… and almost our last day in France too, and what better way to finish it off, that a bloody great steak at the Hippopotamus steak house.
… and almost our last day in France too, and what better way to finish it off, that a bloody great steak at the Hippopotamus steak house.
We arrived at Montpellier and a proper camp site for the next three nights. We arrived after a long drive (not many km, but still very windy so took a few hours) and got settled on the site. The colder weather and the long drives hit us both and we both lost the next day to ‘sniffles’. Interesting as we only commented to each other a few days previously that we have not really had cold/flu since leaving blighty and we both suffer a few times a year normally. Also, it was great to have a long shower again rather than the 10 litres or so that the motorhome dishes out!
The campsite is about 8km outside town and there is a tram station very close by. So on day two we went into town and wandered around both the old and the new town. Lunch was a burger from an independent chain and was delicious! There is some amazing architecture in Montpellier as the few photos hopefully show!
In the evening it was a test fitting the snow chains. We obviously never want to use them, but having them on board is mandatory on some Italian roads. They were pretty confusing but we got them fitted (and removed) after about half an hour. Snowchains: Tick.
We also had a surreal half an hour in a shopping centre. There is a major refurbishment underway, but the centre is still open – cables hanging down everywhere, exposed girders, rough cut girder ends. There are even pipes coming up through the floor in the middle of the gents toilets.
On a whim we tried the switching satellite system back to Astra 28.2E as we are now pretty north compared with southern Spain – and we have (briefly) a full suite of UK TV channels again. Cool. We’ve been paying for them, but not getting them! A few UK shows later and we were binged out. BTW – we has a different Satellite selected so we could watch the F1 on a Free-to-Air channel last year! Satellite TV when abroad is a real pain….
The next day and it was a midday departure for Marseille. No special research lead to Marseille, but we are having problems locating open campsites or Aires in the south of France!
The drive up the coast from Girona was ‘interesting’. As per normal, we have the satnav set to avoid toll roads. The coast road that the satnav chose instead of the main road was very windy and very steep. It was wide enough for us so no real issues. A quick stop for photos at the border to France.
The weather was also starting to get rough and the wind picked up. The wind picked up to about 50kmh and our progress was slow, so we decided to stop for the night rather than push on. We already had a nice camper stop lined for this eventuality, but it was an automated machine and the touchscreen was not working properly. Selina spent twenty minutes running through the same stops over and over but to no avail – we could not get in.
So we gave up and about 10km down the road was a free stopover that had water and sewerage, so it was win win.
It was a bad night – the winds really buffeted the van so neither of us got a lot of sleep. As it was we parked at an odd angle in the parking area to try and get our nose into the wind – to little avail.
But next morning it was sunny and we had a good view of the lake and the aigrette population. And then the final push to Montpellier.
A great couple of days in Girona. Girona has some wonderful medieval architecture and the region is quite well off so the buildings are all well maintained. We found a great location to stop – the ground floor of an underground car park has been given over to motorhomes and for 12 Euros a night was a real bargain. The owner could not have been nicer. The stop was in the middle of town and the only odd thing was driving down the narrow urban road and being surrounded by apartment blocks in the camping stop.
We stayed in a site alongside vanlife royalty – Julie and Jason from OurTour (https://ourtour.co.uk/home/) are on their way south and we spotted their van when we arrived at the stopover. Their blog was one of the resources we first found when we started planning the trip.
Anyway, top of the Girona list was groceries and washing. It’s all excitement living in the van. We had already found the local lavandaria, so off we went!
Another couple that we met – Andy and Julie from NZ told us about a wonderful walking tour, so we booked that for the afternoon of the next day.
So, the next day we had a couple of hours wandering around in the morning, walked the city walls and visited the churches and museums and then met up with Christian – our guide for the afternoon. We had a great couple of hours walking the town learning the history and seeing the backstreets that you would never find on your own. Christian also showed us the Game of Thrones filming locations from a couple of years back (no, never seen it!).
From Valencia, it was one big drive up to Barcelona. We arrived quite late at the ‘City Stop’ to find that it was no longer operating. It was a lorry park with an area set aside for motorhomes – similar to Merida and some other larger towns we have stayed in. The lorry park was still operating, but the pretty nasty security guard would not even let us turn around or stop five minutes to plug the backup location into Sally. There was plenty of room, we were stopped in a turning area, but he shooed us out and stood preventing us even turning around, so we had to reverse out onto a busy street. Great! We then sat in front of the gates for ten minutes while we sorted out the satnav for the backup – so dunno what the silly arse gained 😉
The backup location was right on the other side of town, and it was now dark. Sally didn’t care and we drove right through the middle of Barcelona. It has an interesting road layout – grid system like many US towns and with mainly one way roads.
Our first day exploring was the Sagrada Sagrada Família (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia) and a ramble down La Rambla taking in the market. It was our most expensive day out since leaving home. The Sagrada Familia tickets were 72 euros and with the metro tickets and a 60 euro meal – the needle was truly bent against the peg on the budget!
We had already visited the Sagrada Familia before – on a day trip from Tarragona with Charlie a few years ago. But we didn’t have the time to look inside that trip. This time we did and were amazed. What a fabulous building. Gaudi was very clever – he made iterative changes to the original design and it was really interesting to see in the museum the original design plus the four main designs leading to the present building.
Gaudi was also very clever in the way that the building was delivered in stages. He wanted to ensure that the building could operate while still being built. The present plan is for it to be complete by 2026 – the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death by tram car!
Our second day was spent at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museu_Nacional_d%27Art_de_Catalunya. A huge collection of art set us up for the day.
