Benicarlo

We got to Benicarlo and onto the campsite called Alegria Del Mar. We have been here before once or twice. It’s a good stopping point for us. Nice big pitches and close to the sea. Run by an English/ Spanish family. The part we always go in, there are only about twelve pitches so it’s nice and quiet. That is if you don’t count the spanish dogs and cockerels who can’t tell the time and are afraid of the dark. But that’s spain for you. We got set up and then grabbed a cold one from the fridge and the chairs and chilled in the afternoon sun. Happy days. Some old friends of ours who we met there three years ago were there again so good to catch up with them. The next day we decided to cycle from the campsite to Peniscola, it’s all flat along the promenade and about six miles away. I said to Nikki if at anytime you want to turn back just say, it she made it there, had a rest, cake and a drink and then cycled all the way back. A nice twelve mile round trip. I must add that I never had my power on for the whole trip which was just a challenge to myself. When we are here I often wander off to look at the sea, just out the back of the campsite among the big cacti.

After three nights here it was time to move on to our winter destination Villajoyosa. Again the sun was out while we cruised along. 1215 miles after getting off the ferry we arrived at camping imperium in Villajoyosa. We have been here once or twice before also. 1545 miles after leaving Woolacombe and having a bit of a tour before catching the ferry.

Before we could even turn the engine off as we got on our pitch we were greeted by old friends which was nice. All set up in the sun and a beer and a wine as a reward. The next day the weather was not so kind, thunder and lightning and heavy rain all morning. I did think about asking for a refund!

We have been out for a small bike ride today, just to get Nikki bike fit. Yesterday I went out on my own up and around the reservoir which is a ten mile loop. As soon as I get a bit of bike fitness back I will go out with a couple of friends here who are going out and doing about 50/60 km.

last year me and Nikki had a ongoing discussion about Heinz baked beans. Spanish versus English. She says there were more beans in the spanish tins and less sauce compared to the English ones. I said she was talking rubbish and they’re all the same. To prove my point I said I will count them. So the other night we had beans in our meal but before cooking them, yes I counted them. That was the Uk ones. The next time we have beans I will count the spanish Heinz beans but not in Spanish. I won’t tell you how many beans there were in the Uk tin, but will post the results in the next chapter of the blog, that’s if I can stop farting from eating all these beans.

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On reflection

Our two days at Soustons was not long enough but this year we are on a mission to get to the sun in spain. We biked around the lake with a stop at the cake shop to refuel. The French do know how to do cakes, and we know how to eat them. We walked down to the beach. The sea was rough and huge but the sun was out as we strolled along bare feet in the sand reminding ourselves that it was November and our friends we had left behind in the UK were huddled up indoors with the heating on while the rain and wind bashed against the windows.

When we left the next day we hit a traffic jam due to roadworks, but a good photo opportunity to see the camper from a different angle. Nikki took the photo with her phone. And yes we were stopped at the time.

It’s about an hour to the border from Soustons and we were soon in spain and climbing up over the Pyrenees and heading for our next stopover for the night which was to be a leisure centre carpark. We had been there before so knew it was safe and quiet.

Up early this morning and on the road by 8am, we had a long drive today to get to Benicarlo where we booked onto a campsite right by the sea. We have stayed here a few times before. There are a couple of routes to get there, one which I wanted to try but was advised not really suitable for a big camper so we stuck with the route sat nav was going to send us. I must say our new sat nav is doing very well. The route was nearly all motorway but we cruised along at about 60 mph. The motorway was really quiet as lorry’s are not allowed to drive on Sunday’s unless they are carrying perishable goods. The road was open, the sun was out, spanish radio was playing and we were clocking up the miles. We came off one section of motorway to a road that would take us over a huge mountain. Up and up and around hairpin bends we went. With a huge big drop off on my side and bend after bend it was interesting. Nikki was hanging on to the door handle and had stopped breathing and to be honest looked terrified. After the decent the other side with me saying I would love to do this on my skateboard or my bike when we got to the bottom and levelled out she started to breath again. Good job really as she had gone a bit red.

275 miles after leaving Cascante we arrived at The campsite at Benicarlo and parked up. Off for a shower and chair out in the sun with a nice cold beer. The long drive was worth it. We are here for three nights then move on to Villajoyosa.

