Time To Move On To Pastures New ?

So the time has come, unfortunately it is ‘Time To Move On To Pastures New‘ and to bring to an end these current ramblings.

This is actually the third in a consecutive series of blogs, since giving up our careers, selling our house and all our worldly possessions to go off and have some adventures in a plastic box on wheels, which was way back in September 2013BB (Before Brexit).

Why do I keep starting new blogs you may well ask ? A very good question, as I fully understand my reader’s frustration at having to keep re-registering to get Email notifications of blog post updates every time I publish a new blog. Well the answer is simple, I am a tight fisted Yorkshire man who refuses to pay an annual subscription for a ‘Domain’, known as a ‘Premium Plan’, when I can use a ‘Free Plan’. But the biggest downside to the ‘Free Plan’ is that you only get a 3Gb amount of space, which is quickly eaten up by the number of photographs that I include. So, when my 3Gb is used up I need to start another ‘Free Plan’ rather than pay to upgrade to a ‘Premium’ plan. But you cannot keep the same ‘Blog Title’ so a new one has to be produced. Now I of course realise that I lose a lot of reader’s who do not want to keep continually going to a new blog page and re-subscribing, and I can certainly fully understand that, and I guess there will be other’s who lose interest in my ramblings (Really ??), for whatever reason, or find that it isn’t the sort of content that they thought it would be, I guess that even ‘Big Momma’s Great Adventure‘ could, for some, have had different connotations to it (Really ??)

Which brings me to another couple of points that I should clarify, first, some people understandbly get confused by the term ‘Subscribe‘, as generally the world ‘Subscribe’ means you have to pay an amount of money for something, and so this may put people off. Secondly, perhaps because subscribing means having to provide an Email address also puts people off subscribing due to Privacy and Data issues.

So, first, perhaps WordPress should just consider changing the terminology, from something much simpler, like the word ‘Register‘ perhaps. But let me confirm, when you ‘subscribe‘ to follow ‘my’ blogs it will not cost you any money, subscribing just simply means that you are ‘Registering‘ your interest in the blog by providing your Email Address, so that everytime I ‘publish’ a new blog post, you will get an ‘Email Alert’ telling you just that, and your Email address is not ‘openly’ published.

However, it makes no difference to me personally whether you choose to ‘Subscribe’ or not, I make absolutely no income from any of the blogs I publish, it is purely for administrative purposes, on my private ‘Admin Page’, that only I can see, (and of course ‘WordPress’ the providers of this blog facility, but they will not use your information to send you ‘junk mail’ or provide it to ‘third parties’) and it tells me how many ‘registered’ followers I have and what part of the Globe they are from. So the choice, as always, is still your’s. Of course, from a purely personal perspective it is always nice to see people ‘Registering’ to follow my ramblings.

For anyone who has followed any of my previous blogs, whether that be all of them or just a particular one, but are no longer interested in following our further adventures, then I very sincerely thank you for having taken the time to read, and perhaps even commented, on them. I will just say that if your interest has wained due to us not actually being ‘on the road’ fulltime for a while, then our status is likely to change in the not so distant future, but I cannot say too much about that right now !!

If you accidentally fell upon this particular blog and have enjoyed it, you may well be unaware that there are actually two previous blogs about our adventures:

http://www.ericandshazza.wordpress.com (Big Momma’s Great Adventure)

http://www.ourspanishbolthole.wordpress.com

For all my regular ‘readers’, and that includes those who have been following and indeed commenting on all of my previous blog rambles, or those that may only have just discovered this particular blog, accidentally or otherwise, and want to continue following our adventures, then a massive thank you to all of you, wherever you may be located in the World (At the last count I have had readers from 125 different Countries).

Anyway, the actual purpose of this particular ramble is advise you that this will be the last post on this particular blog, I have now set up my new ‘Blog’ and published my first post on it, so it is there, ready and waiting for you, so what are you waiting for ? Oh yes, the new site address !! Just simply press on the Link below, I have checked that it works, but if for some reason it doesn’t, just type, or copy and paste it into your browser bar.

http://www.moreswervesintheroad.wordpress.com

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Our Spanish Mini-Adventure Part 3

Day 3

We had another peaceful night at this wonderful location outside the walled village of ‘Medinaceli’, we hadn’t even heard the additional Motorhome arrive, at some point during the night.

It had been another cold night though, with temperatures down to -3 degrees(c), so as soon as I awoke it was on with the habitation and water heating, and of course the kettle, but the sun was already rising in the sky and it was virtually cloudless, so it looked like we had ourselves another good travelling and solar energy day ahead of us. Whilst I do not wish to speak too soon, after all we had only spent just two days and nights ‘on the road’, but I am pleased with the amount of power that we are getting from our two 90amp leisure batteries, which are having to cope with not just our heating and lighting demands, but also the charging of our mobile phones and iPads and my E-Cigarette batteries. We obviously put things on charge whilst we are driving as we have two USB sockets in the front cab, one for ‘Snoopy’ and one for an additional device, and whilst we only have one 12v TV socket in the habitation area, we use a dual socket adaptor in it so that we can power two devices off it at any one time, the front USB’s only work off the vehicle battery, so okay when we are driving, the one in the rear works off the leisure batteries so we can use them when we are driving and also when we are parked up. I am constantly using my iPad for checking routes, checking out potential overnight parkings, drafting my blog posts, checking Emails and following what is going on in the News, and of course trying to keep up with my German language course. So, although it has been pretty cold at night, and has been getting dark pretty early in the evenings, we have been blessed with clear blue skies and lots of sunshine throughout the day so, as they say, so far so good, but I won’t count my chickens just yet, it is after all very early days. I keep saying that, you would be forgiven for thinking that we were novices at this, but it has been a long long time since we have been able to take the opportunity to do any sort of extended travelling and certainly this is the first time in what is our new home on wheels. We are missing one vital member of this team though, ‘Dave’, he is currently safeguarding our ‘Bolt Hole’ but he will be back as part of our travelling family of Nomads very soon.

Everything is working as it should, inside the van, we are now getting used to living in a much more confined internal space than we had when we were travelling in ‘Big Momma’, although I am finding that not having a separate shower can be a bit of a palava as we have to take everything out of the washroom before we can shower, our dressing gowns, towels, toiletries bags, toilet rolls and toilet brush, then once we have showered we have to dry down the walls and the toilet so that we can put everything back, fortunately there is a screen that pulls across to cover the large mirror and the bathroom storage cupboard and the large sink tilts up and locks into place. However, we are getting into our shower routines so it is not really a major issue, but being totally honest, I do miss not having the separate shower cubicle and separate washroom like we had in ‘Big Momma’, but I guess that this is just one of the sacrifices of downsizing and losing three metres off the internal length of the vehicle. But, if there is one advantage of the more compact internal space that we have discovered thus far, it is with the heating, it does not take very long to get a six-metre long van toasty warm !!

So, after we had breakfast and had got washed up, we got the van turned around and back into ‘travel mode’ before driving across to the Service Point to empty the grey waste and chemical toilet and top up the fresh water.

The Motorhome Service Point provided ‘free of charge’

Our destination was originally going to be to ‘Sacedon‘, a small town on the southern shoreline of the ‘Embalse de Entrepenas‘, however, after reading the reviews on the P4N App, which had several adverse comments about boy racers and youths making lots of noise late at night, we decided on a more tranquil location, still on the shoreline of the same ‘Embalse’ and just outside the small village of ‘Pareja‘, it would be a 67 mile drive, a bit further than we would have liked but there were not a lot of alternatives, given the weather conditions. After driving along the pretty new motorway (toll free), we eventually turned off and back onto a National road, then the landscapes became much more varied and interesting, there were lots of Ascents and Descents, and absolutely loads of hairpin bends, but the road was well surfaced and wide, and with very little other traffic, in either direction, it was a very relaxing drive with stunning vistas.

The small village of Pajera in the distance

Shazza was enjoying being the passenger for a change, but even if she wasn’t, she would have needed more than a crowbar to get me out of my Captains driving seat !! I had programmed the GPS co-ordinates into ‘Snoopy’ and so far on this trip we have had none of those driver versus ‘twat-nav’ altercations en-route, which is always a blessing as ‘Snoopy’ can become very obstinate at times. We had set off in good time and had hoped that we may have come across a few small villages or towns worthy of investigation, but there were not many that we actually passed through, and those that we did were so small that we passed through in no more than a blink of an eye, so we actually arrived at our destination a little earlier than we had anticipated. It was not on the main part of the Embalse, more a side tributary running off it, more like a decent sized circular lake really, but it was nice and their were no other camper vans or motorhomes anywhere in sight.

The arrow marks our night stop on the Embalse (Reservoir)

A diagram of the bit of the Embalse that we were parked on, the ‘P’ in the top left was the Car park where we spent the night

We are always impressed at how the local Councils turn areas such as these into recreational facilities for the communities they serve, we arrived onto a lovely paved car park, situated looking right over the waters edge. The lake had two Islands of small shrubs and bullrushes on it. There  was a small promenade area with a slipway where, in the Summer months, according to the information boards, people could come and launch ‘non-powered’ craft, Canoes, Kayaks, Paddle Boards or Wind Surfers and there was a nice footpath/cycle path that ran around the whole circumference. At one point on the lake there was a small picnic come sunbathing area and further around they had provided a wooden hide so that people could come and watch the vast variety of birdlife that visit and nest in the area, the information board showed lots of Birds of Prey, two or three species of Owls, Cormorants and the usual array of Ducks and of course the much smaller sparrow like species. The majority of the birds were elsewhere, somewhere a bit hotter for the Winter, unlike us, but we did see some Cormorants, but as we are used to seeing these down on the Costa del Sol beaches it wasn’t a WOW moment.

The view out of our front lounge window

The footpath/cycle path that encircled this part of the Embalse

 

Stunning views from the footpath around the Embalse. The ‘Little Fokker’ is in the photo !!

The view of the village from the far side of the Embalse

It was a lovely and warm day, probably the warmest yet as I only needed to wear my ‘hoody’ top over my tee shirt, instead of an additional jacket over the top of my hoody, which had definately been a requirement over the last couple of days. When we arrived there were only a couple of cars parked up, locals walking their dogs but they soon departed and it was looking like we were going to have this idyllic location all to ourselves, but just before sunset we were joined by two other Motorhomes. Other than walking around the ‘lake’, as I found myself referring to it, we did not do very much else for the remainder of the afternoon, we planned our next few days stops, we had always planned to stop on our way down in the larger towns of Cuenca, Albacete and Murcia and so we looked at a number of alternative night stops at or around each location, although we were not sure how many days we would stay at each of them, it would depend on what there was to see and do, we are not shoppers but we do like wandering, so it would be very much dependent on how much there would be to wander around, and then, if we needed more than one day to do it all, then so be it. However, we were keen to get a little further South, to the much warmer weather and more importantly the much warmer nights, 10 or 11 degrees(c) and to find some nice secluded spots where we could stop for a day, or two, or longer, we were in no hurry and could make it up as went along. However, we already knew from personal experience of having a property on the Costa del Sol, that Coastal locations during the Winter period would already be jam packed with Motorhomers, but still, we had time to look around and hopefully find locations which would not entail travelling too many miles in any one day. Our concern is that if we get too close to where our ‘bolt hole’ is located, we may just say ‘sod it’ and go to the Apartment, so we want to stay away from the Malaga region for as long as we can, but we shall see how it goes.

As far as our daily expenses go, we have spent absolutely nothing on this our third day but as our grocery cupboards and fridge contents are starting to diminish so we are going to have to do a bit of a re-stock on a few basic essentials, Milk, Bread, more fruit and vegetables, stuff like that. We have used around a half a tank of diesel since filling it up in the UK just before we left, so hopefully we may manage another few days before needing to fill up again and even with the constant use of the heating, we are okay for LPG, we have not so far had to pay for any night stop locations or other parkings or indeed needed to pay to fill up with water, so after day three our average spend has been just €10 per day.

Day 4

Well what can I say, an absolutely fantastic night, so quiet and peaceful and we both slept very well, so well in fact that once again we had not heard the Motorhome that had arrived, at some point after we had gone to bed. I am finding though that I am waking up in the mornings between 7:00-7:30am and having such uninterrupted sleep, I awake fully refreshed and just cannot lay in bed. However, it felt really cold outside of the duvet cover, colder than normal, so I got out of bed, turned on the gas habitation and the water heater and then got back under the warm duvet for another half hour, Shazza grumbled as I disturbed her from her slumber, she isn’t a morning person, never has been. Once I deemed the temperature to be warm enough I got up and put the kettle on, I slid one of the top skylight nightblinds open and there it was, the thick ice again, I partially opened the blind on the Habitation door window and peered out, that is when I noticed that we had a neighbour, his front windscreen was a white-out, with ice, and even on the ground the tarmac on the parking area was white with a thick groundfrost, as was all the surrounding grass and shrubbery, but strangely, it did look quite a beautiful sight particulary from the vantage point of a toasty warm van. “What are you doing ?” came the muffled grumble from underneath the thick duvet at the rear of the van, now I knew that she knew exactly what I was doing, so I refrained from making a comment on my activities, “Are you ready for a coffee now ?” I responded, “May as well now that you have woken me up” came the somewhat less than amused response.

