European Escapades

Archive for the ‘Travel Stories’ Category

The Magic of Serpa

15

May

2010

a beautiful welcome to portugal
A Beautiful Welcome to Portugal.

We leave Seville on a Sunday and wonder as we head out of Dos Hernandas via the ring road, whether we should have looked for a petrol station before leaving town. Our lack of knowledge of the town and the thought of a service stop along route won over and we leave Seville behind us. The further we got away from the town the bleaker it looked as we saw no signs for services and fifteen miles out the red light finally comes on the dashboard, blatantly telling us we should find petrol. Tapping the TomTom for gas station POI’s, I note one a few kilometres on and sure enough as we come around a curve in the highway we spot a Repsol sign towering high above the landscape just off of the next junction. Pulling off we find an open petrol station ready to serve a full tank of diesel to us. Why I wonder do we seem to wait until the last minute to fill up with petrol? It seems a bad habit with me anyway and whilst it may be a fairly safe thing to do it the UK, the distances in Spain are that much larger and the Spanish still closed on Sundays. Make a note to oneself, fill up when you get to a quarter of a tank, it’s a lot less of a worry than hunting for an open petrol station in an area you don’t know.

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Seville is Not Just Oranges

10

May

2010

parque de maría luisa
Parque de María Luisa.

For our foray into Seville we stayed in Camping Villsom in the small town of Dos Hermanas. It was the nearest we could get to Seville and be able to obtain a bus into the town centre. We arrived early and parked right near reception to take advantage of the free WiFi in the campsite. One of upgrades that we will be investing in for the van, will be a high gain directional antenna. This will mean that we will have more choice on pitch locations and still gain use of the local free WiFi when it’s there. I will keep you updated on that as we progress. The campsite was just off of the busy main road heading to Seville and to get to it from the south we had to come off the dual carriageway, around a roundabout and use a nice overpass. It felt like the magic roundabout going around in so many circles, but at least in doing so we passed the busstop and so knew where to catch the bus into town the next morning.

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Gibraltar Rocks

08

May

2010

just walk across this little runway to enter gibraltar
Just Walk Across This Little Runway to Enter Gibraltar.

I will have to admit to you that one place I was looking forward to seeing was Gibraltar. I remember from my childhood watching the 8mm cine films of my dad from his time in the navy and stories from my Nan of the place and because of this it has always held good memories. From the infamous Barbary apes and their antics, to the iconic views of the rock from the cruise ships in port as well as from mainland Spain. From the campsite we had a far trek to the bus stop on the outskirts of La Linea, but once there it was an easy ride directly into the centre of town where we could walk to the border and on into Gibraltar itself. When you do get to the city centre you can see a new development of shops and cafe restaurants along the route towards the Spanish border and you can understand how the town is trying to create a good impression for the tourist that must surely be coming the other way out of Gibraltar and onto the mainland.

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From Ronda to the Line

06

May

2010

the beautiful valley looking towards gausin
The Beautiful Valley Looking Towards Gausin.

We could go south from Ronda to the coast and take the motorway to La Linea de la Conception, but where would the fun in that be. No for us, there was a nice small orange road right through the surrounding hills via the small town of Gaucin. Seems we like to take the less obvious routes when we can, although they do sometimes get us into trouble. I have to say that the views that we encountered was worth the slower road as we traversed around tight bends and over to top of the hills, to be greeted with spectacular views of the valleys and villages below. At first it seem coming from Ronda was the wrong way to take the mountain road, as every parking area or photo opportunity point was on the wrong side for us and we were unable to pull in, to take a photograph of the wondrous scenery we were enjoying. However once we were over the peaks and descending down the other side of the range, it was our turn to have all the photo spots open for our viewing pleasure. Along the route we noticed a good number of cafes and restaurants waiting for customers, some with ample parking for a small six metre motorhome like ours. We were out of food and had a long journey ahead so we declined the almost irresistible urge to stop and partake in some lunch and decided to wait until we had sorted our provisions and parked ourselves at ‘Sur Europa’.

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Wild About Meeting Victor

04

May

2010

the beautiful olive grove
The Beautiful Olive Grove.

Leaving Granada in a bit of an annoyed state, we decided that we had had enough of campsites again and rather than head back down the coast towards Malaga, for potentially some more of the same attitude. We would move cross country to a wild camping site near Antequera. We had a fallback position with a campsite shown just north of the town in a site called Saydo. The wild site we had found, was a part built campsite that was abandoned when they found out how much it would cost to get water connected to that area, or so we were told. We found it on a Spanish website called www.furgovw.org which seems to be a forum, allowing people to recommend site across Spain and Portugal for wild camping. At this time we did not know if it would prove useful but as we were in the mood we were, it was as good a place and time to find out.

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The Magic of the Alhambra

02

May

2010

the alhambra palace on the elm wooded sabika hills
The Alhambra Palace on the Elm Wooded Sabika Hills.