Nozay Parker

Up bright and early to get to the ferry terminal, all of about five miles from the campsite out side Poole but don’t like to be late. Checked in and lined up waiting and one of the ferry terminal workers came up to us and asked if we minded being parked on the lower deck because they are having trouble with one of the doors so we have to drive on and turn around on the ferry so we can come of the same way at the other end. Trouble with the door, is the seal leaking I asked. No no it’s fine I knew as soon as I said that it sounded wrong he said. I told Nikki to get online and join the RNLA and get a couple of T shirts, that way if the ferry goes down when they come to rescue us they will see we are members and save us first. Luckily the ferry never sunk and we had a calm crossing.

We got off the ferry at 2pm and the idea was to drive to an aire we went to last year for the first night, but the sun was out and the roads were good so we went for plan B which was to drive a bit further. We are on a mission to get to spain this year because we only have three months away instead of our usual four because of changing our jobs next year. More of that later. We got to a bigger supermarket and decided that was enough driving, the light was fading fast, I was getting tired and hungry. Good nights sleep and loverly and quiet after the supermarket closed at 7.30 pm. In the morning Nikki strolled across to the supermarket to get a couple of French sticks etc. The name of the town was called Nozay where we were parked. Do you get the title now. We had breakfast and then fuelled up and out on the road heading for a campsite near Montendre called Twin lakes which we have stayed on before.

The drive was a long one and it was raining. The French have changed there speed limits from 90 to 80 kmh on some roads and you can get a speeding ticket now, so I had to watch my speed, and Nikki also watched it for me and the sat nav also told me if I was going over the limit. Trouble is the motorhome drives so nice and just wants to go. But we did save on fuel sticking to 55/60 mph. We were actually getting 27.4 mpg. Not bad at all for a 30 ft 5 ton campervan.

The idea of going back to Twin lakes was that when we were there three years ago we met two loverly couples and had such a laugh, down at the bar early doors. Sadly one of the guys died about 18 months ago. His wife has since sold the motorhome because it was to big for her on her own and bought a smaller one. We said we were going to go back to the site and raise a glass for dear old Bill, which we did. RIP Bill you were a star.

We left Twin lakes this morning and headed for our favourite aire Soustons which is where we will be for a couple of days before crossing into Spain on Saturday.

One more sleep

After leaving the Devizes campsite we headed for Rookesbury park, a campsite in Hampshire. After turning off the main road a long sweeping drive took us down into the campsite. What a fantastic campsite it was. Very quiet and right on the edge of Bere forest which I planned to explore. Not too many peaple here either because it closed the week we were there. We walked into Wickham the nearest village, through the forest and along a old railway line. Later that day I went to explore in the forest, talking to nobody except the trees and bushes and myself. No I am not going mad but there was no one else to talk to.

After a couple of days on the site we headed for Lipook which is where I had to get my levelling jacks serviced. Pulling into a small industrial estate and trying to find a small unit was fun but we found it. Greeted by an Eastern European  guy who said he was going to service my jacks. I told him about the loss of power to them and he started to scratch his head and started to take all the dash board panels off and then scratch his head again. I don’t think he had nits he was just trying to come up with solutions. At this point I was losing confidence in him. My motorhome is my baby and I said to him, shall I rebook for another day? His reply, if you come back another day the problem will still be here, I will fix it. I walked away and he turned to Nikki and said your husband does not trust me. She informed him that the motorhome was my baby.

While I was outside the workshop talking to another guy, I asked him if the guy pulling my motorhome apart knew his stuff. He assured me he will fix it and knows what he is doing and is very trustworthy. My confidence was restored. About an hour later the job was done, the fault found and the jacks serviced. I shook the guys hand and apologised to him for not trusting him. He was cool about it. We then left there and drove to our next campsite south lychett manor just outside Poole which is where we always start our winter trip and end it. Time to catch up with family and friends. And here we are today, Sunday with one more sleep and then on the ferry tomorrow morning and sail at 8.30 am to Cherbourg.