As I am not much of a breakfast person, well at least not until I have been up for a couple of hours, for some reason I just cannot face eating food first thing, so we decided that on our way to the large town of ‘Cuenca‘, which was 57 miles away, we would stop en-route at the small village of ‘Canaveras‘, which was around 30 miles away, find a shop where Shazza could pick up a few fresh provisions and also use it as our breakfast stop. I had chosen this location from a camperstop that was listed on the P4N App, however, once we arrived at the small village we could not find it, although ‘Snoopy’ was quite adamant that we had arrived at our location !! Perhaps this was just another one of those locations where the GPS co-ordinates have not been correctly given, we will never know ? We drove through the small roads of the village but we could not see a shop anywhere so we decided to just carry on and see if we came across any shops in any of the other places that we may pass through. We were not desperate for the provisions, it would have just saved us having to grocery shop when we got to Cuenca and have to carry bags all the way back to the van, as our next P4N location was outside the tourist information office on the outskirts of the town. There was a camperstop listed on our ‘Camperstop Europe’ guide but it was parking only, with absolutely no services, but they still wanted €15 for the priviledge !! At least outside the Tourist Information it was free, and although that had no services either, they usually provided free WiFi and it was a much shorter walk into the town. The P4N reviews had stated that although it wasn’t an official parking for Motorhomes, they allowed you to park where the buses parked, we assumed that they must have meant the tourist coaches in the holiday season. As it was, we arrived at the provided GPS Co-ordinates, and yes there was the tourist information office, we drove in and we could see that the car park was full, but what we could not find were bus or coach parking bays, it wasn’t just a matter of we could not see them, just simply that there wasn’t any, and we couldn’t see anywhere where a bus or coach could have parked anywhere near to the Tourist Office !! We stopped very briefly, as we were on the exit road from the Tourist office which led directly on to a busy main road junction. We considered whether we should go to the other ‘Camperstop’ location and just suffer paying the €15, but it was in fact only a very brief considered discussion, we were not bothered about seeing Cuenca that much, after all, it was probably just another typically Spanish town so we agreed that we would move on to our next destination, the small city of ‘Albacete‘, although this would mean a further drive of 99 miles. I had a quarter of a tank of diesel and could just about make that distance, but we never like to be close to running on fumes, so we decided to stop and re-fuel somewhere en-route, but we were both also feeling hungry by now so we were also on the lookout for a roadside lay-by, or picnic area, or even just a forest track to pull into would have sufficed.

But, it seemed as though we were going to have one of those days when nothing seems to be going in our favour, it happens, that is what campervan life is all about, sometimes things go according to plan and sometimes they don’t, you just have to take them in your stride.

First we had to get out of Cuenca and ‘Snoopy’ was instructing us to head right through the town, a very busy town, with lots of traffic, cars, buses, lorries, motor-cycles, pedestrian crossings and traffic lights every 100 metres, and just for some added excitement, cars and vans that were seemingly abandoned on the inside lane of a very busy main town road, not forgetting suicidal pedestrians who would just walk out from behind tall vans and cross the road, then glare at you as if nearly sending them to their maker early was your fault, it was clearly a day when I should have put my brown trousers on, but we escaped unscathed, but only just !!

It was really good to get out of this town and back on to the much more empty main ‘N’ roads again, the sun shone through the windscreen and it was searingly hot, so much so that we had to turn on the cab ‘air-con’, even though the outside temperature was still no more than 6 degrees(c) !! We were driving through a combination of lush forest with wild rushing rivers, agricultural land with farmers ploughing fields and then up steep ascents with lots of winding switchbacks, but which, from the top, gave fantastic views of the surrounding landscapes for miles around. The one thing these miles of road were not giving us were places to pull over for what was rapidly becoming ‘Brunch’, we were quite surprised at the lack of any ‘Miradors’ (Viewing Points) or ‘Picnic Places’ but just when we thought that feeding our hungry stomachs was going to have to wait until we arrived at Albacete, we came across a very welcome sight, a ‘Repsol’ fuel station which had a parking area to the side, so here we could feed the ‘Little Fokker’ as well as two other very hungry ‘Fokker’s’ !!

After being fed and watered we continued with our longer than envisaged journey, but we were to leave the very scenic national road, because they had built a new motorway (toll free), it was a very monotonous stretch of road, but at least it ate up the miles and took us all the way to our next park up. It was so easy to get to and we did not have to drive through the centre of this city, although when I say City, it is not as large as say Madrid, or Seville, but it was a bit bigger, and a lot busier, than what ‘Soria’ had been.

We arrived at what is essentially a car park, but it does have eight dedicated motorhome bays, and a motorhome service point, this city is obviously not anti-motorhomes like some of them are. There were only two other vans parked up when we arrived but one left shortly after our arrival, did someone tell them we were coming we wondered ? The parking place was opposite the University, it was next to a busy road but the guide had stated that at night the traffic calmed down and it was not obtrusive, we would see.

We were no longer hungry so after getting the van put back into ‘home mode’ we sat down and enjoyed a nice hot mug of coffee. The sun was still high in the sky and our leisure batteries, after the longer than scheduled drive, were completely full, as were all our electronic devices. The reviews on the P4N App has said that it was a thirty-minute walk into the city centre, we needed a decent leg stretch so after checking ‘Google Maps’ to get the direction, we got our coats on and headed off. It was great to be in civilisation again, although we do both enjoy a bit of solitude, sometimes it is nice to know that you are not alone and whether it was because this is a University City I do not know, but there was a definate vibrancy about this place. From the minute we left the van we were walking along pavements that were lined with Cafe’s and Bars and Take-Away food establishments and shops, this was almost certainly the student area.

Because there were so many buildings, and people, and traffic, it certainly did not seem like a thirty-minute walk into the city centre, and once we had, to be perfectly honest, we found that we preferred being in the outer suburbs, moreso than the city centre, perhaps it was because we are not shoppers, if we had been, we could have spent hours and hours here, wandering through the numerous streets and sidestreets all lined with a vast array of retailers. The one thing that we noticed, from the architecture, was that this is very much a modern city, most of the buildings are new, or have been newly renovated, even the Cathedrals stonework looked much too clean to be medieval.

The Cathedral, it wasn’t that impressive so this is a photograph of its best side !!

We didn’t find out what this building actually was, but it was certainly colourful

We had of course hit the city as it was starting its ‘Siesta’ period, not unusual for us, we have a knack of arriving at places when the shops are closed, although as far as I was concerned it is a very good strategy for management of the budget. Even so, the streets were still very busy with traffic, probably the office and shop workers going home for their three hour lunch breaks, yes seriously, I jest not, from the notices on the shop doors we discovered that they were closed between 14:00-17:00. Even the Tourist Information Office was closed, when we eventually found it that is, as it had moved from the building which had a sign over it saying ‘Office de Tourismo’ to another anonymous looking building, which was just across the road as it happens. There wasn’t actually a great deal to see here, on a tourist level, other than the Cathedral and a couple of Museums, and even they were closed for Siesta, however, there are a lot of green areas including a rather large City Centre public park, which we wandered through, but the Cafe in the grounds was closed, not for Siesta but for the Winter.

The grand entrance to the Central Park, it was nice enough to walk through but it is Winter so no colourful floral displays, however, it passed a bit more time for us and provided us with a much needed leg stretch after a long day’s drive.

All in all though we had enjoyed our ‘self-escorted’ tour of the City and it was time to head back to the van, but not before first stopping at one of the many Cafe/Bars in the student zone for a refreshing drink of something cold, on this occasion just a couple of Coca-Colas.

When we returned to the van we found that we had another couple of motorhome neighbours and as we sat, just people watching, as you do, a police car drove in and pulled up in front of us, one of the policemen looked, smiled and gave a friendly wave and we could see the second police officer looking at our vehicle registration and writing it down. We were not perturbed by this as we had read that this is a daily occurrence, we think that this is their way of checking that vans do not overstay their welcome, the maximum period here is 48 hours. By the time the sun had set, which is now a little before 6pm, six of the eight allocated motorhome parking bays were occupied.

We feel quite safe and comfortable here, so much so that we have decided to stay here for another day and night. Apart from the cost of filling the van with Diesel (€84), which is obviously a necessity, as opposed to an extravagance, which applies equally to filling with LPG when required, our daily expenditure for today is €4 Euros on two drinks. Although on this trip we are not working to any sort of strict daily or weekly budget, but we will be once we retire, in the very near future, and get back to living on the road on a more permanent basis, therefore this brief adventure is more akin to a dress-rehearsal for us.

Although we have done extended travelling in a van before, that was a good four years ago now, so this will, hopefully, give us a more accurate picture of what costs are currently. In the future we will probably not be moving on as regular as we are on this trip, which up to now has seen us moving on a daily basis, so on our future travels around Europe we will, more than likely and given the opportunity, be trying to stay a bit longer at locations, which will reduce the fuel expenditure and, as we will not always be travelling during the Winter, as we are now, we should not need to use as much LPG on heating the van during the nights and in the mornings. So this mini-adventure serves two purposes for us, first we are getting the opportunity to really test out the van and all of its functions and facilities to see what, if any, limitations it may have, and secondly to ensure that we can live comfortably within what will be a limited budget. So far though it is looking pretty positive on both aspects, but in reality we have only just started on our mini-adventure and who knows what lay around the next swerves in the road.

Day 5

Well if you take into consideration that we are parked in what is essentially a car park, opposite a University, at the side of a busy main road and a few minutes away from numerous Bars/Cafes, we slept pretty well, we were not disturbed, the traffic calmed down by midnight but was not obtrusive even before that, we have had no boy racers or drunks acting the fool, so all in all it had been another pleasant night’s park up.

The one thing that had not changed was the icy cold temperature in the morning, so the now usual routine was once again re-enacted as per putting on the habitation heating, water heater and kettle. The one good thing is that even in these minus temperatures the water has not been dumped so it seems that having both our water tanks, drinking and waste, on-board, as in under the double flooring, actually appears to be working quite well. By 09:00am the sun is up in the sky and pouring valuable solar energy on to our roof mounted 150w panel which feeds our leisure batteries. We do not put on our external silver screen covers when we are not parked on Campsites or secure Aires for safety reasons, not that we have felt unsafe on any of our adventures to date, past or present, but if the occasion did arise when we needed to make a quick getaway we could do so, the downside to that is having to mop up the heavy condensation on the inside of all the windows, we did not get any on the windscreen or cab door windows when we had the silver screens on, but it is currently just a part of the morning routine and it only takes 10 minutes or so. Once all the blinds are open the sunshine pours in and the heating gets switched off and the heater can take a break until sunset when, as soon as the sun drops, so does the temperature. The daytime is a good time to use the consistent supply of solar to charge up all our devices as we are not using any other internal electrics, the fridge/freezer runs off gas whilst we are stationery on our park ups and switches over automatically to 12v, powered from the vehicle battery when we are driving, obviously if we had access to a mains EHU it would run off that when we are parked up but we have not personally come across any Camperstops, as yet, that provide such a facility, although there are several out there, just not the ones we have been using ?

So we decided to have a non-driving day today (Saturday), primarily because we have planned to go straight to ‘Murcia‘ for our next stop. We anticipate that it will be a much bigger City and therefore very much busier traffic wise, well it is the Capital City of the ‘Murcia Region’. My thinking is that as the shops in Spain, including Supermarkets, do not open on a Sunday and with it being out of the Summer Tourist Season, the roads will be much quieter and therefore less frantic when we arrive and are looking for our Park Up, which again has been provided courtousy of the P4N App, Camperstop Europe could only provide an Aire a few miles outside of the city, which again wanted €15 for the priviledge, granted it did have EHU included in that price and WiFi, but we dont actually need that at this particular period in our travels and the P4N location is very close to the city centre, a short bus or tram ride, which suits us perfectly. We have no objections to paying for Aires, Camperstops or even Campsites, if required, but if their are alternatives that are provided ‘free of charge’ then its a no brainer really.