A six o’clock start for us is a very abnormal thing these days as it’s usually an eight thirty wake, finally getting our arses out of bed around nine, nine thirty and that’s only with the smell of freshly brewed Earl Grey tea coaxing me up. The Earl Grey tea situation is not desperate at the moment as I managed to find some loose leaf when we were in France, but as yet our forays into Spanish supermarkets has proved unfruitful, so I am getting a little worried. Fortunately the milk situation is stable as most large supermarkets; we have been able to find small caches of the stuff, hidden near the shelves upon shelves of the fake stuff they seem to love here. But today was different and a six o’clock start was required if we were to get into the centre of Granada and up to see the Alhambra Palace without a pre booking. Seems the place is so popular that you have to pre-book a few days in advance to get in or you have to turn up at eight o’clock at the latest and wait in a queue for an hour or so and see if you are lucky enough to get one of the few available tickets on the door. We meet two guys from the campsite at the bus stop as we wereawaiting the first bus of the day at seven. Seems they are also off to try and see Alhambra and we decide to search out and share a taxi once we reach the town centre.

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Plastic Fields and Caged Animals

29

Apr

2010

a green oasis, between fields of plastic
A Green Oasis, Between Fields of Plastic.

I have been thinking about this particular blog for a little while and I’m not sure if I should make it about a campsite review or a travel story, as whilst both are interesting in their own right, neither makes enough of a story for a full blog. But together they may just be enough for an interesting story. Let’s start with the trip from Almería and the thought that a trip direct to Granada, our chosen destination, is a little too far for one journey. So we decide that we should head down the coast until the turn off north to Granada. This gave us a choice of three campsites and we decided as a novice picks a horse in a race, to choose the name we liked. So the chosen campsite was ‘Don Cactus’. Whether it was owned by a prickly mafia boss we never found out but the trip to get there was one of distaste, as we moved further along the south coast of Spain into what can only be described as plastic field country.

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The Spain I Wanted To Find, Almería

28

Apr

2010

Avenue Federico Garcia Lorca
Avenue Federico Garcia Lorca.

It may have taken over a thousand kilometres to find the Spain I was looking for, but it was worth the wait. From our initial foray over the Pyrenees towards the centre of Spain, before deciding on our sudden detour towards the costas, it has been a route that has seen us complete almost the entire south eastern coast of Spain. The journey so far, has been one of conflicting emotions and adventure, wanting to stay away from the costas that we had no desire to explore only to be forced by campsite availability, to head back there on many an occasions. Maybe if we had visited some of the larger towns such as Barcelona or Valencia along our route we may have found something sooner. There are plenty of suggestions to say some of the modern buildings in the centre of these vast sprawling metropolis are worthy of attention. But it seems they do not make it easy for someone with a campervan to visit. But as we looked on from afar, travelling down the bypasses around the towns themselves, they reminded me of a large Petri dish that had been overrun with a bacterial infection. It was as if man had littered the landscape with uninspiring and cobbled together buildings with no ideas or planning. Like jumbled pieces of a construction set with no thought for beauty or sense of place. Almería in my opinion is in a different league.

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In Sergio Leone’s Wild West

26

Apr

2010

The classic white washed buildings so reminiscent of Spaghetti Westerns
The classic white washed buildings so reminiscent of Spaghetti Westerns.

As we drove into the Tabernas desert, the feelings of elation were upon me for the first time in Spain. I now looked upon the same countryside that Sergio Leone once looked upon when creating his film masterpieces that I have come to love so much. Whilst I own almost every film that Clint Eastwood has ever been in, either playing bit part such as Tarantula, to his more famous films as the man with no name to the gritty Dirty Harry and the unforgettable Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. It took a while for me to appreciate that it was more the direction of Sergio Leone, which I loved more than anything. This shows itself in my passion for Once upon a Time in the West, my favourite film of Sergio’s. The opening sequence that lasted oh so long at the start, with not a whisper of dialogue but so overwhelmed with description and suspense. Here I was looking at the same views, wondering what he felt as he surveyed the barren landscapes, looking for the perfect location for his filming. To be where one of the people that helped shape your view and enjoyment on life is a magical thing.

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What We Like In Spain So Far

25

Apr

2010

The small cafe bar at sierra espuna
The small cafe bar at Sierra Espuna.

The advice to our next campsite in the mountains called ‘Sierra Espuna’ did not convey any confidence for us. With helpful advice such as, ‘Follow signs at the beginning of the village, not through the village. Help is available at the last incline. Just call!’ from their advert in the camping book, you wonder what you are getting yourself into. Sure enough, once we had managed to navigate the usual mountain terrain to a fork in the road, we spot the sign advising us one way for cars and another for caravans. The caravan route is another four kilometres, but at their suggestion we take the longer route. Not that this gives you an easy ride of it, as this seems just as bad as many ‘OH NO!! Not up that road’ situations we have been in already. Is it worth it, well yes as the views are stunning and take in some beautiful scenery on the way up and as you enter the village from the other side you are greeted with a long curving upward slope that’s just about accommodates the campervan or a treacherous and narrow incline into the village that even a car would balk at.

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