beautiful.
This city goes straight into the top 10, lots of 1920's elegance mixed with medieval power and modern day exhibitions and shopping. We spent a whole day there and we knew it wasn't enough, there is a Picasso foundation there and we didn't get to see it and the castle would probably need half a day on its own. We headed, as we always do for the municipal market, another lovely building and came back to it to have a pavement lunch with all the Friday afternoon crowd leaving work for a social time before the weekend.
Lovely place, as good as Valencia then back on our 10 cents a kilometer bus ride.
Saturday we thought we should explore Rincon as we had passed through it on the bus so rode our bikes along the beach cycle path, passing little thatched bars on the beach barbecuing fish in boat shaped fires. There were lots of families spending the afternoon together eating and chatting around the beach area. I had spotted a Ruta Tapa sign but could not find a bar taking part in it, we had found one last year in Sitges and it was a lot of fun trying these strange mixtures like black pudding and chocolate.
We needed to pop into a supermarket on the way back and on the way out a young lady on a scooter stopped us and explained that she needed some none Spanish looking people to a appear on some website advert for her flamenco party business and were we interested. Jacqui said we were leaving the next day but I stopped her to say we could stay on, 'always say yes!'
So after a few texts we turned up at a bar the next day and took over a corner of their terrace, Jacqui was sent to the loo to try on the flamenco dress and as the pictures show it fitted perfectly. The young lady, Sonia, had another dress on to look like another party member and her boyfriend took pictures of the three of us trying to look like a party, bit of photoshop required I expect. It was a bit of a laugh, a few beers and we got dropped off it the dark back at our aire, Sonia was very sweet and we hope she does well.
Next day we left for Estapona.

Posted by cjpolley 10:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Too much doing now!

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Last night we stayed at an aire where we were the only occupants on the site, tonight there was only 6 spaces in a 300+ pitch site at Benicassim. Here they had twice weekly bingo and people loved it in the reviews; we came back from eating out one night at 21:30 and there was no sign of life, everyone was in their vans with a Horlicks.
The town was quite pleasant and we visited the market where we found fruit and veg at proper prices again, our racciones at the local bars was also very good and Jacqui got her bocaronnes for tea.
We pushed on south again in cloudy weather with not much relief showing in the forecast, I think we will be really lucky to get the sort of temperatures we got last winter. We were going to pass Benidorm and Alicante and so found a small village aire that was fantastic including free washing and drying and Internet for €2. The village was very quiet and sleepy and talking to the only other campers, a Belgian couple looking to buy locally, a lot of the villages have spent money to improve amenities and attract people back to these small out of the way places.
We had never been to Cartagena and both imagined it to be a small seaside harbour, turns out it's very big. We found an aire by a petrol station, not our usual but everything was there and the reviews said how helpful the staff were and they were right. The city itself was large but the port and historic centre very interesting, the Roman amphitheatre was still be excavated and restored and the medieval castle looked formidable. The amphitheatre had been built over hundreds of years ago so it is a big project to reveal it now.
We figured we needed some beach time so headed to a couple of aires by the sea. The area around Cartagena was some of the driest we have seen in Spain with so many dried up river beds but now orchards of dead almond trees as well. But on the way to the coast we drove through 10 miles of horticultural plastic tunnels, the same on the way out; all that growing needs water in such an arid area. Cartagena itself had a smart state of the art exhibition to show the locals how they were dealing with water, or the lack of it. Still no gutters on houses and no collection of rain water??
The beach camping was simple and all along this coast are parking spots on the side of the beach to use for wild camping. So one night by the tiny village of Punta de Colnegre next night near the marina in Aquilas, Jacqui loves the sound of waves and we certainly had no trouble sleeping. Also had a good number of thunderstorms which Jacqui also likes, well the lightning bit anyway.
Heading towards the flesh pots of Andalucia tomorrow.
Quick note before I publish this, we drove into Andalucia on the A7 and there were places where the polytunnels went as far as the eye could see on both sides of the dual carriageway. This provides tomatoes and such all year round, rather than just seasonally; there might be an environmental cost but all of this not only offers jobs but income to the whole area.