Although we had seen the city in Albacete and there was little left for us to actually do, we would enjoy a restful day as well as doing a bit of shopping to re-stock our dwindling stocks of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, milk that sort of stuff. Fortunately there is a ‘Mercadona’ supermarket just a few minutes stroll from our Park Up location. Three of our fellow neighbours departed this morning, after they had availed themselves of the ‘free’ motorhome services area, so I was able to enjoy partaking of one of my most favourite leisure pastimes, people watching, I know, how sad am I at watching people empty their toilet cassetes, empty their washing up water and re-fill their fresh water !! However, once they had all finished and departed, moving on in whichever direction they were headed, I got on with watching the locals pass by, dog walkers, joggers, some on those new motorised scooters, others were getting on and off buses, it was a busy Saturday morning her in downtown Albacete. Then, a really beat up looking car drove in and parked right next to the service point, a youngish chap gets out, unloads two large plastic containers and commences to fill them from the fresh water tap at the Motorhome Service Point, after doing so he then drives off again. A few moments later another car, fairly new looking and in good condition this time, pulls in with a small trailer behind. In the trailer were two larger water butts. An elderly looking chap gets out, I knew he had done this before because he had come prepared with a hose to attach to the water tap. It took some time to fill his water butts and he had just started filling the second as we departed the van to go out shopping, he looked across, I waved and smiled and said ‘Buenos Dias‘, he acknowledged with a smile and a wave. We can understand the locals doing this, if the community can provide free water for foreign visiting nomads, which must be paid for out of Community Funds, then why shouldn’t they have some of it.

We returned from our shopping trip to find that we had a new neighbour, parked right next to us in a very large Spanish registered Carthago motorhome. They had parked in forward and were overhanging into what was the car park road, why I do not know when there was plenty of room to go further into the bay and be parked correctly, but more irritatingly, they had spoilt the radius of my people watching view, I was not happy. Having driven in forward, their door was facing my door, so only a little more than a metre between us, their habitation door was open and I could see that they had two small dogs, not a problem as long as they were not of the ‘yapping’ all day and all night variety !! But then I could not believe my eyes, instead of taking the dogs for a walk he literally dangled them from the door, on their leads, and then let them pee on the tarmac outside our vans, we shall just have to make sure that when we get out of our van that we check the floor for any other little parcels they may have dropped !!

I may have also mentioned earlier in this post that everything was functioning within the van, well it was, until Shazza started messingwith the 12v TV socket, the one that we use to charge up two devices at once. The first thing I heard her say was, “I just want to try something“, but she didn’t say what that something was and before I got the chance to ask, the next words out of her mouth were, “We have no Power“. I checked the lighting, it all worked, I checked the water pump, it worked, “There is nothing wrong with our 12v system” I said, “Well we don’t have any power to the TV socket” she said, in a matter of fact way, in a tone that only women can do, “Well it has been working just fine up until now, what did you do ?” I asked. She said that she had unplugged one device and plugged in her Kindle as she wanted to see if it would charge and when it hadn’t she had re-connected whatever it was that had been in there charging in the first place, and now there was no power to anything. I went and checked the Elektroblok and fortunately, although the majority of the wording below each fuse is in German, which obviously are words that my German course hadn’t got around to teaching me yet, but as luck would have it, under one of the fuses was the word ‘TV’, I took out the 10amp fuse and could see that it had blown, a quck change of fuse and hey presto we had our device charging capabilities back, well apart from her Kindle that was. “What am I going to do now when I need to re-charge it ?” she asked in a concerned way, “How much charge have you got left on it ?” I asked, “About 50%” she says, “That will be okay, just read your book a bit faster” says I, she was not amused. We do have a 300w inverter which works off the 12v socket, which, I informed her, would charge her Kindle when required but best done during the day when the sun is maximizing its energy feed to our leisure batteries, we also had the power pack which should do the job as well, so, as always, my motto is that there are no such things as problems, they are simply just solutions that are waiting to be discovered…..

We went for a short walk around the external areas of the fenced University complex and just wandered in and out of a few backstreets, just for a bit of exercise really and to enjoy the fresh air, we came out near a large Department store, you know the type, those that have six floors and sell everything you need under one roof, so we just went up and down the escalators and wandered around some of the aisles, we chuckled as we could imagine that the security cameras would be following us around, thinking we were shoplifters, I guess we must have looked a bit suspicious, especially when we stopped at the huge display of electronic gadgets and started playing on the computer and phone screens that were out on display, we left, after exploring all six floors, and were sure that when we looked back over our shoulders we saw half a dozen plain clothed shop security staff who had been following us, dart behind clothing rails.

So a relatively uneventful day in the grand scheme of things and our daily expenditure comes in at €58 Euros, solely on groceries, which should last us a few days !! I guess though that this really comes once again under the category of ‘Essential‘ expenditures.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Our Spanish Mini-Adventure Part 2

Well what can I say about our first night stop location ? I can happily confirm that the Spanish registered motorhome, that had departed during the early part of the evening, had thankfully not known something that we didn’t. We had a very peaceful night, no problems with noise, drunks, boy racers or the police. However, once the sun had dropped in the sky, so did the warmth and the temperature began to plummet rather rapidly. Fortunately, whilst the sun had been shining it had kept our leisure batteries topped up but we would now have to put them to the test as we needed to use the lights in the van, as well as powering the fan to disseminate the heat from the gas blown air system. I knew that having all LED lighting in the van would ensure that on that score power consumption would not be an issue, but I did not know how much power would be drained from using the blown air heating system, as it was we had no need to worry on that score either. We did not keep the heating on overnight or set the timer for it to come on automatically at a set time in the morning, the ‘Works of Fiction’  had forecast the temperature to drop to only 3-4 degrees(c) during the night, we could cope with that under our thick duvet.

I must have had a good sleep because I was wide awake a little before 6:00am the following morning, what is that all about, I never wake up that early even on a work day !! However, whilst you may think that I am often a bit too critical in my constant barrage at the ‘Works of Fiction’, let me just defend myself, ‘they’ said 3-4 degrees(c), no mention of a minus in front of those numbers, which is why we chose this location as our first stop and not Logrono !! But in the morning, when I got out from under the lovely warm duvet I could feel the freezing air, and that was before I even opened up the skylight blinds for the first weather check, however, when I did, to my horror I discovered that they were covered in a thick layer of ice and on checking the external temperature it read -3 degrees(c), so well done once again to the ‘Works of Fiction’ who again got the accuracy of their forecasting completely wrong. I could have just simply put the heating on and got back under the invitingly warm duvet, but I am one of those people that once awake I have to get up, unless I am at deaths door with man flu or something. So on went the heating, both for the habitation areas and the water, we were now back to using just the on board bathroom facilities, no such luxury of a heated campsite shower block or ensuite facility like we had in the cabin on the ferry. It was still dark outside so neither would there be any Solar energy to help supplement the leisure batteries. I did wonder if they would last very long with the heating and fan on full blast, this was another one of the tests for living in our new van, so whilst it did its stuff I quickly got dressed for some added warmth, whilst Shazza remained in hibernation mode under the duvet, protected from the elements.

On this trip we will be reliant on our UK mobile data packages, and local free WiFi hotspots. There was no WiFi available in this our first park up area, although I had rather hoped to perhaps get a feed from the University campus next door to our location, but that was not accessible, however, I do also have a data SIM card in my iPad, part of the subscription package that I have with our Spanish ‘bolt hole’ WiFi providers, which gives me 1GB of data per month whilst in Spain, I know that is not a great deal of data in the grand scheme of things, but useful for ‘on the road’ stuff and then, if required, we can switch to using our mobile data allowance from our UK provider, which currently means that we do not get charged whilst in Europe, although it will be interesting to see how quickly that changes after we officially leave the EU ? We know that we can purchase alternative gadgets to meet our data requirements whilst on both our current, and our future nomadic travels, but we do not really use our devices that much, we do not need to use them for work purposes, we do not produce ‘You Tube’ Vlogs so do not need data for editing or publishing purposes, my blog can be written off-line and then uploaded to my ‘Live’ WordPress site, once I have access to WiFi, and as I do not have that many ‘followers’ demanding updates every few days, or even weeks, I am under no pressure to publish posts on a regular basis, so we just make do with what we have, for the time being at least.

Shazza and I have our planning meetings after our evening meal, we get out the road map, we have ‘Snoopy’ at hand with the pre-loaded ‘Camperstop Europe’ guide and we have the ‘Park4Night’ App on our mobile devices, so we plan our following days route generally by direction of travel, but combined with what type of services we may need at any given time, places that we may want to visit and more important what is available by way of camper stops in a specific area and of course the weather will be a factor in our decision making. Our first stop at Soria had been all down to the P4N App, although there was also a ‘no services’ Camperstop available too, but we opted for closer proximity to the town. However, our second planning meeting has identified choices for day two that are listed courtousy of ‘Camperstop Europe’. Just twenty miles South of Soria is the small town of ‘Almazan‘, we did not have a clue what was there, other than a ‘free’ parking area with no services, we decided we would take the short drive and go and explore just because we could, we were in no great hurry to get anywhere so why not and after all, this sense of freedom with no time restraints has been what we have both been yearning for, for such a long time now. After visiting Almazan, unless of course we found a good reason to remain there, the plan was to drive a further 27 miles South, to the small ‘walled’ hillside village of ‘Medinaceli‘, again, we did not know if there would be much to do there but at least this stop this time would provide us with a Motorhome service point, which would enable us to top up our fresh water tank, if the water supply was still turned on that is, a lot of places turn off the water during the Winter. We could also empty our grey waste, which would be handy as we could afford to not be as restrictive with the water when having our showers and, depending on what services we discover available on our next planning meeting for day three of our travels, we may also just empty our toilet cassette, although that is not a major priority as we carry a spare cassette.

We were not in any rush to leave Soria that morning, in fact we had originally thought that after a poor sleep on the ferry the night before that we may have enjoyed a bit of a lay in, however, being up earlier than we had thought, even before the birds sang their dawn chorus, meant that we were pulling away at 9:00am, it was daylight and we were pleased to see that the sun had decided to get up and make an early start with us, so with a bit of a drive, albeit a short one, and the sunshine providing power via our solar panel, our leisure batteries would be fully charged again.

Being on the South side of Soria meant that we had an easy exit out of the town and within a few minutes we were on our way. We had expected to remain on the good National Road, the N111, but discovered that a new dual carriageway had been built, the A15, so we had no choice but to take it, as the old N road merged onto the new road. It wasn’t a problem, the road was virtually empty with literally just a handful of trucks and cars using it and it didn’t take us long to eat up the miles, even though I was going no faster than 60mph, and even at that speed we were still averaging 25mpg, so we were soon pulling off and back on to the N111, which had miracously re-appeared. Now once again I will just mention for the benefit of fellow motorhomers, on the outskirts of Almazan there is a local fuel station, as opposed to the larger National ones like Repsol, CEPSA, BP or Shell, which we observed sold ‘Autogas’, not that we ourselves needed any at this early stage of our travels. Snoopy took us to the free parking area without any problems, it was located just outside the small township but within a very short walking distance of it, it was a proper hardstanding parking area right opposite the outdoor swimming pool, although for obvious reasons the pool was closed at this time of year. It was a bright and sunny day but as we stepped out of our very warm van, the cold bracing air hit us so wherever possible we tried to remain in touching distance of the sun’s rays.

At first there appeared to be no sign of life, we had walked into what was obviously the old town, up a bit of an incline passing through an archway. There were plenty of shops mixed amongst the stone houses, church, town hall and other anonymous looking buildings, but they all looked closed and this was the same with the Cafe’s, which was unusual for Spain as these are usually buzzing with life first thing in the mornings. We wandered around, looking out over the surrounding countryside from the ramparts on strategically placed viewing platforms before wending our way through several narrow cobbled streets. This place, as charming as it was, did not give the impression of being high on the list of popular tourist locations, although we reminded ourselves that it was in fact Winter, a time that only mad dogs, and English people with motor vans, came out to play, it was probably a hive of activity in the Summer judging by all the restaurants and bars that were gathered in such a small area. Eventually we found a Cafe that had tables outside, all were unoccupied so we tried the door, inside we found what must have been most of the towns female residents, young and not so young, sat gabbling away at tables with cups of coffee and an array of foodstuffs, this is obviously where they came for breakfast and to catch up on all the neighbourhood news. The lady serving behind the counter greeted us with a smile and a friendly ‘Buenos Dias‘, to which we obviously responded in our bestest Espanol, before ordering ourselves two cups of coffee. Once we had finished our drinks and had got ourselves warm again, we wandered back out onto the cobbled roads and just followed our noses, we found ourselves out of the old part of town and on to a slightly busier main street, the more modern area of the town. We wandered aimlessly up one side until Shazza spotted a ‘Fruiteria’ that was open, she said she needed to re-stock on a bit of fresh fruit and vegetables, so in we went. Again we were greeted with a warm smile and a cheery welcome, after paying for our purchases the lady behind the counter asked us where we were from, we told her that we had come from England and waited for her to snatch back her produce, kick us out of the shop shouting ‘Damn Brexiteers’, but she didn’t, she just smiled and said ‘Adios’. There was nothing else to see or do here and certainly nothing that would encourage us to spend the rest of the day or night here, although had we have arrived later in the afternoon we would have felt perfectly safe using it as an overnight stop. As it was it was still only mid-morning so we walked back to the van and whilst Shazza put away her purchases I programmed ‘Snoopy’ to take us to our new location, the walled village of ‘Medinaceli’ just a short twenty-seven miles South and, as we drove out of the town, we saw a ‘Repsol’ fuel service station and it too advertised that it sold ‘Autogas’, so it appears that contrary to some motorhomers opinions on a variety of forums that I read, the availability of LPG is not as elusive as they would have you believe. We know that in the popular tourist areas on the East Coast it is widely available but on our evidence so far, it is also readily available elsewhere, but you just watch, now that I have made that bold statement, when it comes time for me to need to refill my gas cylinders, I will not be able to find anywhere that sells it !!

