Posted by: glenswatman | November 15, 2014

20141101-10 Winter retreat to Spain

SATURDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2014 – Today we wake up in La Havre FRANCE. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the town where we amble around. Today is a public holiday so few things are open but we are able to admire the main square and also a very unusual cathedral which looks like a square with a huge tower covered in pebble dash. 20141101 (18) Le HavreInside is magnificent with hundreds of glass windows creating an interesting display around the central altar. We find a supermarket and the kids get to practice their French. After a spell of rain on the walk back things brighten up. Fit in a quiz before the spa and even a short time on the top deck lying on sun loungers. Steve makes it to our last meal where we have a good laugh with our table mates.

SUNDAY 2 NOVEMBER – We awake back in ENGLAND in the rain. Worse still we have had to dock in another berth as the new and biggest ship in the world Royal Caribbean Quantum of the seas is in our berth. Luckily we are able to sneak on the shuttle bus returning people to the port car parks. By the time we arrive at the terminal it has stopped raining so we all walk back to the car. Quantum of the seas looks huge and has really interesting features including virtual balconies in inside cabins. 20141102 Quantum of the seas (1) The journey to Barby passes quickly with the kids snoozing. At Ken & Sue’s we chat and catch up on news before heading to the canal side pub where their daughter Sonia joins us. Having just returned from a holiday in Egypt she has some interesting tales to tell. We’re both a bit whacked so retire soon after our evening meal. Again it has worked really well breaking our journey and been lovely spending more time with Ken & Sue.

MONDAY 3 NOVEMBER – On the road just after 9am but its slow going with lots of lorries around. One of our trolley bags broke yesterday so I’ve pre-ordered another of the “worlds lightest luggage” cabin sized bags and pick it up at Argos. At £28 and with a 10 year guarantee it should serve us well. Everything is fine at the caravan and by tea time I’ve unpacked, done all the washing and tumble drying and re packed for Spain. Reckon we could have even gone away tonight. Steve’s still battling his cold so happy to find that we are able to keep the caravan warm.

TUESDAY 4 NOVEMBER – Whilst I’m out at the hairdressers Steve sets about preparing the van for the winter. You have to turn water, gas and electric off, drain down pipes and put in anti freeze. We leave the electric until the last minute enabling us to have the oil filled radiator on. It’s a really cold day with the coldest night this season forecast so happy to be heading to warmer climates. At 9pm our neighbours Dave & Denise arrive to drive us to the bus station. Unfortunately everything there is closed but walking the streets we soon find a Bella Italia cafe to sit in, have a coffee and pick up Emails. We had contact details of Steve’s donor last week and I sent off a message. I now have a reply from Marc who lives in Leeds and has worked at St James hospital (where Steve had his transplant). The coincidences continue as his fiancé’s family live near Norwich and they are considering moving there next year. Whilst at Leeds university Marc signed up to the Anthony Nolan programme as they support the cause and encourage donors. We have many questions for each other but his initial answer to one of my questions sheds no light on why Steve post transplant likes chocolate and desserts as Marc prefers cheese and savoury things. Our National Express bus leaves at 10.45pm and makes a number of stops en route to Stansted only offering a chance of short naps in between.

WEDNESDAY 5 NOVEMBER – Arrive at 1.30am. Stansted airport is undergoing refurbishment and has no seating in the departure area and the few seats in arrivals are already taken up. In fact it looks like a war zone with bodies strewn on the floor. With Steve full of cold I’m not keen for him to be sat on the marble floor for 3 hours so sweet talk us into the disabled area with seating. The departure gates open at 4.30am and there we can find comfy seating for Steve to spread out and nap. I pick up my pre-ordered toiletries from Boots the chemist and realise that their large carrier has space for a few other last minute purchases. Ryanair have been forced to comply and allow you to take on one airport shopping bag without weight restriction so this is a great way to beat their system. The 6.35am flight is uneventful but again very hot – maybe airlines have found it is more economical to have a warmer cabin? Land in Alicante SPAIN just after 10am to lovely weather with blue skies. We check in at the Record Go desk for the hire car and pay the obligatory high fuel charge plus Euro 24 for them filling it up for you! The car is an almost new Fiat Punto but with many scratches on the bodywork. We photograph them and report to the office but they say they are not interested in minor bodywork only major damage, windows and tyres. I’m the named driver, having got at deal at £97 for 44 nights rental it didn’t make sense to pay an addition £3 a day to add Steve. It all feels very familiar as I drive off south towards Torrevieja. At Los Rasos we call in to Alison and Bob’s. Bob is out for the day cycling but Alison fills us in with details of their apartment that we are renting. Arriving at Cabo Cervera Miramar IX it’s frustrating to find that the lifts are out of order due to maintenance and we have to haul our bags up 80 steps to the 5th floor. We were last here 3 years ago and helped Bob & Alison paint the apartment as they had just bought it. In fact Steve’s slow painting was one of the first indications of his leukaemia but we didn’t know it then. We’ve got 2 bedrooms, bathroom, fully fitted kitchen, lounge area and large closed in balcony. The views are amazing up the coast, out at sea and down the coast and towards Torrevieja. 20141106 (1) Views from the apartmentTravelling light we are soon unpacked and in Spanish tradition take a siesta. It’s a short drive to the nearest Mercadona supermarket and as the company owners’ daughter is a celiac they stock clearly labelled gluten free products. We buy some staples as well and return for a snack before heading out. At Makani’s we meet our friend Claire and her new partner Brian and have a chat. It’s really noisy as they are showing sport on the big screen TV and others are talking loudly above it. After an hour or so neither of us is coping so we leave and make a plan to go out to lunch with Claire and Brian another day.