Caen flight

No we’re not on a plane. The photos below are from our walk today. Out the campsite right onto the tow path of the Kennet and Avon canal. This section runs between Ronde and Devizes in Wiltshire. The two mile stretch has 29 locks and rises 237 feet in that two miles. The most impressive bit and the bit I wanted to photograph is a flight of 16 locks. It’s a steep flight in a straight line up the hillside. Very impressive. There is a cafe at the top where we had a hot drink and a slice of cake. Also a good rest to get ready for the walk back to the campsite. Two miles each way. Not the best of days for photos but I got the shot I wanted and really enjoyed the walk.

The wheels are turning

The flag has gone down and they are off.

Nikki finished work on Monday the 22 October with a smile on her face. The next day shopping and then yesterday a trip to see her mum and dump my surfboard off in her garage. No use to me on the med side of Spain. She is more than welcome to use it while we’re away but I doubt she will. Car up into storage. Then this morning we hit the road and headed for Devizes to a campsite by the canal for three days. It’s a site I always wanted to go to because of the canal and about a two mile walk or cycle along the tow path is a flight of sixteen locks which I always wanted to photograph. So that’s our mission tomorrow. There is a pub beside the canal also so we might have to pop in there just to be polite and sample there offerings. On Sunday we move on to another campsite in Hampshire for two nights, right next to a forest. Then it’s only a hours drive from there to liphook to get the leveling jacks serviced and then on to Poole. Will update with pics of the locks etc when the internet’s better.

Not long now

When I say not long now I mean, it’s not as long as it was back in March untill were off again. We are counting the days down at work and the run of good weather we have had is much appreciated and sets us up for our winter trip. We have had a lot of expense since we have been back but we are not going to let that stop us going. We now have our E bikes to take with us which is going to make it that much more enjoyable for getting out and about. Ferry is booked for the 5th November. Forgot to book a ferry back. LOL will do that some time when we decide we are running out of money. So keep checking in on my blog.

The final push

We left the campsite at Le Mans on a cold but dry morning after saying goodbye to owners and wishing them all the best for the future. They have got a lot to do on the campsite but will be very rewarding. I would love to be in their shoes. Have always wanted to own a campsite, I know it’s hard work but talking to peaple that travel is so interesting. Our aim was to get just north of St lo which leaves us about an hour up to the ferry port from there. The sun was out the roads clear, although there was snow forecast but we should be ahead of it. We stopped at a supermarket on route to buy some wine, cheaper than buying it in the Uk, and a couple of other bits to see us through. 55 litres of wine later and a loaf of bread we headed for our last aire beside a river in St Fromond.

The next morning we woke to a dusting of snow but there was no panic as the forecast was for sunny day and snow further up north. It started to snow about 10 am so we decided to head on to cherbourg, at least that way we were at the port. An hour later we arrived at Cherbourg after driving through some really bad snow and the roads were, shall we say quiet bad with snow and the side roads were even worse. We had a long wait, about six hours before we sailed at Cherbourg. Too long really because it gave Nikki too long to think about the forecast rough crossing. Storm Emma was here along with the beast from the east. Onto the ferry and off to find a seat. An hour later Nikki wanted to move as the ship was doing some really weird movements and making some weird noises. We opted to sit in the middle of the ship, thinking that’s where the reception is so must be the best place and the middle of the ship will have less up and down movement. All was going well until a bloody great big roll from side to side and things crashed off the shelves in duty free and pots and pans went everywhere from the kitchen. Nikki’s face was a picture. Later we had a message over the tannoy to say we will be late docking due to bad weather.

We had already arranged with the campsite just outside Poole that we would be late. No problem they said you know where to go. We got off the ferry to very snow covered ground, and slowly but surely drove to the campsite. It’s only about 5 miles away but the roads were really bad. No traffic about, not surprised really, everybody was tucked up in the warm. Not good to be out in a car let alone a five ton 30 ft motorhome. Nikki never said a lot from the dock until the campsite entrance. No one had been on the campsite so it was just like a blanket of snow, so as I drove along through the snow towards our pitch rounding a bend and onto our pitch leaving only tyre marks behind us. Engine off plugged into the electric and off to bed. The next morning and looking out the window was so weird. It had snowed, then rained, and then froze so it looked like a ice rink out there.

We were not going anywhere soon. The plan was to stay here for a couple of days and then move on. Today is Sunday and all the snow has gone, so in a couple of days we will travel back to Devon ready to start work and save up for next winters trip. But before that we need to get our E bikes to make the fun in the sun more enjoyable and a new sat nav so we can find places easier. And of course drink all the wine.