As we drove up the short switchback road towards the walled village, it did not look that big and we thought that we may have been spending the majority of our afternoon inside the van just enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. There was one other van parked up on the vast grass/earth parking area but they were just leaving after availing themselves of the very handy motorhome service point, we watched just to see whether water was available, it was, bonus !! We were perched quite high up and the 360 degree views were absolutely amazing, there were no trees so we were completely in the open which, for us, meant a full day of sunshine, in the Summer it could be a bit oppressive as there was a ‘No Camping’ sign so no outside furniture, awnings etc. and conversely, on a very windy day the vans would get a right old battering, but for us, here and now, it was perfect, no wind, not even a breeze, just the very welcomed warmth of the sunshine and lots of solar energy. We had lunch and then decided to go for a wander through what looked like a very small village, we did not expect to be out long so it looked like another period of ‘Personal Contemplation’ was on the cards. But WOW !! how many times have I stated in my previous blog posts to not judge a book by its cover, this was certainly another one of those occasions. Inside the walls of this village it was a cobbled maze of streets and alleyways, people lived here in stone houses, many that were renovations and kept the traditional look, a few others were new with new large stone brickwork, but  they stood out from the much older and weather worn original stone buildings, but everyone was freindly and passed the usual pleasantries as we passed by, some were basking in the afternoon winter sunshine on benches in small squares dotted around the whole place. We walked down one cobbled street and through an alleyway and found ourselves in a Plaza, which would lead into another alleyway and come out somewhere completely different. Their were small shops, Cafes, Bars, Restaurants, Hotels, a Hostel for backpackers and even an old persons home, I nearly reserved myself a place, this was quite obviously a very popular tourist destination in the Summer months but for now, we had most of it to wander around and explore at our leisure without the tourist hoards and so far, this little gem has been the best place we have visited on the trip so far. As if that wasn’t reward enough, when we got back to the van we discovered that the community provided free ‘Tourist WiFi’ so we checked our Emails and caught up on a few of the regular motorhome travel Vlogs that we have been following. We thought we had this place all to ourselves but just as the sun was setting another Motorhome arrived followed shortly afterwards by a smaller van conversion, so tonight we would not be alone. The other bonus is that it has remained pleasantly warm throughout the evening and we have not had to put the heating on, the downside is that the ‘Works of Fiction’ have forecast freezing temperatures in the early hours, lets hope that they stick true to form and get it wrong again, but this time in our favour.

Finally, the days expenses, €7 Euros spent on two coffees and some fruit and vegetables.

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Our Spanish Mini-Adventure Part 1

Are you paranoid ? Are you someone who believes that ‘Big Brother really is watching you’ ? I remember when I was a boy at school, yes I do have a good memory and can remember that far back !! One of our many reading assignments in our English Literature classes was to read the book by George Orwell called ‘1984’. Briefly, the Government had cameras and microphones hidden everywhere in society, in public places, homes and even in places that were considered as safe and where secret meetings were held by rebels, only for there every move and conversations and thoughts to be monitored before eventually being arrested and incarcerated, never to be seen or heard of again. There was even a scary department called the ‘Thought Police’, now that was scary, people who could read your thoughts, I think Shazza is one of the members of that department as I am certain she knows what I am thinking, at times even before I have had the thought myself !! However, when you stop and think about today’s modern technological world, with all of the capabilities of the Information Technology and the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence, coupled with our veracious apetite for access to all sorts of social media, then I am in no doubt that this is probably the modern reality of what George Orwell was describing in his book. So what has this to do with our travel adventures I almost certainly hear you ask ? Which just goes to prove that perhaps even I am able to read your thoughts (cue spooky sci-fi X-Files music).

If you read my last blog post (‘Down And Out‘), you may recall me mentioning that whenever we boarded our ferries, to and from Spain, that I had a bit of a moan about always being parked on a car deck that was the last to disembark and never being lucky enough, on any of our numerous previous trips, to get parked on Deck No.3, which is the last deck to be boarded but more importantly, the first to disembark. Perhaps someone at Brittany Ferries is a reader of my blog ? Perhaps the thought police do exist ? because on this trip we were finally rewarded and parked on Deck No.3, (cue loud triumphant cheers, fireworks exploding in celebration, champagne corks popping and much punching of the air) but could this be just a fortunate coincidence or perhaps…………(cue more spooky sci-fi X-Files music)

When we had first booked our early New Year crossing we had anticipated the worst, the Bay of Biscay is notoriously bad at any time of year, so we expected choppy seas, two sleepless nights and we had our sick bags at the ready, however, it was not to be, it was a calm night crossing and we both slept well. We were already up, showered and dressed by the time we heard the knock on the cabin door, the steward with our breakfasts, and perfectly timed as we were just entering Roscoff ready for the crew change, which took a couple of hours and then we were underway again. It did get a bit lumpy as we headed further out into the Bay of Biscay but as night fell the ship settled down and we were not kept awake by lumpy seas or crashing waves. However, we did not sleep well, either of us, perhaps we shouldn’t have taken that afternoon nap ? or perhaps it was because we knew we had to be up, showered and dressed ready to receive our second mornings breakfasts in the cabin, which would once again be delivered to our cabin but this time at the ungodly hour of 05:30am !! The ship works on British time and it was due to dock in Bilbao at 06:45am, although in reality, with the change in time zone it would actually be 07:45am, I had adjusted my watch the night before. Perhaps it was a little bit of anxiety about the weather, we knew that we had to cross the Eastern side of the ‘Picos Europa’ mountain range which is a popular ski resort, and that can only mean one thing, lots of the white stuff, it may be good for Winter sports enthusiasts but I did not relish the thought of having to drive many miles along snow covered, perhaps even icy, steep and winding mountain roads, and it wasn’t just the going up, it can be just as treachorous coming down !! I had been watching the weather forecast for days, altthough no snow had appeared in their predictions, well you already know how much faith I have in the accuracy of any of the ‘Works of Fiction’ forecasts in the first place, but the fact was, I would not know until we started driving and by that time there would be nothing that I could do about it, the only freedom of choice that I had was whether to wear my brown trousers or not !! Or perhaps our sleepless night was due to ‘excitement’ about our forthcoming mini-adventure, we would be travelling an unfamilar route, seeing different landscapes, different towns and villages and staying primarily on ‘Aires’ listed on our ‘Camperstop Europe’ Aires guide, which fortunately is already pre-loaded into ‘Snoopy’, or we would be using locations that are listed on the very useful ‘Park4Night‘ application, downloaded onto our mobile phones and iPads, or we may be using discreet parkings that we just come across along our route, a spot of wildcamping no less, now we havn’t done that in absolutely ages. So all in all there were a number of potential reasons why we hadn’t slept well but I think it was probably a combination of a bit of everything.

The ferry arrived in Bilbao on schedule, at 07:45 (local time) and being fortunate to have been on Deck No.3 we were quite literaly one of the first vehicles to disembark, so a very short fifteen minutes later we had passed through Immigration, had our passports checked and were leaving the Port behind. It was still dark, the temperature gauge reflected 8 degrees(c) but it didn’t feel cold, it was dry and the visibility was good, although hitting Bilbao ring road in the morning rush hour is not something to be enjoyed. For the majority of our trip we intend to use, wherever possible, the National Roads (N Roads as indicated on the map) or, if required, non-toll motorways, however, to get out of Bilbao and to clear the Picos mountains as quickly as possible, we stuck to the ‘Peage’ (Toll Motorway). We were heading in a totally different direction to where we had travelled before, our destination for our first day was the town of Soria, some 155 miles away and which is North East of our more usual Madrid route, although initially we would be travelling on a familiar part of the AP68, but only until we reached the part where it branched off onto the A1 towards Burgos and ultimately to the North of Madrid, at that point we would remain on the A68 and head for ‘Logrono‘ where we could then leave the Motorway and cross, via a very winding and steep National Road, through part of a National Park, all the way to Soria.

We saw some snow on the highest mountain peaks but nothing to worry us, but we didn’t get away totally free, for one minute we were climbing high up into the mountains with miles of vision all around us, the traffic by this time had become much lighter as we left the outskirts of Bilbao behind us and we were both feeling pretty relaxed. We could see the hard overnight frost still laying pretty thick upon the fields, and on the side of the road, but then, without any warning, we were completely consumed in a thick blanket of dense fog which lasted for miles and miles. Then, as we started to descend, it was as if someone had lifted the white sheet from over the van and the surrounding landscapes as we were dazzled by bright sunshine and larges patches of blue sky, it was still only 10 degrees but the warmth of the sun through the windows was very welcome. Just before we departed Spain in December last year (2019) we had read in the Spanish newspapers that they were going to abolish the motorway tolls on January 1st this year, well let me tell you that it has not happened, well at least not on the motorway out of Bilbao anyway. However, on saying that, we only actually ended up paying just a little under €18, so not a budget killer.

It was nice to eventually get off the Motorway, although unlike the Motorways in the UK, these are generally quite a pleasant experience, we have not as yet, in the regular periods that we have been travelling to and from Spain, encountered any major hold ups, due to road works, accidents or traffic congestion although, whilst the scenery can be quite spectular, motorway driving anywhere for long periods does become rather boring. We had initially planned to make our first night stop at ‘Logrono‘ but had changed our minds once we checked the ‘Works of Fiction’, they had all forecast night time temperatures of -2 degrees(c), that would quite probably have meant that our water safety valve would have activated, dumping all of our fresh water, to prevent damage to the on board water tank and boiler. However, ‘Soria‘ which is a little further South was forecast to be slightly warmer during the night, at 3-4 degrees(c). We had found a night stop on the ‘Park4Night’ App, which, although it had no motorhome services, was just a short stroll into the local town, so seeing as all our tanks were already full, or empty, as appropriate, we had everything we needed already on board, so no services were required at this point in our travels and although we were making it up as we went along, as far as a route was concerned, we would at certain points in our travels need to look for stop overs where we could carry out the essential services.

Once we were on the National road it was beautiful, we were not totally alone but we could count the number of other vehicles that passed us using just the fingers on one hand. We passed through villages that had names that we couldn’t pronounce, we drove along roads that were ploughed (not literaly) through forests, with fast flowing rivers and streams around almost every corner, we climbed high up through steep and twisting roads. In the places where the low Winter sun had not yet reached, the thick frost hung of long tree branches that appeared to be pointing at us as we passed, like long white-gloved pointy fingers and the grass was white. The roads were clear and not icy and the ‘Little Fokker’ just took everything in its stride, having six manual gears meant having to constantly shift through the gears as we met tight bends at almost one hundred metre intervals, many that came either with a steep climb or steep descent, which did mean that we were travelling at much slower speeds than those on the motorway, but it was worth it. Once we had transited through the National Park we descended onto a much better road, which reminded me of some of the American roads that I had seen on the TV on travel documentaries, very long and very straight, we could see for miles in front of us and we were once again in full sunshine and all was well in our world.

Whenever we are travelling out and about in Spain, whether that be in the car or the van, we always look at fuel stations as we pass, which may sound a bit odd I know, but we are always on the lookout for those that sell ‘Autogas’, or as otherwise known, LPG or GPL. The applications that list ‘LPG Locations’ are of course very useful, however, as we have discovered, they do not list them all so it is always nice to know where these others are located, for our own benefit for future travels and also to pass on to other Motorhomers who may, like us, have refillable cylinders such as ‘Gaslow’ or ‘Gasit’ (Other brands of refillable gas cylinders are available). This is not just one of my random verbal ramblings, I mention it because as we entered the outskirts of ‘Soria’ from the Northern end, off the N111, as you go around the roundabout to exit towards the town, you pass a ‘CEPSA’ fuel station, on the correct side of the roady, this fuel station sells ‘Autogas’, as it was, we didn’t need any at this time as we had full cylinders, although we would almost definately be using some of that for cooking and especially for heating on our first night as our van storage lockers are limited so we can only carry so many pairs of thermal underwear and bed socks !!

