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Monday, 30 April 2012

A life on the ocean wave...

Due to the forecast of continued bad weather we decided to return to the UK early, get some jobs done and catch up with family. Set off bright and early towards Santander with an overnight stop at
We arrived here early afternoon and enjoyed an excellent fresh coffee in the quaint old restaurant on site. People were eating a relaxed lunch and chatting away over a table full of various bottles as we soaked up the atmosphere.  The huge log fire was roaring and among the interesting decor was a cheeky stuffed hare standing erect on the dusty mantelpiece (never seen one wearing an ammunition belt, jaunty leather hat and a gun before). We were directed to park up among the pine trees and shown our way around the electric hook-up.

To say the facilities were primitive is being kind but for one night who cares that toilet seats, toilet roll and soap were not provided as the setting was lovely. Mr H and I deployed our excellent on board facilities, enjoying a full roast pork dinner whilst viewing the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

We were close to a reservoir at high altitude so that night was a cold one.  Emergency fleece blankets, chocolate and a good film passed the night away nicely. We were away smartish the next day and I spent most of the journey taking photos of the scenery in between the showers.

We got stuck behind a wide load on the way to Santander, an impressive boat complete with wide load convoy vehicles and flashing lights, bet they can't find a pitch big enough for that baby!

So far so good, but on our arrival at the ferry port in Santander we were told that due to bad weather the ferry would be delayed for 14 hours but we could spend the night on board ready to leave early the next morning. Credit to Mr H for manoeuvring the bus into the tightest,  strangely-angled spot in the bowels of the boat. I'm sure they do it for a laugh to see if you cock up! So we unpacked in our shoebox-sized steerage class cell consoling ourselves that we would soon be back in Blighty. Following a walk into town and eating a different lunch to the ones we ordered, we chilled out onboard the best we could. This lulled us into a false sense of security as we slept well despite being in an inside cabin. Looking forward to finally getting underway we agreed to start the day with a hearty breakfast as we sailed out of the port. With hindsight, all the clues were there for what was to come but here goes with an attempt to capture the torture of the next 24 hours.

As we queued for our breakfast the boat began to rise and dip enough for the French chefs to frantically secure various pots and pans in between serving up. By the time we had negotiated the moving boat carrying trays laden with all the required cutlery and condiments our 15 quid coronary on a plate breakfast was stone cold. As I attempted to eat my breakfast things began to move and crash about us. The staff tried to catch the flying trays, cutlery and plates as we bobbed along. My plate slid across the table and knocked my drink into the path of a passing waiter. He didnt flinch when scooping the debris up and was away to the next clear-up job. At this point Mr H turned the same colour as the grey sky, abandoned his food and headed for the toilets, I was not far behind and just made it in time. Now we all know that vomiting is very unpleasant but I had forgotten just how exhausting it is. First you have to know where the toilets are. I didnt, so thank the lord my reflexes enabled me to lock down my lips as my breakfast hit them with the force of a hosepipe! I could hear the crashing of crockery and every item in duty free hitting the floor as I emptied my stomach! We managed to find each other and stagger to our cabin before collapsing onto the bottom bunk together (the top bunk was unusable as you would fall out). So for the next 24 hours the ferry lurched between being airborne and hitting the waves again. At one point I counted 7 seconds between lurching upwards into the air and falling back hitting the sea with a thud. Mr H ventured out twice that day to get sea sickness tablets bless him but we just couldnt keep them down. Sips of water was our only relief. Trying to shower vomit from my hair was like being on a roller coaster, thank god there wasn't a photo of this event to be purchased on our departure. Perfect storm and Titanic rolled into one! I was informed that the whole content of the kitchens and duty free had hit the decks and we lost a piece of decking rail resulting in the lock down of all outside areas while crossing the Bay of Biscay. Do it again?... I would rather stick pins in my eyes or work fulltime at Sportsdirect.

