So we’re 3 weeks into our European tour adventure, what have we been up to?
….The ferry at Dover at precisely 07:23 waiting in line to board….
The crossing was calm, cold and stress free. Getting off the ferry was calm, probably cold (we were in the van so who knows), and stress free. An hour on the road is when we had our first problem with Mr Sat Nav (aka Mr S.) who had a little misunderstanding of our route.
I was driving, Eric and Mr S. navigating. We ended up in a small town with narrow main roads, cars parked on the side of the road and the tiniest of spaces to squeeze through. Eric kindly pointed out how close I was driving to the parked cars, the drivers coming toward us staring in wide-eyed horror at how close I was to them and Mr S. calmly telling me to go straight ahead at the next junction. THEN we had to turn round (confusing Mr S) and do it all again to get back to the main road. Lesson learned on Day 1, don’t tell Mr S. that we want to go via anywhere (we thought it would help avoid toll roads)……
The rest of the journey through France was trying to stay ahead of the weather which started to throw everything it could find at us. Our first night we camped at Le Ferte-Vidame and woke up to snow and ice
Freezing cold but cosy in the van thanks to central heating and an electric fire (the best of last minute purchases). Beautiful morning though…..
Unluckily for us Mr S. had another trick up his sleeve. He decided to take us through narrow, icy country lanes to get us back to the main road, but once you’re committed to follow Mr S. we found we had to stick with it as we couldn’t figure out where we were!! All in all, a 50 min detour to go about 5 miles. Luckily the French country roads were deserted.
The next couple of days we just pushed ahead via Poitiers and Bordeaux, through driving rain, occasional bright sunshine, thunder, lightning, sleet and more snow.
In hindsight we had timed our travels pretty well as we managed to avoid earlier flooding in France (it was still very soggy) and subsequent snow for the whole of Northern Europe.
The day after Bordeaux we reached St Jean de Luz near the Spanish border in the pouring rain. However the next day was forecast to be sunny and a glorious 19 degrees so we decided to get some well-earned rays. We even saw someone sunbathing on the beach in a bikini (in February too cold imho!) and quite a few surfers….
Squiggly tree (lots of these in this area); the beach (no bikinis); first view of the Pyrenees; surfing waves (no surfers as too far away)
From St. Jean de Luz we headed toward Zaragoza via Pamplona. Recent bad weather had left snow and ice on the mountain roads and the idea of following a gritter on hair pin bends didn’t appeal, so we went on a longer but safer road via San Sebastian. Even this route had some high mountain roads with spectacular views, long and slow uphill climbs and long much faster descents. Along our route we saw storks nesting on high poles along the road.
Our campsite for that night deserves a mention for its air of decline. Only one loo working and the shower’s hot water gave out on Eric just as he got well soaped up. I decided I could wait for a shower at our next stop…..
Which was well worth the extra 2 euros a night! We camped at a site called Altomira in Navajas Valencia province and we ended up staying for 5 days. The weather was sunny and warm (at last!!) and the site had really good facilities and the small town where we could buy provisions was only a short walk away. We also took the opportunity to go on a cycle ride on a track made on a disused railway line.
…Salto de la novia: Just a short walk from the campsite this 60 metre waterfall (you can just spot some people on the bottom right hand side of the picture for scale) and where we saw our first lizard of the season. Further along the river we also saw a cormorant fishing in a mountain stream; Dam seen from our cycle route and the disused railway line as a cycle path which by the way was ever so slightly on the incline which is a bugger when cycling as you can well imagine; Strange teeth like overhangs on cliffs outside Navajas village
And so from Altomira to Puerto de Mazarron to meet with our friends Lynne and Stuart. The journey was uneventful as Mr S. Seems to have had his fill of mischievousness thank goodness. We couldn’t help noticing how fertile the area around Valencia was; full of orange, lemon and almond orchards as well as other fruits we could only guess at as we drove along.
We arrived at Lynne and Stuart’s mid afternoon and had a good catch up. The garden had been developed and filled out with plants since we were last there.
Lynne and Stuart were throwing a party on the Saturday and we helped prepare. The party was so lovely and the atmosphere relaxing. We were entertained with live music and an impromptu performance from a young 14 year old beautiful Spanish girl with a voice to die for. Excellent!!
Having spent 11 days on the road more or less, we were eager to help them with their various building projects to develop their site. So we helped collect stones from the rambla to use in building a wall around their top terrace. Collecting 3 tons of stone was hard work – collecting another 3 tons finished us for the day!
We also had some lovely days exploring more of the local area around Isla Plana and La Azohia. We had a lovely late afternoon walk up to an old fortified tower with fab views over the Mediterranean.
We also took a trip out to Cartagena. Stuart volunteers at a local military museum there restoring tanks, guns etc etc. Eric had fun helping out whilst Lynne and I went off on a shopping jaunt….
A still being restored M44 tank; An engine from another tank ready to be installed after 7 years of restoration……
Sadly the last couple of days at Lynne and Stuart’s were cool and windy. We definitely needed our log burner at night! Because of the change in weather, we decided that for the next stage of our adventure we would keep close to the coast as it had been getting quite chilly and wet inland. With that in mind we said our final farewells to our wonderful hosts with a promise (you lucky things!) to visit again.
Next stop – Cabo de Gata, Almeria. Join us again for another thrilling installment.