I am always a little nervous when I have to enter an unfamiliar place so it was good to have Shazza in the co-pilots seat as an extra pair of eyes. Some of the reviews on the ‘Park4Night’ App have commented that the GPS Co-ordinates for several locations have not been accurate so I was hoping that this would not be one of them. In the end it was all pretty straightforward, I kept my eyes on the traffic, the pedestrians and the massive number of traffic lights, whilst Shazza kept her eye on the Sat Nav, to give me plenty of advance warning on lane changes and how long before I needed to turn and in which direction. The night stop location was in a tarmac parking area right outside a large University Sport Complex, it was well it and clean and when we arrived, there was just one other, Spanish registered, motorhome parked up, although it left later that evening before it got dark, which sometimes can be a bit worrying !! What do they know that we don’t ?

We quickly got the ‘Little Fokker’ transformed from ‘travel mode’ into ‘home mode’, and after what had been a three and a half hour and 155 mile journey we were ready for a nice hot cuppa, we used the time to consult ‘Google’ maps to get the general direction into town. Although the temperature had not risen, it was still only 10 degrees(c), but the sun was shining and it felt warm, not warm enough to venture out without a coat, but not cold enough to put us off exploring, our mini-adventure had begun, lead the way Shazza !!

Soria is quite a large town and so, as is usual with us, our first port of call was the Tourist Information Office, the direction for which was well signposted as we walked the short distance into the town. It was a lively place and there were plenty of people out and about, I hadn’t thought about it as being a tourist attraction but there are lots of things to see if you are into old architecture and churches, the town itself is spread amongst lots of streets, the main one is pedestrianised with absolutely loads of side streets and alleyways to explore, which we did. It is a nice mix of modern and new, big shops but also lots of small artisan traders, Bread and cake shops, many that doubled as cosy Cafe’s, Greengrocers, Butchers in fact everything you could need from a town really. There was an indoor central market which we strolled around but it wasn’t actually a proper market day as a lot of the traders small units were locked up. We are always very impressed with the amount of ‘Green Areas’ that are provided by the town councils for the residents, many of which, like in numerous other Spanish towns and cities, live in apartment blocks often with no outside space. We strolled through the ‘Municipal Park’ and it was amazing, very big, with lots of different sections and all of them with plenty of seating. There are of course lots of churches, Shazza likes churches, so we went inside one and I thought that perhaps I may be able to rest my weary legs for a while as I was certain her ‘Confession’ session would take at least a couple of hours !! However, she either believed that she had nothing much to confess, or more likely she didn’t fancy spending the large amount of time that it would take to disclose it all, so to my disappointment we were in and out in no time. The town also sits above the Duoro River and on its North Eastern edge there is a large aquaduct that spans it, our legs were not up to that particular walk after wandering in and out of the numerous alleyways and strolling through the park. we were both tired, probably due to our lack of sleep the previous night, the ungodly hour of having to get up and then the drive, so we made our way back to the van to enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun which was still shining in through the windows and providing plenty of solar energy to our solar panel. It was that time of day to perhaps spend some individual time in a spot of ‘Personal Contemplation’, which as you already are aware, is best done with one’s eyes closed. Our total expenditure for the day had been just Twenty-Three Euros and eighteen of that had been on motorway tolls.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Down And Out !

We knew that our three weeks back in the UK over the festive period was going to be a bit hectic, more because of the amount of travelling we would have to do which of course started with our 650 mile drive up to the Port at Bilbao. We had decided to travel up the day before and stay the night close to the port so that at least we would have a good refreshing nights sleep. We managed to find ourselves a Budget hotel just 18 miles away from Bilbao, not bad at £37 for the night (room only), but it was clean, we had an ensuite bathroom and it was only a short fiftenn minute walk into the small local town, where we found a small eatery. The following morning was an easy drive to the port and we were not queued up for long before we boarded, although everyone passing through the security checks were stopped by the Guardia Civil who did do a spot check on all the vehicles, fortunately just asking us to open the boot so they could look inside to ensure that we had not picked up any additional unauthorised stowaways, they would have had to have been matchstick thin and dwarfs to have hidden in our car which was, as usual, packed to the brim. I did have a bit of a moan to myself when we were boarded though, they put us into the bowels of the ship, right on the lowest deck, one of the first to be loaded and ultimately the last deck to be disembarked, one day we will be lucky enough to get parked on Deck No.3, the first to disembark, but I won’t hold my breath, it hasn’t happened yet in all of our previous travels along this particular route !!

It was certainly damn cold when we finally got off the boat, and as one of the last vehicles, after a quick scan of our passports, we were ushered through without any furter delay. Now I had naturally assumed that ‘Snoopy’ would take us up to Yorkshire via our normal route, avoiding the M25, that was our first mistake. We just followed the Sat Nav directions, as you do, and it took a little while to realise that we were not heading along the road that we were familiar with, my fears were confirmed when I looked at ‘Snoopy’s’ screen and it showed that we were heading for the M25, notorious for being the largest Motorway ‘car park’ in the UK. We looked at each other, “Perhaps as it will not be rush hour the motorway traffic will not be too bad” I said to Shazza, in a rather unconvincing tone. She just mumbled something unrepeatable and for good reason, the M25 never flows freely and today was no exception, bumper to bumper the whole way, stop start, stop start and from what we could see, for no logical reason, no roadworks, no accidents, just lots, and lots, and lots of traffic. Then we made our second mistake, we should have used our gut instinct when we left Portsmouth and ignored ‘Snoopy’s’ directions so this time we had a brief mini-conference and decided that instead of taking the exit for the M1, which would have been the logical route, we both agreed that with the long tail back of traffic that it would probably be just as congested, so we made the decision to go a little further and take the A1 route, which in the main is mostly Motorway anyway and which would basically take us right up to where we needed to be. Our logic was sound and we were both in agreement, but those ‘Dark Forces’ were not going to let us end our year without having at least one last laugh, and so it was that shortly after leaving a very congested M25 we found ourselves on an equally congested A1, a long drive turned into an extremely long, and tiring, drive but we eventually reached Shazza’s mums house where we would spend the next three days, one of those was spent visiting my mum in Leeds which was nice, as although we communicate regularly using Skype, we do not get to see her very often.

After what seemed to be a very brief period we were once again back on the road, this time with both vehicles, ‘Wuxly’ and the ‘Little Fokker’. I was pleased to be back in the van, I had missed not driving it, or living in it, it was our home after all and it had been stood all alone, in the freezing cold, whilst we had been sunning ourselves down in Spain. It had started at the first time of asking, our 150w Solar Panel and two 90amp Leisure Batteries had done their job and kept all the batteries fully charged, now it just needed a good run and the three hour journey down to Cirencester would provide just that. It was an uneventful drive and the traffic on the roads was not particulary heavy so it was quite a relaxing journey, Shazza had shot off in front and we had aranged to meet up again at the large Superstore a few minutes away from the Campsite so that we could re-fuel. Once on site it did not take us long to change the ‘Little Fokker’ from ‘On the Road’ mode back into ‘Home’ mode, the EHU cable was plugged in and we got the fan heater on, I only put a small amount of water into the onboard tank as although it is an onboard and insulated tank there was still a risk, when the night temperatures fell, that the automatic safety valve would trip and dump all the water onto the pitch to prevent damage  from freezing, especially as we would be leaving the van empty for several nights whilst we spent a few nights in our families houses over the festive period, the reason for Shazza bringing the car with us, as there was nowhere to park the van at either of their houses.

Our first port of call was to see our kids and Grandchildren over in Swindon, we would be spending Christmas Eve day and night with them and Christmas day. The twinnies, Lily and Eva, now being just over four years old and little Orla being just over a year old was going to make this Christmas a little bit more special, we knew that the Twinnies would be excited, not just about Christmas but because Nana and Grandad were coming to ‘sleep over’, as they put it, normally when we visited it was only for the day.

The calm before the storm. You can see it written all over their angelic little faces can’t you ?

This was the calm after the first of many storms !! Watching a video with Grandad, bliss !!

Mum and Dad taking a well earned break whilst Nana Shazza keeps the kids occupied

Christmas Dinner for 12 people, and very nice it was too !!

It was a great Christmas, it is always a sad feeling when we have to leave, especially when the twinnies ask, “When can you come for another sleep over ?” But leave we must, for now we had to drive down to Winchester to see our other kids, Stacey and Dean, although they have not provided us with any Grandchildren as yet, so a much more relaxed couple of days were in store.

It was good to get out for a walk and build an appetite for a pub lunch

Apparently the book shop was waiting for the delivery of another New Year blockbuster publication, “How Boris Delivered Brexit”

Almost Dickensian looking, just missing the snow !!

Oh well, artificial ice will have to do to enhance the festive feel

After our much needed walk, albeit a bit wet and muddy underfoot, we took a stroll around the town which was fairly busy. We both love Winchester, it just has something quaint about it, a mix of old and new, all intermingled. We had decided on a pub lunch and so Dean took us to one of their many favourite hostelries. We sat down with our drinks and perused the menu, there were lots of things listed that I could have eaten but Stacey and myself opted for the ‘Fish n Chips’, now traditionally you would have these with mushy peas, however, we both prefer ‘Baked Beans’ so Stacey went to ask if it was possible to change and was told rather abruptly, “Certainly Not !“, I guess it was a good job that she hadn’t asked for bread and butter so that we could make a chip buttie !! Now if this had been an A’La Carte restaurant I could have understood the rather pompous reaction of the person behind the bar, but come on, it was a pub, no fancy tables with tablecloths or waiter service, no it was just a pub. Fortunately, for us, a member of staff came around all the tables, removing the menu’s, and apologising that food was no longer available as they had a problem with equipment in the kitchen. We wondered if that was an excuse to get rid of us ‘rabble’, “Baked Beans, I ask you, whatever next” we could imagine him saying as we shut the door behind us on the way out. Undeterred, Dean knew of another hostelry so in we went, we ordered our drinks and once again perused the menu, we smiled as we saw that they too were offering ‘Fish n Chips”, even if it did state that it came with ‘mushy peas’. When the very happy and pleasant young girl came across to take our orders Stacey risked it once again, “Can we have Baked Beans instead of mushy peas ?” She asked, a bit sheapishly this time, “Of course you can” came the reply, so that was it, in for a penny in for a pound, as the saying goes, “I don’t suppose you do bread and butter do you ?” and happily we were greeted with the same positive response, “No problem, do you want it cut in half or just as it comes ?

The look said it all, “Hot Chip Buttie”

Our last visit with Stacey & Dean for 2019

Once again it was time to leave and head back to Cirencester to collect the van, although we would spend a night on site and give ourselves a full day to travel back up to Yorkshire. Once again the roads were relatively free of traffic and we both made good time, although as usual, Shazza (alias Louis Hamilton) had sped away and arrived before me. We spent three more days at Shazza’s mums house, being visited by family and we saw the New Year in quietly as we had another long drive ahead of us on New Year’s Day, so I guess you could say that we are now ‘Down And Out‘ of 2019 and looking forward to what this new year has in store for us, we may just know a little more than you at this moment in time, but patience is a virtue as they say and all will be revealed in due course !!

We had originally booked on to the Campsite near Wareham in Dorset for five nights as it was only about a one and a half hours drive from there to the ferry port at Portsmouth. However, the site was a good three miles away from the town itself and we did not want to keep taking the van off site every time we went out. After looking through the sites guide we discovered another site, Littlehampton, was open, but it would close for the Winter on 6th January, perfect, our ferry was on the 5th, subject to any delays that was ? However, the advantage of this site was that it was walking distance to the small seaside town and was only 30 miles from the ferry Port, even better. We hastily amended our booking and although the route down would be via the ghastly M25 again, we had all day to get there.

It was nice, this time we had left the car behind and we were both travelling together, in the ‘Little Fokker’, it had seemed an eternity since we had last done this. The ‘Dark Forces’ had finished with us, or should I say not started with us so far in this New Year, for it was now the first day of 2020, the M25 was a breeze, thank goodness for New Years day hangovers. The other bonus was that just down the road from the site, a two minute drive, there was a large ‘Morrisons’ supermarket with a fuel station, nothing too spectacular about that you may say, but this fuel station also just happened to sell ‘LPG’ and at a very cheap £0.58 per litre, perfect for ensuring that we could leave for Spain with a full tank of diesel and full tanks of ‘LPG’, which we would need when we first arrived, as Northern Spain is still pretty cold, both day and night, and as we would not be using campsites or having electric hook-ups we would be reliant on our gas for cooking and heating, although we have got the ACSI Camping discount card just in case needs must and all that.

I have to confess that I had never heard of Littlehampton before, it is a small seaside town sandwiched between the bigger and more popular resorts of Brighton on one side and Wareham and the New Forest on the other. A thirty-minute medium paced walk brings you into this little town and, as always during Winter months, it looked a bit bleak and quiet, but looks can be decieving, it has a lovely paved riverside walk, lined with modern apartment residences overlooking a small marina, which takes you down to the seafront and a very long promenade. Although it was cold, it was dry and so it was nice to just get out and meander whilst we waited patiently for our time to leave and get on board our ferry.