What a relief to arrive in Plymouth on ground that has stopped moving despite the pouring rain and commuter traffic. We both looked and felt like death but oh so glad to be free of the ferry and back on the road again. Mr H negotiated the 9.00am traffic driving on the left for the first time in seven months on unknown roads with mirrors that were knocked off-kilter getting off the ferry. My hero :) Rain, Radio 2 playing and fellow road users letting us into the right lane let us know we were finally back home, even though we're just visiting!!

Saturday, 21 April 2012


It seems to be raining in all directions at the moment (apart from Alicante!!) arrived at in the rain but decided to stay for a few days to check out the old University City of Salamanca.

Some beautiful buildings, a lot like Oxford.

Still raining, heading North, wi-fi may be patchy so it could be a while before next post. Ciao for now :)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Lisboa e Figueira da Foz

Hi all, packed up the happy bus and drove to the capital city of Lisbon for our first city-based site and the promise of people, culture and sights to be seen. Ok my ability to enjoy heights is compromised at the best of times but I found myself trying to control my breathing and leaning away from the huge drop into the watery abyss as we crossed the bridge over the River Tagus into Lisbon. I fully understand how the passenger seat is affectionately known as the suicide seat by some fellow RV'rs. Mr H enjoys the panoramic views and changing landscapes on our travels while I try to ignore the paper thin barriers or road edge between me and the depths. Serves me right for encouraging others on many occassions to feel the fear and do it anyway!  
Great site for a short city break; plenty of trees, good access, hardstanding and services but lots of showers (of the rainy variety).  

We were determined to explore Lisbon so we donned winter gear, grabbed the camera and set off anyway. Caught the bus outside the camp gates into city centre. In parts the journey was so bumpy we were lifted out of our seats more than once. Mr H and I took a firm grip of the seats in front of us and enjoyed the white-knuckle ride without the extortionate ticket price!  So armed with a 48 hour pass that covered us for tours around the city as well as public transport our explorations began. 

Plenty to see, around every corner a suprise, sculptures, stunning old and new buildings, palaces, fountains and even imaginative  graffiti.

Of the 260 photos we took I have selected just a few to give a flavour of this vibrant city.  

As we sat undercover in a pavement cafe the umbrella man paced up and down the entrance to the metro. He showed little regard for anyone who may trip over his wares or the white stick he prodded every surface with. At one point he walked out onto the road and straight into a stationary bus, with a shrug he negotiated his way around this obstacle to begin selling his umbrellas dangerously close to a fellow umbrella salesman at the next metro entrance.

Now this greying mutt stole my heart instantly, it was the way she sat quietly on the pavement among the throng of commuters, tourists and locals. Her protruding teeth just added to her appeal, Mr H said she reminded him of Spit the dog...

Really nice to get a proper shopping fix, didn't dare go in the mega-posh designer shops so just admired the window displays from the safety of the top deck of our tourist bus. Best purchase of my mad city jaunt?  Tea lights from Ikea! Oh how I have missed my scented candles. I have learned a girl can go without many things during our adventures but I refuse to travel without scented candles, Molton Brown products, Clinique cosmetics, hair colour and crystals (other products are available I'm told).  High maintenance? Not me!   

We then travelled North to the Orbitur Gala site near Figueira da Foz for 2 nights

Nice tidy site, near the beach but Mr H spent most of the first night helping to dig a French motorhome out of a sandy pitch and it rained for most of the next day with more rain forecast. Same weather picture further North so we've decided to head East back to Spain! 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Welcome from the Ant Hill Mob....

Well it felt like wacky races driving through Seville on the way to Portugal, cars and lorries coming at us from all angles and Mr H practicing his best Spanish phrases through gritted teeth. I provided him with numerous forms of sweets and cranked up some carefully selected singalong tunes; Northern Soul and The Sensational Alex Harvey band for his entertainment! MR H's TRAVEL TIP No1 ASSUME NOTHING AND GIVE WAY TO EVERYTHING!!Apart from this bit the rest of the journey was a doddle with a scenic drive over a bridge into Portugal.

