European Escapades

Archive for the ‘Travel Stories’ Category

Back into a Mountain Haven

24

Apr

2010

the mountains and town of campbell
The Mountains and Town of Campbell.

‘Vall de Laguar’ is a beautiful campsite in the mountains south of the small town of Pego. We may have come the wrong way to the site through Pego itself, but that was the fault of the Sat-Nav and our complete lack of knowledge of the area. With hindsight and advice from the campsite, if you are coming from the North of Spain, you should ignore your Sat-Nav. Take the turning for Ondara further south instead. Try to go through Pego and you are faced with an option of a very narrow high street directly through the town centre. Sometimes you just have to ignore the Sat-Nav. as we turned right and hoped to go around the town only to be pushed at every turn, back into the centre. At one point in the town square, that we had been trying to avoid, we let a Spanish car pass as we stopped and tried to decide what way we were to head, only to find him parked a hundred yards up the road, making the already very narrow street almost impossible to pass. Whilst he was convinced I had the width to navigate safely through and kept waving me onwards, I was more concerned with the low overhanging balcony that I had to go under to achieve it.

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Running for the Hills

23

Apr

2010

Boterra Park in Benicàssim
Boterra Park in Benicàssim.

Our next stop was in the small town of Benicàssim, which is famous for its four day festival international de Benicàssim. This has included a number of famous acts such as Radiohead and the Artic Monkeys along with many local bands in recent years. Fortunately for us, we managed to miss the fun and had a quiet few days sunning ourselves at the campsite of ‘Bonterra Park’. This us gave an opportunity to relax a little and enjoy the many facilities on offer in this clean but rather large site. These included an indoor swimming pool, restaurant, bar and a free trail of their new WiFi setup. The site is just out of the centre of town opposite a large supermarket and is perfect for a relaxing few days stay. We found nothing of real interest historically or touristy wise, but would recommend the site for its friendly staff and pleasant surroundings. This was our first campsite on the Costa del same, that although was mostly what we try and stay away from, actually did everything right and had pleasant staff to deal with. Only one issue cropped up and that was from one of our Dutch neighbours who seemed to have an issue with cats.

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Campervan Attacked by a Tree

21

Apr

2010

attacked by a tree
Attacked by a tree.

The woe of the Costas was a tragic experience of confirmation and regret. We started in the small tourist town of Salou, where we stopped to try and resolve my issue with the new Yoigo modem and final independent access to the internet. Salou can only be described as a clean but fake town for Tourists with no heart or soul to it. If you had placed it anywhere along the coast of Spain it would not have looked out of place and you would not have known where you were. Like one of our large commercial parks in the UK, with the usual Comet, PC World, McDonald and B&Q superstores. They all look the same at the end of the day and have no individuality to tug at our subconscious and give us some kind of affinity to them. Unfortunately there seem to be more of these places as the large corporations take over our high streets and whether we are in a commercial district in the UK, France or even the USA, we could be anywhere for all that it matters. One thing Salou had was the preponderance of pruned and hacked back trees that line the streets of tourist Spain. A semblance of Y shaped wood with a few small twigs of leaves trying to sprout out of the stumps that remain after the butchers have left. It was with one of these supposed trees that our tale of woe starts.

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Back To France?

20

Apr

2010

unfortunately the swimming pool and bar was closed
Unfortunately the swimming pool and bar was closed.

We moved South-East from our tranquil night of wild camping and onto our next stopover at Montblanc. No we are not back in France and we cannot decide why the place is called Montblanc. But there you are, maybe it looks whiter in the winter. For us it was just another nondescript campsite on our way to the Costas and the prevalent campsites that litter the coast of Spain. At the moment litter seems an appropriate word, as so far, I am not that enamoured with the urban areas of Spain at all. At the moment I can only put it down to the cultural and historical aspects of this country. If I was in any small town in most other European countries, I would be able to find a building, usually a church, which would hold some architectural beauty.

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Groundhog Day

19

Apr

2010

A happy groundhog in glorious sunshine
A happy groundhog in glorious sunshine.