As I write this, we are now still on site and making good use of all the facilities, especially the WiFi, as we pass the last few hours before making our way to the ferry port. The van has now been re-fuelled with diesel and our ‘Gaslow’ cylinders are full, holding 44 litres of LPG, the external garage has been re-organised so that ‘stuff’ we may need quick access to whilst on the road is readily available. The internal cupboards have been sort of sorted, there is not too much organisation required when you are working with limited storage space, but importantly all the initial foodstuffs have been put into their respective places, enough to see us through our first few days on the road, although to me I am wondering when we will next have to shop !! Shazza has done all the laundry and the ironing, I have filled the fresh water tank, emptied the grey and black water and so we are basically chomping at the bit and ready to go. But first, we shall have our evening meal, then get our hot showers before finally pulling off site at around 8:30pm.

Our ferry does not depart until 11pm, this time around we will actually be on board for two nights as the ship stops at Roscoff (France) in the morning to do a crew change, unfortunately we are not permitted to leave the ship and have a wander around the town, so we are not scheduled to arrive in Bilbao until Tuesday morning. It is going to be nice to not rush straight down to the ‘bolt hole’ and to be able to travel a different route South. We have no plans other than heading in a general southerly direction and so we will make it up as we go, stopping where or when we want and staying for as long, or as little, as we like, some of our decisions may ultimately be decided by the weather. We only actually have seven weeks before we will be once again back at Bilbao and making our way back to the UK, ready for another season as Wardens on our own campsite, so this is just a sort of mini-adventure this time around. Since purchasing the ‘Little Fokker’ we have not really used it very much for its ultimate purpose, yes we live in it but most of that period of time it is a static vehicle on a campsite, we have got away in it for a couple of nights here and there but never for any real extended period, so lots of questions still to be answered. We knew what our previous van, ‘Big Momma’, was like to live and travel in for extended periods, how good was the Solar energy for meeting our power requirements, how much gas we used, what mileage did we get between re-fuels, how much water did we use etc. etc. I expect that there will be little or even no difference to many of these questions but the fact is, I just have no experience of using this van for the purpose it was intended so, will we actually be able to get to more places than we could with ‘Big Momma’ ? Parking in towns rather than having to park on the outskirts and walking or cycling in to them ? Will we now be confident enough to take this much smaller van down single track roads to those secluded hideaways ? Will the ‘Little Fokker’ be large enough, internally, to live comfortably or will we find it too small ? So for us, it is more than just another ‘on the road’ trip, it is an adventure in a new van and we sincerely hope that all of our reasoning on changing to a smaller van actually materialises into a positive experience. One thing is for sure, we are about to find out……………..

So, Happy New Year to you all and here’s looking forward to even more Shazza adventures, I think 🤔

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

It Didn’t Work Out As We Expected ?

The morning routine started just like every other one, waiting for the sun to poke its nose around the corner and into our balcony, drinking our mugs of hot coffee, perusing the news headlines on our iPads, which is always a pointless exercise as once we have finished reading the headlines from all the UK newspapers, it is much of a same old, same old, you know the saying, ‘Same crap just a different day’, General Election, Brexit and Trump Impeachment, although I have to admit that the Volcanic eruption on the Island just off the coast of New Zealand did warrant a few mentions and begs the question ‘Why were people permitted to land on it when warnings had been issued ? another one of those preventable tragedies.

Shazza was first to break the mornings silence, “So are we still going on this walk today ?“, now why does she waste her daily allowance of words asking questions, that are not really questions, and which she already knows the answer to ? “If you still want to” I responded, followed by, “What time do you want to leave ?“, she just gave me the look, “As soon as you are ready” which briefly translates to ‘Move your arse’ !!

She We, had decided to take a trek along the ‘Paseo de los Pinsapos‘, it was not actually that far away, probably a thirty minute drive up into the mountains, the walk itself was relatively short compared to some others we had done previously, only 4.5kms, if we didn’t get lost, and according to her walking book guide it was classed as ‘medium’, in the level of difficulty, that only because there would be a few inclines as the route would take us up the mountain, initially through a thick pine forest, to a peak and then back down again, at least this would be a circular route which meant that we would not be turning around at the top and having much the same the scenery on the downhill descent, although as we would still have to walk back through the dense pine forest, I guess that one pine tree is much the same as another.

The ‘Works of Fiction’ had forecast that it would be another warm day and sunny, but extremely windy, but that forecast was for the Estepona area which is of course down at sea level, temperatures tend to be a bit cooler as you ascend into the mountains, however, as this walk was nowhere near the altitude of ‘Ronda’, which we had recently visited and found to be fairly pleasant in the 18 degree(c) temperatures, so we were not expecting it to be too cold as we were not venturing that high. Although hiking boots and Jeans would be a necessity for this walk, as the climb would involve loose shingle and muddy paths with, I imagined, lots of tree roots creating trip hazards as well as boulders to climb up and over, but we both agreed that the thick pine forest would more than likely provide us with plenty of shelter from the strong wind, and with the exertion of the climb that we would keep pretty warm, so we elected to wear short-sleeved shirts and take a sweat top, in our back packs, just in case it turnned a bit chilly once we had reached the particular peak we were aiming for which may have been more exposed.

On the map our target location did not look that far up the mountain, however, so much for maps. As we wended our way up and around numerous switchback roads the views were amazing and we soon realised that the starting point would already be a little higher up than we had anticipated, but once out of the forest we should have some amazing views and so my camera was primed and ready.

 

This was the walk we were going to do !!

To get to the starting point of the walk we had to turn off the main road on to a single track side road and drive for a further mile or so. At this point we both wished that we had worn our ‘brown’ coloured jeans, the road was not only single track, but it was heavily pot-holed all the way, the guide book made no mention of it only being suitable for 4×4 vehicles, on one side of this dreadful road there were deep sided storm drains which, if you slipped into, you were not getting out without a mechanical crane. On the other side of this road was just a sheer drop, so basically Shazza had to concentrate very hard, she could not afford to try and drive around the pot-holes as doing so would almost definately have had disasterous consequences, so with no brown trousers, we both had to keep our bum cheeks squeezed together very tightly and when Shazza asked, “What is that horrible smell ?” I replied, “Fear, sheer and utter unadulterated Fear !!” But then she had to go and temp fate didn’t she, we had both been thinking the same thing but I had the common sense to keep my thoughts to myself, “Well lets hope we don’t meet anything coming in the opposite direction” she says, and so it was that those ‘Dark Forces’ were summoned from their slumbers, we were confronted by, not one, but two vehicles, at seperate intervals, and neither of them were going to reverse back ‘up’ the steep road !! I take my hat off to her, she had to manouever to within centimetres of what could easily have been a disaster, but she did it, and as our adversaries passed they waved as a sign of gratitude, I could smell that horrible smell again but this time it wasn’t coming from me !!

Finally, a little less relaxed than we would have liked to have been, we saw the signage, indicating the start of the Paseo de los Pinapsos trail, but it was not going to be our day, there was no car park. At first we just looked at each other in disbelief, there was no other route up here and it would have been a flipping long and strenuous walk up here from the main road. We had no option but to keep driving, there was nowhere to turn around, perhaps there would be a parking area a little further up so that we could walk back down. The road just kept climbing, pot-holed part metalled road turned into more loose stone track, this was turning into a vehicle rally with no convenient area to park a vehicle, soon we had gone beyond what, even if we had a stumbled across a place suitable place to park the car, would have been a reasonable distance to walk back to the start of the walking route, so we just kept driving, we had no viable alternative option and we both agreed that those two vehicles that had come down must have come from somewhere ?

 

Our starting point for the walk, but there was no parking here ? The bit seen here in the photo is actually part of the road !!

Eventually the road became a road again, still single track but no pot-holes and then we came across a very welcome sign that indicated another walking trail, as well as a recreation area, there must be a parking place here we thought so our spirits were lifted. Although this was not going to be the original walking route it was in the same area, so perhaps it would converge, but it didn’t really matter, a walk is a walk and it would be another one that Shazza could cross off her ‘secret’ list of walks.

Perhaps this different walking route would be as good ?

We arrived at a ‘Refugio’, although, somewhat surpsingly, there was not a dedicated car park, but we did see a spacious pull-in several metres furhther back which would serve our purpose. As we opened the car doors we were hit, not just by the very strong wind that was blowing, but by icy cold temperatures that quickly started to freeze our unprotected faces and hands, it made us glance at the temperature gauge in the car which, to our horror, showed the external temperature as being only 4 degrees(c), we had not expected that !! Even putting on our sweat tops did not prevent the combination of wind and cold air from permeating through but we decided to walk back towards the ‘Refugio’ building to test whether the walk was still going to be viable.

Well at least there was a Cafe up here with some amazing views

It was Closed !!

The ‘refugio’ was perched on top of a hill, unfortunately it was all locked up. We saw two bicycles leaning up against a side wall, proper expensive looking road bikes, as I explored around the back of the building I came across two cyclists, in all their riding gear with added lightweight thermal jackets, they certainly had known what to expect, weather wise. They were taking ‘selfies’ and I offered to take a photo of them both. They looked a little bit dubious at first, well I guess I may have felt the same seeing a stranger approach, someone definately not dressed for these cold conditions and asking me to hand over my expensive mobile phone. However, they must have seen my camera in my hand and then Shazza appeared around the corner and gave a cheery ‘Hola’, so they happily handed over their phone and then we ran as fast as we could, Shazza had already loaded the expensive bikes into the boot of the car, now we had their phone so they could not call the Police and we could make a bit of money selling these expensive looking items. No, not really, I took some photo’s of them with the tremendous landscape in the background and they did the same for us, we passed the usual pleasantries, as you do, and then we each got on with admiring the views and taking more photographs.

The views were spectacular

A wee bit bracing and very, very Windy !!

They even supply free water, most welcoming after a hike but we wouldn’t need it today, our water bottles were still full !! Note too the nice picnic tables set amongst the pine trees.

 

A pine tree decorating itself for Christmas perhaps ?

After just generally wandering around the immediate area, we both agreed that we were not in the right clothing for an extended walk, especially as at the top, which we had assumed would bring us out at the same peak as our original route, would be exposed and therefore be much colder. There are times when we do silly things that later we realise we were lucky to have got away with, then there are times when common sense and safety kicks in, this was one of those times so we headed back to the car, turned on the heater and made our way back down the road from hell !!

It was freezing cold up here, but it was time to go, a walk for another day, a much warmer one or with the appropriate clothing !!

Not a drive for the faint hearted although it looks very pleasant in the sunshine

It was around a three mile drive along a single track road with no pull-ins, deep storm drains on one side and just sheer drops on the other, exhilirating (not sure if that is the right word for it ?)

Did I mention the tight switchback roads as well as the pot holes, deep storm drains and sheer drops of the cliff edge ? Oh yes, and blind corners !!

But the views were absolutely amazing. I told Shazza to concentrate on the road ahead and I would show her the photo’s later !!

The drive down was a lot more relaxing once we got back on to the main mountain road. Wouldn’t want to do it on a bicycle though, especially uphill like this chap !!

We came to one point on our return journey where we saw a handful of cars just parked on the side of the road with their four hazard lights flashing, we wondered what had happened, perhaps someone had come off the road and into the storm drain ? As we got closer we saw people, of all ages, outside their vehicles and in all their hands they were all carrying large empty plastic water bottles, the big eight litre bottle size, one chap with his wife and couple of children had around ten bottles between them and everyone was heading in the same direction.

We saw another half a dozen cars like this abandoned on the side of the road ?

We could see, just a short way up from wher the cars were parked, a stream flowing down from the mountains and then, probably when it got to around waist height, it cascaded off the rocks like a mini-waterfall down into the storm drain. We made an educated guess that these people were collecting this ‘free’ supply of water and taking it home, whether it be for drinking, or perhaps even to water plants, vegetables or flowers. We do know that like a lot of rural properties throughout the whole of Europe, some are not connected to the mains water supply, although these usually would have an independent source such as a ‘Well’. We do not find the cost of mains water here in Spain that expensive, in fact it is much cheaper than in the UK, however, I guess that this is subject to the personal financial situation of each undividual. Perhaps, this water source is known, by only the locals of course, that this particular source of water has special properties which can perform miracles like healing ailments, removal of warts, cleansing the skin or even the gift of eternal life, perhaps the theory about longetivity of life all being down to a healthy mediterranean diet is just a myth and the truth is, its all in the water ? We continued with our journey, in our very warm car and ate the healthy snacks we had  brouht with us, intended to be our lunch for on the walk, fresh fruit and an assortment of mixed nuts and our own healthy drinks of water, although our’s was plain old tap water which came without the magical properties.

Around every corner was another amazing view

Remember those cyclists we saw earlier, well this was them on their way down and they gave us a wave as they flew past.

I asked Shazza if she wanted to grab a handful of my nuts !! She declined the invitation ?