Posted by cjpolley 05:42 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

San Miguel in a frosted glass

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It's official, Mr S. Miguel tastes loads better in Spain in a frosted glass. We had just arrived in L'Estartit after leaving France where it was still raining heavily and we rode our bikes along the beach to the little kiosk for a beer. Storms had been here as well and the sea was trying to reclaim the promenade areas for beach once more. Lidl also sell it for 1€/L-
The drive from France was the same as last year after staying at a marina aire that felt a bit like a prison yard, but it was time to go south. We have not yet cracked this area, there are a lot of campsites and commercial aires but a lot of them shut by now, next time we decided we will try the hillier inland route.
We stayed in the same site in L'Estartit as last year because it's nice to go to the loo and not have to worry about whether there is toilet paper or soap and they have toilet seats, "bloody luxury". We got some jobs done the next day, UV has had its effects on the extract fan cover, cue zip ties again! And of course the washing, Jacqui even did some ironing, mostly my stuff because she doesn't like me looking wrinkled.
Quick planning meeting over a beer/cava and we have a rough idea of getting down the coast in 80 mile portions, stopping either one or two nights depending on interest and trying new places; it's quite tempting to repeat what we liked from last year. Plans have changed again, mainly due to the Euro, Jacqui "said they wanted a unified European currency, now they've got one", we are heading back to Conil so we can fly home for the big wedding at Christmas and leave the van safely tucked up.
Travelling on we headed for a small town called Pineda de Mar which has a small aire and rode our bikes in the afternoon to Calella where my sister had taken her first foreign holiday in 1963. Quiet town with not much going on in the off season, but Jacqui was up early for a market in a town the other way on the bike route. Just a mooch and a café con leche really and Jacqui reckons it good exercise all that walking up and down rows of stalls!
Off again past Barcelona with all the other traffic avoiding the toll roads and stopped at a recommended aire, which was quite sweet but empty as most of this coast is now.
We intend to stop at Benicassim for a couple of days to see if there is more doing.

Posted by cjpolley 11:30 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Quiet South of France?

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We had driven this route a few years ago and learnt that you use the toll road, it's awful getting round Nice and Cannes otherwise, we even stopped at the same service area for coffee and it had closed down. We were aiming for a campsite outside of St. Tropez and drove past the town, another Margate and lots of people on holiday still. The site was pleasant enough but we realised very quiet, the town the same, compared to Italian sites with lots of chatter and noise; we had grown used to it after nearly 3 months and it seemed odd to be in such a relaxed atmosphere. This was only a few miles outside the trendy resorts but the town must have a lot of holiday homes which were now vacant.
We spent a nice couple of days doing washing and stuff and tried to find a non toll route around Marsielle and trying to find some decent aires. When we came into the other corner of the French Mediterranean coast we had the same trouble, this time we drove out of one cramped aire, drove 30 miles to a lovely village with an aire, only to find it over full but ended up in a rural aire for €4.5 so not all bad. The hills around Toulon give great views toward the coast and a number of quite prosperous villages, judging by the cars people were driving.
We had some unusual neighbours that night, 3 mountain goats with big horns, wandered into the site to chomp on the grass and seemed unperturbed by us. We hastily bought in our plants,basil etc that we leave outside the van incase the goats fancied a tasty morsel overnight. The lady patron told us we would have to be out by 12 the next day as work would start on a new gate; consequently we were woken at 07:30 by people leaving early!
Next day we travelled on to Arles with a view to investigating Nimes as well, arriving at the campsite after 12 the office was shut for lunch and it cut short our afternoon in the city; but we did tour the Roman arena which is being restored. The restoration started in 1862ish and is still going on, I wonder how long it took to build in the first place? The current budget to restore the whole area is over 100 million euros!
The cycle ride to and from town was an experience, the cycle track veered in and out of the road and where it was most needed it disappeared. The French rushing home, raced at junctions and one nearly had Jacqui off her bike and she had to walk for a bit, not like the Dutch at all!
The weather along this coastal region for the next couple of days looks horrible so we will head west again with another batch of must visits when either the campsites are open or its sunny; Grasse and the Verdon Gorge, Arles and Nimes are on that list. We didn't get to the white horses yet either.

Posted by cjpolley 08:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

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