Day three was the Poble Espanyol de Montjuic, which is a kind of outdoor architectural museum. It comprises around 50 building each in a unique Spanish style. It also had an art gallery, so we got to see some more art – some Picasso ceramics!
That was about it for Barcelona – we need to get some km behind us on the race to Rome!
We couldn’t quite make the Valencia to Barcelona trip in one day, so we stopped off for a night at the delta of the River Ebro.
It was weird driving out to the free aire which was only about two feet above sea level. The marshland all around us is partially conservation but also used for wetland crops like rice.
The road was very narrow in places and with a drop straight into the marshy waters, it was a surreal experience driving for 10km ‘out to sea’.
The stopover had about 20 campervans and we had a reasonably quiet night – punctuated every half an hour with shotguns. Conservation means different things to the Spanish! We never did work out what they were shooting at – we guessed perhaps migratory birds – we saw similar in Valencia.
We also managed to fit in two or three geocache finds – our first in ages!
Another long driving leg to Valencia. The bumbling that we did on the way down will not be the plan for the journey back north – we have visited this part of the coast before so from Valencia onwards we will make longer legs as we also head for a date in Rome (it’s about 1700 km from Valencia!)
Because Valencia is a big town, there are not any motorhome facilities in the heart of the city. We parked at a motorhome stopover about 8km south of the main town. It was pretty basic, but just what we needed.
The first day we visited the Science park and aquarium, and the amazing architecture left us completely gobsmacked.
On the second day we went into the town proper and visited the market, the twin towers, the Cathedral (obviously!) and the old silk market/stock exchange that became known as the Cathedral of Commerce.
We also found time to cycle along the coast a few km. It was very quiet and a little surreal as we cycled around a corner and stumbled upon a nude photoshoot among the sand dunes!
So, from the very unwelcoming Calpe we arrived at the wonderful town of Moraira. The free camping stop was a large tarmac car-park. There were perhaps 20 campervans here all in a far corner out of the way. It was dark when we got here after a couple of false starts (thanks Sally Satnav!) leaving Calpe. Believe it or not this is the first time that we had driven the mothership at night properly. It was fine – we were worried that our hundred year old eyes would miss important traffic signals, but it was no hassle at all. Anyway, no exploring that evening as it was late.
Up early the next day and we did a lap of the town in a couple of hours including a pair of the most delicious croissants we can recall eating. It’s really easy to forget that Eroski, Carrefour and Mercadonia are really convenient and pretty good value, but not always so tasty. Today’s lesson – don’t forget the local producers!
We whiled away an hour at the Marina with T teaching S the three or four things that he thinks he knows about boats and then back to Mothership for the long drive up the coast road to Valencia. We stayed off the main autovia as this is one of the few areas in Spain where there are toll roads.
We mentioned before that we have some long driving legs ahead. Neither of us much fancy this part of Spain – so we know we will be missing lots of wonderful towns, but we are getting behind schedule, so it’s the big stuff along the coast now…
We don’t report too often on places that leave a negative impression on us, but Calpe was one ;-(
On the surface Calpe seems wonderful. We call it ‘mini Gibraltar’ – there is a large rock outcrop which is a national park and then a lovely seaside town around it. It’s Costa Blanca, so there are a few high rise apartments and hotels, but that’s fine. Calpe is obviously very popular – there are a few campsites and motorhome stopovers and all were full. A couple did have one (literally one) space each but they were a little too small for us although we did try and fit 😉 No, it was the people that were horrible.
Perhaps because Calpe is so nice maybe it has had a problem with Campervans lining the streets or littering or something. Anyway, whatever – as soon as we parked up to go and check the first campsite, some twat on the fifth story of an ugly tower block nearby shouted down at us that there was no parking. We checked for signs and there was nothing so we waved thankyou at him and ignored him whence 🙂 Thirty seconds later a dog walker (german we think) screamed ‘no parking’ at us from across the street. Nice. We checked the first campsite and on finding it full bar one space we could not fit into, moved to the next. We parked in a pretty empty street with four or five other campervans (No houses, flats or buildings). Again no room at the inn although T did make an effort to persuade the penny to fit the slot to no avail!
We did meet a lovely couple in the street outside the van, a pair of brits, full time motorhomers for the last 15 years! This was their second time at Calpe and they told us that in Spain, sleeping in your van on the street is not a crime so there must be a local law regarding overnight stops in campervans at Calpe. Their motorhome was a full two meters longer than us, so they had given up with the campsites and were heading to the hills to find a stopover.
The various apps and websites that we use all had reports of the police moving on motorhomes after 8pm, so alas, we could not stay and never got to see the national park.
So, because the people and bylaws of Calpe were so unwelcoming, we’re not posting any pictures and can’t recommend calpe to any motorhomers. Instead we drove a few km along the coast to the wonderful town of Moraira – the polar opposite of Calpe.
The stop here was primarily to plane-spot at the local airport – it’s a military airport and the Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows – the Patrulla Águila or eagle patrol are based here. Our primary campsite right next to the airport was tumbleweed – shut until the middle of February it turns out – so we retired to a motorhome stopover only a few hundred meters away in Los Narajos and in line with the runway. A wonderful walk around the Mar Menor bay in the evening and dinner in the van. We spotted one military jet from a long way off approaching the airport, not a great photo op, but that was it for the first day.
Next morning we were awoken by the sound of fast jets going overhead and three fast jet trainers were making low passes over the airfield. Awesome! T got in a few passable photos of those plus some prop planes flying in formation and we set off for the next town.