A

Not a bad place to live if you are wanting some solitude, provided you had a good log burner and some good walking boots to get you down to the ‘special’ free supply of water !!

We kept seeing these all the way along the mountain roads. We suspected that they may have been some kind of pumping stations as their were black pipes running out of them and some had small solar panels near them ?

Estepona below with Gibraltar ahead of us, not far from home now.

So, although ‘It Didn’t Work Out As We Expected‘ and in some respects it had been a disappointing day, well for at least one of us !! On the other hand, we had managed to have a nice drive out, seen somewhere new to us, perhaps discovered a walk for the future, but only when we were wearing brown hiking shorts as I do not think either of us would be in too much of a hurry to make that drive again, and I also still managed to get lots of photo’s. However, this would be the final ‘Shazza Expedition’ of 2019.

As I get ready to publish this, we are just a day away from commencing our ten hour drive back up to Bilbao to catch our ferry back to the UK for Christmas and the New Year. However, our Winter travels are not yet done, during our brief stay of around three weeks, we will be getting ourselves re-united with our van, the ‘Little Fokker’ and using that, and the car, to stay on campsites in between our family visits. On New Years Day we will be leaving the car behind and Shazza and we will be back to travelling together in our van, we are having a few days at a site on the South Coast before then going to Portsmouth to catch our pre-booked ferry back to Spain on 5th January. We do not have a set plan once we return to Spain in the van, other than to hopefully meet up with a couple of our motorhoming friends somewhere in either Portugal or Northern Spain, after that……………. ?

We now also know the result of the UK General Election and with it, our fate in respect of Brexit, but we had been planning for the worst case scenario for some time now so we are ready for it, lets just hope that the new Government lives up to at least some of its promises, my curse in life is that sometimes my cheerful and optimistic outlook on life in general can, sometimes, be overshadowed by the actual realities of life and my faith in other people has not always been rewarded.

But let me finish on a very positive and high note as this may very well be my last blog post of 2019. Firstly, a very big thank you to everyone who has subscribed to follow my ramblings on a regular basis. I can still see that my previous two blogs are still getting many visitors on a daily basis too. I can see from my ‘Admin Page’ that I do get a lot of people from all around the world reading my blogs, 125 Countries at the last count, so whoever you are and, wherever you are, a big thank you to all of you.

So, to everyone, whoever you are, and wherever you happen to be in the World, Shazza and myself would just like to wish each one of you, and your families a very Happy Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.……..

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mind Your Language !!

As I start to draft this latest blog post, the sun has just risen, I am sat on our balcony enjoying, yet again, the first warming rays of the morning sunshine and I do not need to consult any of the ‘Work of Fiction’ forecasts as I can already see that it will be another warm and sunny day down here in Southern Andalucia. Occasionally I lift my eyes from the keyboard as I am distracted, from out of the corner of my eye I can see the movement of small fishing boats as they pootle up and down on the blue shimmering sea below, which is as flat as a mill pond, this is quite unusual at this time of the year as it tends to get rather windy along this Southern coastline during the Winter months and I am more used to seeing white horses cantering towards the beach, but not today. However, it is certainly much better than what we are about to encounter in a few short days, for then, we will have driven the six hundred and fifty miles to Bilbao, on the very much cooler Northern Spanish Coast where we will board our ferry and make the twenty-four journey back to the UK, where we will encounter even colder temperatures !! Even now, at just the thought of it, a shiver runs from my neck and down my spine. Going from walking around here in shorts and flip-flops to having to be hidden away, and hunched up against the cold, under layers and layers of clothing, the chilling winds and frost biting at our noses and ears !!

But their are advantages to taking this brief trip back across the water, the biggest one of those being of course that we will get a chance to spend some time over Christmas and New Year with various members of our family, our respective parents, children and grandchildren, which is something that we had not done over our previous four Winter periods. But, another advantage will be that at least the UK General Election will be over and done with by the time we return to British soul on the 18th of December, thank heavens for that, and who knows, we may even have a better idea of how much longer this Brexit fiasco will rumble on for, or maybe not ?

I remember promising my beloved that as a compromise to me spending ‘all’ of my time writing blog posts, that I would attempt to join her and give up some of my blog writing and editing time in expanding our Spanish vocabularly. When I come to think about it, that was actually a good couple of years ago now, where does the time go when you are having fun ? I also had to remind her that a lot of the time that I spent on writing blogs was actually her fault, if it had not been for ‘all’ of the ‘Shazza Expeditions‘ that she had dragged me along on, I would not have had so much to write about !! But be honest with you, I did start the lessons but it did not work out all that well for me, or as well as Shazza would have liked, I know that I probably gave up on it far too quickly really, whereas Shazza has done very well, and she continues to learn Spanish even now on a regular basis. I guess that I was never really that committed, I know, shame on me, but I do know enough to get by, but the truth is that down here, where our ‘bolt hole’ is located, I do not need to just get by, as this area is like a lot of the other Tourist areas, the majority of the locals speak English, not just in the tourist bars or Cafes but also in the majority of the Shops and other establishments along the whole coastline of Costa del Sol. What I have discovered, in the five years we have been here, is that even when I do attempt to use the limited Spanish vocabularly that I have learnt, they all just answer us in English anyway and then continue to speak to us in English and perhaps if they had answered in Spanish or just asked us the other questions in Spanish it would have been much more beneficial, and even rewarding and motivating, when what we were saying was understood by them, however, I do know that this is no excuse for my lack of linguistic discipline or courteousy. I also know that if we were living in an area where little, or even no English was spoken, and I had to rely on speaking the language, that would be a whole new different kettle of fish. But, before you judge me too harshly let me tell you the new agreement that I have with Shazza, which was actually my suggestion and it is, I believe, a much more practical idea which will reap much better rewards for the both of us in the not too distant future.

Shazza knows the bare minimum level of French, from her schooldays, and some of our former brief holiday visits, but she has already said that now she is well into her Spanish that she may also, at the same time as doing her Spanish, start to use the same language course to improve and expand her French. Being almost nine years my junior and a former teacher may mean that she actually has a much better aptitude for learning and retention as well as being a female, who we, the male gender, already know, women are much better at multi-tasking than us blokes. I on the other hand have decided to renew my aquaintance with the German language, now I am cheating a little bit, and it is only a little bit, as I have never been able to speak fluent German, but I did live in Germany, for a brief period some seventeen years ago, so at that time I knew quite a few words although even in those days not up to any great academic standard, but I do still know numbers, days of the week, months etc. and of course the more usual tourist stuff and random words that ensures that I would never die of thirst or starvation. So, I am two weeks into my course and doing reasonably well, although it can be a little frustrating as the words, phrases that ‘I’ want to learn are not necessarily what the course is teaching me, at this moment in time that is, I was never very patient when it came to learning languages, but I am being disciplined and this on-line course does not permit or enable you to move forward until you have completed each group of lessons, so although I am not convinced that I will ever have to say, in German, to anybody else of whatever language, that ‘A duck is eating an insect‘ (der Ente frisst ein Insekt), but I am persevering and I am sure that eventually I will learn how to say “Hello is it alright to park my campervan here and is it okay to sleep here ?” as well as the many other motorhoming related phrases that I may find quite handy to know. But here is the main point of all this, soon we will be retired, soon we will be free to travel around Europe, at our leisure living fulltime, once again, in our motorhome (Kamperwagen) and instead of struggling our way through with ‘google translate’, or similar translation devices and mobile phone ‘Apps’, we will, between us be able to speak four different languages (which obviously includes our mother tongue), but French and German will also enable us to communicate further afield, Morroco (French), Switzerland (French), Luxembourg (French/German), Belgium (French) and Austria (German) and also in some other Countries where they speak and understand French and German more than they do English. I have to say that I am a lot more motivated to learning German than I was with Spanish, do not ask me why as I have no logical explanation, I spend a lot more time in Spain and will probably continue to do so even in retirement, but the dedication just is not there. Even so, even with the German, I still struggle with the different ‘gender’ words and I also get confused when they use more than one word or phrase for what appears to me to be the same thing, but I am sticking with it and I am sure that it is the same for those people from different Countries trying to learn English.

We do not seem to have done too many ‘Shazza Expeditions’ so far this time around, perhaps it is because we have not been here that long yet, only eight or nine weeks, or perhaps because we have had two lots of visitors, or just perhaps because Shazza could not find her two walking route books, which, unfortunately, she has now re-discovered, I must find a better place to hide them in the future !! My punishment is that that we are going out walking tomorrow, just when I thought that this was going to be my last post before Christmas. However, when we return to Spain, at the beginning of January, we will be leaving the car behind and coming out with the ‘Little Fokker’ and before returning to our ‘bolt hole’ we will be doing some touring, so more adventures are on the way.

As for progress with my ‘Kidney Stone’, apparently, for a small stone it could take up to thirty-one days to pass, if I have not passed it already that is ? It would seem that some people can pass them without even knowing it !! So, as I do not know how small this one is, or where in its travels it was when the x-ray picked it up, I cannot afford to be too complacent and so it is just a case of continuing to drink water like a fish to flush it through. What I still will not know though is what type of stone it is, therefore I have no way of knowing what is the cause for me continually producing these very painful critters. However, I do know that there are five causes which are all related to diet, so now it is time to get serious, over the last 25 years, perhaps more, after each kidney stone event I research the causes but had only made a token gesture, at the time of each event, of changing my diet, which was perhaps because I did not like what they were all saying about what I would have to give up eating, why is it always the nice tasty stuff ? But now it is time to take stock and treat it seriously and try to do something to prevent my problem with their habitual reoccurrence, but more about that in a future post, I want to get Christmas and New Year out of the way first, which is never a good time to put restrictions on what you eat and drink.

I also suggested to Shazza that perhaps because of the stone I should not be going on a walk, especially as it is going to be warm again and dehydration may be a problem ? She told me that my backpack is big enough to carry extra water and that the quicker I drink it the lighter it will be to carry !!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Floods Of Biblical Proportions !!

A week after we had waved goodbye to Shazza’s mum at Malaga Airport, we returned again, this time to await the arrival of our friends Dougie and Avril, who were flying in from Scotland. They were leaving the freezing conditions of Edinburgh to spend ten days in the warmth of the Spanish sunshine. Although it has to be said that we had just experienced three consecutive days of rain and some very strong winds, with night temperatures dropping to levels that had required us to turn on the heating, but, as is usuall here in Spain, what we consider as bad weather does not tend to linger for very long and so the dark overcast clouds were soon replaced with beautiful blue sky and warm sunshine. The forecast was looking good for the period that our visitors would be with us, primarily days filled with sunshine with temperatures between 18-22 degrees(c), which was actually going to be a pleasant change for them, but not just because they were leaving the colder weather behind them but, when they last visited us out here three winters ago, our local town of San Luis de Sabinillas, as well as our immediate local area, had been subject to the worst floods they had seen in over twenty years. These floods had devastated many towns and villages, destroying buildings and washing away roads, our Marina at Puerta Duquesa suffered quite badly and quite ironically the numerous bars, cafe’s and restaurants had been left ‘without’ water so had to be closed, several parts of the promenade walls in the town had been washed away and even after the worst of the deluge had eased, it continued to rain for the majority of the time they had spent with us, so we actually got very little opportunity to do much of the touristy stuff with them.

Dougie and Avril look pleased to be here as they arrive at Malaga Airport to beautiful sunshine

This time it was nice to be able to take them down into the Marina, without the need to wear rain jackets and ‘wellies’, to just sit at one of the many bars, in the sunshine, and enjoy a glass of something cool, well it would have been rude not to ?

There is only one way to commence a holiday……Cheers !! 

As we have already acommodated numerous guests at our humble abode in the last five years, and toured and visited numerous places, we decided that we would just leave it to Dougie and Avril to tell us the places that they would like to visit. We would of course be spending some of the time re-introducing them to our local haunts, the former fishing village at Castellon, the small but beautiful Marina and of course our lovely local town, but there were also lots of other nice places to visit too just a little further afield. Dougie is a regular reader of my blog posts so he had seen some locations that we had been with our ‘other’ guests over the past few years, and one such place that they wanted to visit was ‘Mijas Pueblo‘, a town not too far up in the Andalucian foothills, just a little above Marbella with fantastic views of the Mediterranean coastline and the surrounding mountains that towered above the town. So, as there was a craft market held there every Wednesday, and the weather was forecast to be very warm with clear skies, this meant  that their would be great views from high up on the outer walls of the town, so we took the short one hour drive up into the mountains. We knew that the town was going to be very busy with tourists when we approached the multi-storey car park as the adjacent bus parking area already had six empty tourist coaches parked up. So this time around they could take plenty of holiday snaps without being adorned in rain gear !!

The Mijas Craft Market

Shazza is forever telling me that she is the ‘font’ of all knowledge, but this one appears to be empty ?