I am not quite sure how to start this blog, at the beginning or the end. The reason is because both blogs would seem to read identically to each other, as they both start and end in the same place. So I’m going to start in the middle and work my way back to the end, or the beginning, however ever you choose to understand it. We are in the first large town we have come across in Spain called Lleida looking for a Yoigo shop for the second time. We are getting a feel for distances in Spain as well now, and we have come to the conclusion that the ACSI guide is going to let us down in Spain if we are to keep to our 80kms a day rule, and we will need another guide to show us all the campsites in this country. Fortunately the very nice people of Peña Montana, gave us an old 2007 ‘Guía Campings’ which seem to show most of the campsites in Spain and Portugal, as well as a more detailed map of Spain. From this we have noted a distinct lack of campsites from where we entered Spain through the Pyrenees and our preferred destination heading North West towards the Rioja wine region.

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The Rain in Spain Is Mainly On Us

18

Apr

2010

View of Pena Montana Reception and the Mountains beyond
View of Pena Montana Reception and the Mountains beyond

Ok, so we took a few days out in Peña Montana and it was funny how this bustling campsite changed over the weekend and into a weekday, as all the Spanish that had invaded the site, slowly left for home and work the next day. Seems the complete mayhem we had arrived in, was an aberration over the Easter holiday weekend and all went back to normal once it was over. It turned into a nice quiet campsite, but with all the facilities still open for our use and enjoyment. The only issue we had with our campsite was the small onsite restaurant, where we had two pizza’s one evening for a quick dinner and sitting in the bar, to finally get our new website online for you guys.

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Glorious Sunlight in Open Spain

14

Apr

2010

Blue skys and majestic rocky terrain
Blue skys and majestic rocky terrain

With us at 1820 metres above sea level and the tunnel entrance before us, we move forward into a dark inky blackness. Lights try to illuminate the interior, but from the contrast of the snow blinding whiteness of our departure point, they offer a feeble attempt in comparison. Once in and our headlights spear forwards assisting us, as our eyes adjust to the new light levels and slowly as we progress forward, we begin to make out the details with tunnel itself. It is straight for one thing and has a gentle slope downwards for another, the curved sooty walls broken by the occasional rectangular recesses pointing you towards the emergency exits. The tunnel continues on for over three Kilometres, infrequently curving for a short while in almost imperceptible long wide arcs, as we traverse the almost straight line ahead. We are travelling at a easy 50 KPH. As we straighten for one last time a bright spot of whiteness come into view and grows larger and brighter as we approach. Other colours of blue, brown, red and mottled greens start appearing as we near the exit and into Spain.

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Conquering the Pyrenees in a Campervan – Part Two

13

Apr

2010

Still green pastures, but not for long
Still green pastures, but not for long

I often wonder what municipal actually means apart from being run by a local council, and from our experience in France, I guess that’s all it means here, and also in Spain. One thing it doesn’t mean is reasonably priced. You need to go to the private sites in Europe it seems. The campsite at ‘St Lary Soulan’ was a municipal and it was the most expensive we had the pleasure of staying in. OK so we could have gone to the private site, just outside of town and stayed for €15 Inc electric & WiFi access, but we decided that it would be nice to be in the heart of the town that evening. It was our mistake, as we then got less facilities and it was €5 more expensive to boot. We also found out at this stage that our chosen tunnel was to be closed for six weeks for repair in two days time. These factors made our mind up fairly quickly; it was only going to be an overnight stop, and then we were taking the plunge into unknown territory for me and heading to Spain.

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Conquering the Pyrenees in a Campervan – Part One

12

Apr

2010

Beautiful views just over the edge
Beautiful views just over the edge

We pack up our table and chairs and ready ourselves for the trek across the mountain range, which had been our view for the last four days. Frances was not looking forward to this part of the journey to say the least. But what could go wrong? It was only a mountain range and we had chosen to go via the Bielsa tunnel anyway. So it was not as if we were going that high up. After all, the tunnel cut off most of the summit, so we should be OK. With this happy thought in my head we left Lourdes and headed for ‘St Lary Soulan’ smack in the middle of the Pyrenees for our first night stop, before heading over to Spain itself.

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Particular or Funicular

11

Apr

2010

The fun with Funiculars
The fun with Funiculars

As we sat outside enjoying the view from our campsite, we could discern on the one of the numerous mountain tops around us a large cross. With the binoculars it looked impressive and we noticed a vertical scar running almost from the base of the cross downwards and out of eye sight. We guessed that this must be the Funicular built on the mountain called ‘Pic de Jer’ and what was going to be our first step into the Pyrenees. From the camp site it was situated to the south, on the other side of town from us. So before we could investigate the Funicular itself, we had to walk down to the centre of town, past all the ‘bric a brac’ and hotels and then out the other side.

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