Posted by: glenswatman | December 10, 2011

20111121-31 SPAIN

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MONDAY 21 NOVEMBER – We get up to rain, thunder and lightning.  As this is such a relaxing place we will wait another day to see if things improve before heading south.  More vans pile in including a French one with a trailer and potted plants.  By nightfall we are 8.

GOLA DEL PUJOL 3

TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER – No signs of the weather improving so we move south and call in to the big resort town of Calpe with a huge rock like Gibraltar.  The tourist office says we are only allowed to park on campgrounds or at the camper stop and that is nowhere near the beach.  A little further south we turn off by a huge wooden Russian style church then make our way down to the beach at Mascarat.  Just north of Greenwich marina (named as we are at the same longtitude) we find a beautiful hard stone parking area behind a pebbly beach, perfect.  Torrential rain keeps us awake during the night

JUST NORTH OF MASCARAT PORT ON THE BEACH. N 38 37 861 E 0 00 093

WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER – Mid morning we drive into Altea and park by the port.  We’ve arranged to meet Couchsurfers Karen and Jean Michel for lunch.  Karen comes from Edinburgh but moved to France back in the 70’s where she met Jean Michel.  They moved to Spain 25 years ago and run a restaurant in Altea.  It’s closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays so we go to the waterfront “Differens Cafe” for lunch.  Ordering takes forever as we keep getting side tracked with general conversation  Eventually decide on 4 dishes to be put in the centre of the table to share, port medallions, goats cheese topped with caramelised onions, Norwegian salmon and a beef stew with chips to go with it.  We’re getting on really well and Karen invites us to their restaurant tomorrow night so we can continue our chats.  As we only contacted them yesterday they already have this evening and tomorrow planned.  The rain has stopped and the sun has broken thorough raising the temperature from 14C to a much more acceptable 20C.  Karen is really kind and asks if there is anything she can do for us such as washing so she ends up taking all our laundry home.  We return to Mascarat Beach for a really quiet night.

MASCARAT BEACH 2

THURSDAY 24 NOVEMBER – It’s a warm but windy day.  Shame it isn’t hot as we are on a naturist beach although one brave guy sees fit to strip off.  Late afternoon we return to Altea and park a little further south of the port opposite some restaurants.  There’s a small white VW Kombi van with GB plates parked up.  It’s an elderly couple; the man is 80 years old.  They have had the van for 35 years and it has only just done 100,000 miles.  They spend all winter in Spain and have just had 10 days in Benidorm going to dances where they both caught colds off the tourists.  They don’t go onto campgrounds but having a small van know plenty of places to tuck away at night, amazing people.  Karen and Jean Mi pick us up around 7.30pm and we head to their restaurant “El Perro Negro” in town.  It’s really nice inside with lots of cosy linked rooms with just 4 tables in each.  On the tables are individual lights and it has a lovely atmosphere.  A couple of men arrive and sit at a table to order.  Karen asks us what we would like to eat and says it is their treat which is brilliant.  There are many tempting items on the menu plus the dishes of the day so it is a difficult choice.  I settle for French onion soup whilst Steve has mussels in a wine cream sauce to start.  We both have fish for mains, Steve a large salmon steak whilst I enjoy fresh cod in a Thai red curry sauce.  The chocolate profiteroles are unusual.    3 profiterole balls have been cut open and filled with ice cream.  Then hot melted real chocolate is poured over the top of them all and a dollop of cream put in the centre.  Absolutely delicious and serious chocolate overload.  As there are no other customers we are able to fit in lots of chats with Karen and Jean Michel.  Their mothers are still alive, Karen’s lives in southern Spain whilst Jean Michel’s lives on the Reunion Islands off Africa.   They also tell us how their lives evolved and that the house they live in was originally Jean Michel’s family holiday home since 1935.  Think they are about at the stage of wanting to retire but the economic climate prevents it.