THURSDAY 6 NOVEMBER – There’s something about waking up to blue skies and a view of the ocean that lifts the spirits. With our bird’s eye view we can see people arriving in the communal sports area below and setting up for petanque including standing in a circle doing stretching exercises. We wander down and chat to them. Mainly Scandinavians they play each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and it’s Euro 1 pp per game or Euro 10 pp for the whole year. They have a competition this Saturday but we are welcome to join them on Tuesday. Heading up the coast we find it a wonderful walk along promenades, a path through the national park and on boardwalks. I’m back on Ian’s jogging programme so do 5 repeats of 1 minutes jog and 1 minutes walk. It’s almost 3 miles to the northern end of La Mata. 20141106 (1) Views from the apartmentThere we find motorhomes free camped and have to get our fix with a brief chat to some Brits. We make the last part of the walk back along the beach with me having a paddle. It’s mid afternoon so I cook up our first meal of fish topped with tomatoes, peppers and cheese. We’re still a bit weary so Steve is happy to watch some football on TV and then regular programmes. At the moment you can still pick up pretty much all the British free view channels so it really is home from home.

FRIDAY 7 NOVEMBER – After calling in and leaving messages with friends we head to Punta Prima and the bar area near where Karen had her apartment. We’ve been told that John & Shirley’s sister Pam frequents it and sure enough she is sat out with friends and surprised and happy to see us. Since we last saw Pam 3 years ago Steve has gone through his treatment and Pam has had breast cancer so lots to catch up on. It’s a lovely day so we drive to Playa Flamenca and walk a couple of bays along to the naturist section where Steve manages to find a bit of shade by a rock. It’s a flat beach so I do another lot of 1/1 jog runs along the sand. I leave Steve in the car whilst I take my time in Lidl doing a major shop. Reading labels to avoid gluten and onions is quite a challenge but stocking up on fresh fruit and veg is easy. Manage to escape with a trolley full for just under Euro 100. At the moment we are getting about Euro 1.28 = £1 so I’m pretty pleased with that. I have made a mistake though in buying proper prawns as they are really messy to peal once I have cooked them up in a curry!

SATURDAY 8 NOVEMBER – Our first cloudy morning but it is still warm. I get some washing done and we chill out. Early afternoon we set out to find a bar showing the Liverpool match, with wi-fi and food. In the first Irish bar they have the match, the internet isn’t working even thought they say it is and they can’t serve gluten free food as even chips are cooked in the same oil as battered fish etc. To add insult to injury a small soda with lime costs Euro 1.80. Lesson learnt I ask all the questions at O’Briens before ordering anything. However even doing that can’t prevent Liverpool losing to Chelsea making Steve say he won’t be bothering again – we shall see.

SUNDAY 9 NOVEMBER – We head off walking south and quickly find ourselves stuck on a rock beach having to scramble up cliffs rather than retreat. The walk towards Torrevieja is not so interesting as most of it is on the main road. Once we arrive at Torrevieja we walk behind a small beach and suddenly realise we are near Graham and Tana’s. Give them a buzz but no reply. Good exercise as a 5 mile return walk but not worth repeating. It’s remains cloudy so we spend the rest of the day watching TV and reading.

MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER – Today we walk along the coast then up through the National Park. Discover a lovely restaurant shaped to look like a Mississippi riverboat but it’s very expensive. Further on we find the “aromatic park” a real oasis of calm in a dip surrounded by houses. 20141106 (1) Views from the apartment It’s a really nice example of what can be done to create a beauty spot in sharp contrast to the numerous pieces of wasteland filled with rubble and rubbish. Cutting back to the coast we stumble upon Hispagnola (The Ship) bar and restaurant that we previously visited with Claire and Jim. They have 3 course lunches for Euro 4.50 (£3.50) which is excellent value. It’s a really hot afternoon making it pleasant to sit out on the walkway bench. In the evening we head into Torrevieja to Tana & Grahams. She’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer and in spite of her best efforts the conversation naturally turns to cancer. At PJ’s bar we form a team to frustrate ourselves during the quiz. All good fun but we don’t even come close to winning.



  1. Glad you are discovering the local area- I haven’t been to the aromatic park- altho I have seen a signpost. The Hotel Masa is good for a coffee with a view,,,and just up the road- they may have WIFI too! see you soon!

  2. Happy to know you’re both fine and traveling! I’ll be leavinfg on Dec 1 for Mexico, but I’ll be coming back end of February to help out my daughter. She’s expecting twins (2 girls) so I’ll be a grandmother!! I didn’t expect 2and I know it will be a lot of work!!! I’ve just shoveled quite a few inches of snow! Time to start skiing here! I’ve already prepared my crosscountry skis, so that when I return, I’ll be ready! I guess you’ll be there until the end of January! Keep in touch! I’ll let you know about this whole new experience!!Sandra XX

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