So this week we've been mainly parked on an ant's nest sharing our outside chairs with the local cats near Albufeira on the Algarve;

Initially, weather a bit dull and wi-fi variable but scorching now and wi-fi seems to have settled down. Nice quiet site, unmarked pitches so it's every camper for themselves!! We explored the town and coast by bike mostly but visited a local Indian restaurant by taxi for a curry and a Cobra, highly recommended. We were invited into a local bar (as is everyone that passes by!) and in the cool evening air we sat under canvas watching the footie on a big screen. Mr H caved in after 10 mins and allowed me to wrap him up in a complementary fleece while he had a beer and nuts. The very nice waiter said he was taking my fleece home because it smelled of my Chanel perfume, a very nice boy.  

OK I'll own up, we'd been here a week before we realised our clocks were still an hour in front :) The funny thing is it didn't make a jot of difference! Lisbon next.....

Monday, 2 April 2012

Andalucia and beyond...

On the road again, we have travelled from La Manga via Cartagena and Mazarron today to try and fill the LPG tank (very hard to find in Spain). Found the garage we had tracked down via the internet quite easily, manouvered into the bay ok but didn't have the right connector (every country uses different connectors), bugger! A caravan rolled up and even his connector didn't fit! We were informed that they had just left Portugal as the good weather was about to change, just great but it was an 'interesting' drive through mountains, in between episodes of not being able to look down and some controlled breathing techniqes the views were stunning. As usuall I had my travelling essentials with me and emergency home-made egg mayo sandwiches at the ready.

We have found that you never know what awaits you around the corner and these goats were in no hurry to move, Mr H called it avoiding the kids on the road.

We joined the motorway after Mazarron and headed for a campsite at Roquetas de Mar;
Tight access, tricky water connection (never did manage it even after a trip to the ferreteria) and a dark spooky supermarket, no lights on and rows of empty shelves! On the positive side; flat pitch, good quality loo roll and wonderful showers. 100 yards to the empty beach and a great cycle route along the sea front and promenade to Roquetas for beer and tapas.

Stayed 2 nights then packed up in record time and travelled along the coast road with spectaclear scenery all the way. We have given up on trying to find a radio station we can bear so we played the i-pod and sang loudly and badly most of the way.

Our next stop was near Malaga
This lovely site is high in the hills with glorious sweeping views and mountains in the distance.

The staff and residents were very welcoming and we shared a few tales over refreshments, excellent coffee and draught beer! Our terraced pitch was level and had decking, electricity, city water, waste disposal and internet!

However, surrounded by mountains so the cycle ride to Alhaurin de la Torre and back is more challenging than we're used to. Cycling tourettes time again for me but so glad we made it there and back on Palm Sunday.  In the old village we witnessed the beginning of the spectacular Easter celebrations. We parked ourselves outdoors at a cafe near to the television camera tower thinking this was where it was at!  We grabbed two seats smartly and enjoyed the sun and atmosphere. All were dressed  in their Sunday best and many people carried olive branches. As the procession neared I found a spot at the roadside to see what was happening and admire the elaborate costumes. I watched as a booming military brass band passed with soldiers performing complicated acrobatics with rifles to the applause of the growing crowds. Next came hundreds of children waving olive branches and carrying large straw arrangements in time to the solemn but moving music. The paraded shrine's arrival was announced by a single trumpet player as it was carried into view on the shoulders of many men. A carpet of fresh red flowers surrounded a model of a donkey with Jesus upon it and the Madonna stood behind him, so intricate and very beautiful . I watched as this heavy float rocked from side to side as they carried it and was amazed to see it lifted up to full arm height at regular intervals, very impressive. So pleased to have witnessed this special day and the celebrations enjoyed by the villagers.

Portugal next, hasta pronto!!