ALTEA PORT AREA

FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER – We decide to drive through Benidorm to see how things have changed.  Even at this time of year it seems too busy for us.  Its 155 skyscrapers are exceeded only by New York’s.  The 127 hotels (that’s not even considering apartment blocks) provide 40,000 beds.  In Europe only London and Paris have more and 5million visitors arrive each year.  Need I say more!  The Benidorm Palace entertainment centre is still going strong with pretty high prices for the dining shows.  In Alicante we drive along the waterfront where they have nice gardens and statues then pick up LPG at one of the few stations in Spain.  We find good free camping at Urbanova beach and check out the set up at the airport nearby.  When I go back to England in January I fly out of Murcia and back into Alicante so Steve needs to know what he will be doing for when he picks me up from my flight that evening.  Driving along the coast we can see massive developments but most of the houses are unsold.  Apparently there was a big plan to join Santa Pola to Guardamar by big promenade and almost continuous urbanisation.  In their wisdom, they started building parts at random and these don’t join up and are now seemingly abandoned.  At La Marina we return to El Pinet where we stayed in 1998.  Just before the beach is a large car park with about 30 motorhomes but it doesn’t look appealing.  We are surprised they are there as we are able to go right down the beach front and park further along behind the same beach we camped at years ago.   A couple of other motorhome join us then the Police.  First they ask for passport details, take the vehicle registration and our addresses.  They say we cannot stay here overnight and in fact can only stay for a couple of hours and have something to eat.  What is frustrating is that there are no signs to this effect.  Another motorhomer tells us he had friends who were approached in this way and when they got back to England had a €250 fine in the mail.  We quickly eat lunch then return to the big car park and shuffle into line.  Well we may not be at the beach but we are only 1 block back behind waste land and do have an ocean view between some buildings.

LA MARINA – CAMINO PINET N38 090 89 W0 37 908

 

SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER – There are quite a few movers early morning.   Today’s delivery is from the bread van.  Early afternoon the Spanish families arrive and peace is shattered with noisy kids, music and barking dogs.  We head off and Steve is delighted to find Sunshine radio, an English channel with live football coverage.  Couchsurfers Bob & Alison live at El Raso just south of Guardamar.  They have a nice 3 bedroom detached house next to the complex swimming pool and at the end of the cul de sac there is ample parking for our motorhome.  They suggest we join them on a Torrevieja tapas trail at 8pm.  62 bars are taking part in this event and over 2 weekends the idea is you visit as many as possible to check out the 2 dishes on offer, one typical and one innovative.  It is all priced at €2 (£1.80) for a drink and tapas.  As they are all in competition with customers placing votes the food and presentation is excellent.  We manage to fit in 4 different bars and 8 tapas during which time we get to know Bob & Alison.  They bought their house 10 years ago and moved in full time 2 years later.  During January and February they go abroad, next year to Argentina and Brazil so we are able to offer them some tips whilst gleaning information about places in the Far East such as Taiwan that they have visited.

EL RASO CS WITH BOB AND ALISON

SUNDAY 27 NOVEMBER – Alison and Bob have a very active social life out here and Bob is a keen runner and has entered today’s Torrevieja 5km run.  He thought his event started early so has us up at 7.30am but in fact it doesn’t start until 11am.  What is really funny is that although we all arrive in plenty of time there is no sign of Bob at the start of his race; however he does come running past to do the second lap.  It turns out he went off to find a bar with a toilet and missed the start but joined a block further along!  He finishes in less than 29 minutes.  Next we head off to La Mata where they have recently bought a holiday flat to rent out.  We have offered to help them with the painting and get allocated the spare bedroom.  Within a couple of hours Steve has done the ceiling and I have painted the walls and then go on to help with touching up some of the lounge that they did yesterday.  It’s in an excellent location being the top floor at the end of the building giving them ocean views on all 3 sides.  They couldn’t find what they wanted up for sale so made out notes in Spanish and English then pushed them through the doors of places that interested them and go offered this one which would have been high on their list anyway.  In theory the whole deal could have been completed in 2 days but as the owners had not planned to move they allowed them longer to enable them to pack up.  In Spain you buy everything that you see including furniture, linen and this couple even left virtually everything in the cupboards.  Bob comes from Stoke on Trent and Alison knows we are from that area so surprises us for lunch with locally made Staffordshire oat cakes.  In the evening she also spoils us with homemade fish pie.