Nearly there

We finally left Benicarlo, after thinking, we really must get moving as we still have a long way to go and the weather is not looking too good. Our next stop was a aire which we stayed on when we were travelling south. Oh how I wish we were now. I hate going north, the thought of going to work, the cold windy days. Even worse at the moment with the so called beast from the east attacking the Europe and the UK. The guy who runs the aire greeted us with his usual smile and remembered us from the last time we were there in November. We only stayed a night and were up and away the next morning just after 9am heading into France where we would spend another night on a aire. The forecast was to be really cold with frost etc. After a five hour drive we arrived at the aire parked up and settled in for the night. Next morning although it was cold there was no frost but it was cold. After spending over three months in Spanish sun, it was cold. I even packed my flip flops away. Life’s tuff sometimes. On the road again to St Germain les belles, again a campsite we stayed at last year on the way home. Run by a Dutch couple who speak very good English with a have a great sense of humour. We spent three night there, the days were so sunny but a cold wind and the nights down to -5 but we were as snug as a bug in a rug in our camper. From there another five hour drive to just outside Le Mans, home to the famous 24 hour race. We are using Nikki’s phone as the sat nav as well as a good old fashion map after our sat nav has decided to leave us. Surprisingly it’s doing us good with only a couple of small blips. We opted to try and find campsites to stay on so we electric for the heating etc, makes life easier. The campsite we are on now is run by a English couple, they only bought it two years ago after it had been closed for nine years. So they have a lot of work to do but they are getting there. It’s a bit rustic but full off wildlife and birds. We have seen two red squirrels. Tomorrow we move on a bit further north. Picture is the mill house just outside the campsite.

Plan B

We left camping imperium in Villajoyosa on Saturday the 17th of February after being there for three months. After saying our goodbyes to everyone which took about an hour. The week leading up to our departure we slowly packed things up while it was dry in between doing other stuff. We have so many nice friends here. The camper fired up and we drove down the campsite to waves of goodbyes from all directions. Not sure if they were going to miss us or just glad we were going. While Nikki was packing up she pops her head out the door and says one of the catches on a draw has broke so won’t stay shut, not good for travelling, no worries I will sort it in a minute! Five minutes later the kitchen tap is broke again. No worries I will sort it when we get to the next place! The tap has been a ongoing problem. It’s got a micro switch in and is a bad design. It has two very thin wires that rub and break, so I have to dismantle the whole thing and put insulating tape round the joins. It then works again for maybe a month, maybe two three months. I have another switch and will replace the whole thing one day! Another five minutes later after the draw, the tap, a little voice announces the sat nav is not firing up. Ok that bloody thing can go in the bin! The sat nav is built into the dash and is a radio, CD player, DVD player and is supposed to be a sat nav. To be fair it has been very good, but last year it had a couple of blips and on the trip down this year it had more than a couple of blips. It’s old now and needs updating. So the radio, cd, dvd works but no sat nav. Another thing to buy when we get home, well after we have started work. It’s going to cost but it doesn’t matter. We do so many miles in Europe we have to have a good one. I know none of them are fool proof but I want the best I can get. When you travel through some of the French, spanish and Portugal villages you know whatI mean.

So our plan was to leave imperium and drive up the coast to Benicarlo, about three hours away. So were out on the road with out sat nav, but we do have Nikki’s phone with maps on and of course a map, remember them, it’s like a book with all pages of roads etc, what a good idea. It’s strange how you get used to sat nav. I like to have it on even if I know where I am going just so I can watch my speed and for the warnings of speed cameras etc. It’s also better to have it because of getting right to the spot you want to get to. A map can get you to the area but not to the exact place you want to be.

Our rough plan was to get to Benicarlo, stay for a couple of nights then move on up the coast about three hours drive for another couple of nights, then another drive to a aire which would take us into France and then to a campsite for three days to chill for maybe three days leaving us three days to get to the ferry. Plan B is ongoing. We got to Benicarlo, the sun was out, the sea was sparkling, the beer and wine were cold. So we extended our stay by another two days. The thought of getting across them mountains between Spain and France into the cold was putting us off. I know we have to do it but what’s a couple of days. So we are here for another day and move on tomorrow. May be, all depends on my co pilot with her map reading skills.?