EL RASO 2

MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER – Alison has a yoga class but the rest of us return to the flat where we help by cleaning and oiling all the wood work which comes up a treat.  The new furniture for the closed in balcony arrives and once Bob has put stuff back in the proper places it looks really good.  Back in 1998 we visited Clare & Jim who live in the area but we’ve lost their contact details.  Luckily there is only one James Barton in the telephone directory so we call.  Surprisingly they are just around the corner in Lomas del Mar.  Clare tells us Jim is not so well as he has just come out of hospital after another operation for his prostate cancer but she suggests we meet her up the road at the bar.  We chat for an hour or so catching up on all the happenings and hope to get back again when Jim is feeling better.  Bob & Alison pick us up then join us in the motorhome, parked in their street, for curry and kheer (Indian style rice pudding).  In the evening we join them in the house and do a South America picture show which makes us realise what a brilliant time we had there.

EL RASO 3

TUESDAY 29 NOVEMBER – Today Alison has a Spanish lesson in Guardamar then Bob has one afterwards.  We drive in with her then take a walk around.  At the waterfront by the now badly eroded fishermen’s cottages we see a few motorhomes.  We talk to an English couple who live behind Benidorm in a static caravan but also do trips in their motorhome.  They say that whilst free camping is getting more difficult in Spain there are still many spots available.  Once Alison has finished class she takes us for a walk through town where I can’t resist buying a few things I didn’t know I wanted in their versions of “Poundland”, here things are 60c, €2 and €3. Once Bob has finished we drive to Nan-Kin for a Chinese lunch.  Menu of the day costs €5.50 (£4.50) and begins with a glass of sangria.  You can then pick between spring roll or soup, a variety of main courses, dessert, ½ bottle of wine per person and snaps – amazing value and excellent food.  When the bill comes there is also a free gift for the ladies, a bracelet.  We return to El Raso and round of the evening playing the card game “up and down the river”.

EL RASO 4

WEDNESDAY 30 NOVEMBER – We have a change of plan when we get a message from Couchsurfers Jane & Brian asking if we would like to go out with them for Christmas dinner, they live near Malaga.  It’s tempting but a long way to drive and then come back for my flights back to England in January.  I make the mistake of checking out Ryanair flights from Malaga and within minutes have booked returns to Leeds/Bradford at a total of £42.95.  This means abandoning the flights already booked but is cheaper and a better plan than driving back.  Driving through Torrevieja we spot Iceland so I go there whilst Steve gets diesel.  It’s a massive store with English staff and customers and sells all the Iceland frozen range plus English tin food and other popular items.  Having gone in to get Steve a pork pie and myself Cadbury chocolate it is hard to resist other things.  Turns out the cheap diesel Steve has just put in (€1.21) is Eco Diesel so we will have to see if this makes a difference to performance of fuel consumption.  Just south of the city we have been given directions to Mercadona supermarket car park at Playa Flamenca.  We are stunned to find about 30 motorhomes camped up there, and I mean camped up as in tables, chairs, solar panels and washing out.  Apparently Mercadona are happy to let people stay knowing they are going to get your business.  We are here because our friends John & Shirley from Stafford have just moved to the area.  They walk down to meet us then we stroll through the estate to Poco Loco bar where Shirley’s sister Pam works.  Property here is incredibly cheap with prices as low as €30,000 and as we are getting older we can see the attraction of living in Spain but with “little Britain” on offer is you want it.  In the evening we meet John & Shirley at “Restaurant Chino Asia”, again an excellent value meal much like yesterdays with today’s free gift being a calendar that will look nice in the motorhome.

PLAYA FLAMENCA, MERCADONA CAR PARK

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