It was a warm and sunny day and so the views were so amazing and you could see for miles around

We wandered through the relatively small line of craft stalls first, as it was only open for three hours, and on this occasion even we bought a couple of items, but these were to hang up and personalise our Motorhome. Then we did the walk along the South facing town walls, but it is more like weaving through park gardens, as opposed to just walking along a fortress wall, and in the warmth of the sunshine it was a pleasant meander with much use of the camera shutter fingers. By the time we had finished looking around the Craft Stalls and walking along the town walls, it was time for a spot of lunch. There are absolutely loads of eateries to choose from in the town, however, on our last visit here we had discovered a nice sunny terrace with fantastic views, where there were also a small number of restaurants, so we returned here again and selected one that had a good range of authentic Spanish Tapas and, as is the Spanish way, we just spent time relaxing, eating, drinking and generally chatting. We had deliberately saved the wandering through the narrow streets until after lunch, looking in the variety of shops selling their vast array of tourist goods, brightly coloured wall plates and flower holders, leather goods, handbags, jewellery, clothing, fridge magnets, Spanish decorated hand fans and castanets etc. etc. but it was a good way of walking off some of the lunch time calories we had taken on board !! It had been a good day out so it was nice to return to the sanctuary of the ‘bolt hole’ and chill out on the balcony until the sun had set and the evening temperature dropped, forcing us to retreat inside and watch some movies.

 

It’s thirsty work doing all this tourist stuff !!

As Shazza was doing all of the driving, as is usual when we have the car, she rarely lets me get behind the wheel as, and I may have mentioned this before, it has nothing to do with my driving abilities but more that ‘she’ is actually a very nervous passenger !! So some of our expeditions were confined to more local places just to give her a bit of a break. Now we do have a number of Marinas that stretch along the whole of this coastline, obviously the one closest to us, a fifteen minute walk, or just two minutes if we drive down and park in Castellon village, then, to the North, their is Estepona, around a twenty-minute drive away but just a ten-minute drive to the South is ‘Sotogrande‘. Now, this is a bit of a strange place as it is certainly a very high-end resort type complex with lots of expensive Apartments stretching out around a vast Marina complex, some you can moor your Yacht, or Motor Yachts, almost outside your front door. Then, set amongst the extensive grounds are multi-million pound Villas, a tennis academy, golf course, obviously a Yacht Club and a wide array of expensive looking designer retail outlets. You know it is expensive here when the Estate Agency on the complex is ‘Sotherbys‘ !! But, this luxury resort complex, whilst very very nice, is some way from a major town, not walking distance to a Supermarket or other wider retail outlets, Restaurants, Cafes, Bars, which is not a problem as you would have a car, owned or hired, but if you could afford to live there, and own and run a luxury boat, then the cost of taxi’s to take you out and bring you back after a late night out probably would not be a concern either ? However, although we have not seen the place during the busy ‘High Season’ periods, we have visited and strolled around the Marina on a number of occasions, either just Shazza and myself or with our visitor’s, during the Winter periods and it is like walking around a ghost town. A lot of the retail units are closed, although not all, and the same applies to the Cafe’s, Bars and restaurants, but we had discovered a small quite intimate and freindly little Bistro that served healthy vegan type lunches, but more importantly, also a very wide selection of not so healthy nice cakes !! But my personal favourite one thing about this particular Bistro had nothing to do with the Food or Bevarages it served, it was for me, all about the location, and this one overlooked the moorings were the much larger Motor Yachts just happened to be tied up. Now of course we had to bring Dougie and Avril to this place, it would have been selfish to have kept this opportunity of wandering up and down the moorings just to ourselves and Shazza, Avril and Dougie do like a nice slice of cake !!

Mixing with the elite in the Marina at ‘Sotogrande’ although, as we discovered, not all of the aquatic vessels moored here are of the multi-million pound price tag range. Wonder how much it would cost to get a mooring for our Kayak ?

A pose amongst the moorings is the nearest these two got to being glitzy !! I did suggest getting them a couple of fishing rods but they were quite adamant that they did not want to be called ‘Hookers’ !!

Our next day trip entailed a bit more of a drive, and climbing very much higher into the mountains, destination ‘Ronda‘, a very picturesque town that we had only actually visited once, so a return trip was also nice for us too. Although the temperatures up in the mountains tend to be cooler than down at sea level, it was still forecast to be around 18 degrees(c) with clear sky and plenty of sunshine. Ronda is built high up and the town is separated by a beautiful old ornate bridge that spans a very deep gorge. It is a mix of modern and new and although last year this town was also severely affected by devastating floods, as were all the towns, villages, roads, railway lines and rivers that sit below it, you would not have known it looking at it now. I have to commend the Spanish, although tragically, lives are lost in such events, buildings, homes, infrastructures severely damaged, they just get on with re-building after such devastations.

The bridge that separates both sides of ‘Ronda’

Astoundingly stunning scenery

It was nice to escape the hoards of Asian tourists and to wander through the quiet back streets and enjoy the peace and tranquility.

Large sides of Iberico Hams, one day I will buy one but we could be eating it for weeks !!

Again, our visit to this beautiful mountain town had not disappointed, we had stopped for coffee’s and also a light lunchtime snack but had not opted for anything more substantial as we had all agreed to once again go out and eat in a local restaurant later that evening, to give Shazza a night off from cooking duties. Dougie and Avril’s ten day holiday was flying past, we had only spent one day of doing nothing in the apartment and that was due to their one and only day of intermittent rain showers, the rest of the time we had been out and about. Although we had taken our guests to Estepona on their previous visit to us, as I recall it was the one and only day of their visit that, although cloudy and overcast, it had not rained, but they had liked what they had seen so wanted a re-visit. We scheduled to do this on their last full day with us but they also wanted to do the walk along the ‘environmental area‘, the one I often refer to in my blogs as being one of our regular exercise walks, although on this occasion it would be done at a much more sedate pace.

Apart from the walk being good for exercise, it has the added advantage of having a very nice beach bar at the half way point. Well, it would have been rude not to ?

How can you not enjoy the outdoor lifestyle when this is literally right on our doorstep ! 

So, on our guests final morning we got up a little earlier than usual, we had intended to have our usual leisurely breakfast before driving the relatively short distance to Estepona but then…………………..I had awoken that morning with a very sharp pain in my right kidney and a severe pain on the right side of my groin, I knew what it was immediately, I have suffered these symtoms six or maybe seven times before, over the last twenty-five years or so, it was a kidney stone or as the Spanish would call it ‘Calculos Renalis‘. The problem with all my previous episodes is that the stones have all been large ones, between 4-7mm, which are too big to pass naturally and have involved being hospitalised, where a stent is fitted in order to prevent the stone creating a blockage and causing the kidney to rupture by not being able to drain the fluid, then, after the stent is fitted, being discharged and then having to waiting up to six months before they blast it to smithereens, and then finally remove the stent. I needed to get to the nearest ‘public’ hospital, I was in absolute agony and we do not have private healthcare, if we did we could have gone to the nearest private clinic which is in Estepona just twenty-minutes away, as it was, we only had the EHIC card which provides for free ‘Emergency’ treatment throughout any member EU Country. The nearest large public hospital was the ‘Costa del Sol’ hospital, forty-minutes drive away and I needed to get there quickly, fortunately, Estepona is on route so we were able to drop Dougie and Avril off.

This is the first time in nearly thirty-years of travelling throughout Europe that we have ever needed to use a hospital outside of the UK, we have never had to test the use of the EHIC card or experienced the level of care provided by foreign healthcare services. We arrived at the ‘Urgencias Dept‘ entrance, the equivalent of our British ‘Accident & Emergency Dept’, there were no parking spaces available so Shazza dropped me off and went to find the visitors car park. I walked in through the sliding doors, half hunched over in extreme pain, two nurses immediately came running over and supported me whilst another got a wheelchair for me to sit in. I just said in a pained voice through clenched teeth, ‘Calculos Renalis’. They wheeled me to the admissions desk and I handed over my EHIC Card and Passport, which, although in pain I had the forethought to pick up when we left the apartment. No questions were asked of me, the lady in the admissions desk just typed, very quickly, on to a computer, I had no forms to fill in. Within minutes, although it seemed much longer to me, I was wheeled straight into a room where there was a Spanish lady doctor, she asked if I could speak ‘Espanol‘, which I obviously said that I couldn’t, my limited Spanish vocabularly certainly was not going to be sufficient for this incident and I guess asking for a ‘Grande Cervesa‘ at this time would not have gone down to well with her !! She spoke to me in perfect English, I told her my symptoms and previous history and after confirming that I had no Allergies or major health issues I was then wheeled out of her consulting room and into a treatment room where I was assisted on to a treatment table. A nurse then fitted a ‘Canula‘ into the back of my hand and administered some Morphine, it only took seconds to work and finally I felt relief from the pain. I was told to just lay still and every few minutes she would pop back into the room to check that I was okay. I dont know how long afterwards, as by this time I was a little bit lightheaded, but a different doctor came in and asked me more questions about my general health, allergies and history of my kidney stones, he typed into a computer and then left the room. I felt the level of pain beginning to rise again and told the nurse when she came in, almost immediately I was put on to an intavenus drip and some sort of painkiller in a fluid form was administered and then they took blood samples. Once the contents of the drip had been exhausted I was sent out to ‘pee’ in a bottle and this was taken away for more tests. I was then told to go and sit in a waiting room and wait to be called, the board contained no names only letters and numbers, I felt a little anxious and concerned, “How would I know when I was being called ?“. Although, even with my light head, I had managed to text Shazza to tell her where I was and what had been done, she told me that she had not been allowed through to the treatment area and was in a waiting room, I just said that I would keep her informed of what was happening. What we both had not realised is that we were actually in the same waiting room, but it was pretty crowded so we had not seen other at that time. As I sat there, it was as if a lightbulb had lit up in my head, even in my fuzzyness, I checked my hospital wristband and discovered my initials followed by three numbers, they appeared to have the same logical sequence as those on the board, I had not been sat down very long when my theory was confirmed, the noise pinged and my initials and numbers appeared on the board instructing me to go to ‘Cabin 2’. I wandered down a corridor with numbered Consulting rooms but could not find one that said ‘No.2’, I stopped a male nurse and asked for ‘Cabin 2’ and he pounted me in the right direction, when I got there the door was closed but a Doctor, who was passing by, just told me wait outside. A few seconds later the door opened and I was asked if I was ‘Eric’ and then was shown into the room, which I then realised was where they were going to take an x-ray. Seconds later I was told to go back to the waiting room to be called in to see a doctor, this time Shazza had seen me, it was nice to see her, although I had been treated well it is a little disconcerting being in a strange hospital where you cannot speak the language and moreso when you are feeling a bit high from the drugs. I could see eyes peering at us from the other’s in the waiting room, was it that we were speaking English or was it that I appeared to be getting seen much quicker than them. Before I knew it, the board buzzer sounded again and my number was displayed, this time directing me to a Consulting Room, this time I knew where they were. The doctor confirmed that I had a ‘small’ kidney stone which was small enough to pass naturally, that was a real bonus to hear, however, my linguistic skills were not sufficient to ask him whether it was still in my kidney or whether it had passed through and was making its way down into my bladder, this would have been handy to know as it would have given me some idea on how long it would take to pass it, which could be a matter of days or even weeks !! He gave me a computer printout, it contained all of the details from the condition that I had reported in to the hospital, the blood and urine test results and the subsequent results of their investigations, the kidney stone. This printout also served as a prescription for medication that I needed to take to any Pharmacia and he had prescribed 1mg Paracetemol, 25mg Anentyum and 5mg Diazapam and told me what I already know, to drink lots and lots of water. From reporting to the hospital, to walking out again, had taken around two-hours, the treatment and care that I received was absolutely fantastic, efficient and professional but also everyone was friendly. When I handed over my hospital prescription they asked for my Medical Card, I offered the EHIC card which they accepted and filled in a form with the details from the card. I had obtained anti-biotic medication from a pharmacia the previous year for a chest infection and had paid €60 for the doctors consultation, he would not accept the EHIC card, and then I had paid €40 for the medication, so I was expecting to pay quite a lot for the three different boxes of medication. As the Diazapam is a controlled drug I had to sign as receiving it, but when it came to paying for the medication I was flabbergasted when I was charged just €8. So, although this was an experience that I would not wish to repeat, I have to shout out my praises of the Spanish healthcare system, absolutely first class. Additionally, it has  proven that the reciprocal arrangements that currently exist with healthcare, within EU member states, actually works, but on the downside, we do not know if these arrangements will continue to exist, if or when, the UK leaves the EU, this damn Brexit fiasco has a lot to answer for !!

There are just a couple of footbotes to the above, Diazapam is classed as a ‘Category C’ controlled substance in the UK, entering the UK with this, without a certified prescription or authorisation letter from a Doctor, will entail you being given a prison sentence of up to two years !! I shall be guarding my prescription as if it was gold dust. As I write this, four days have passed, unfortunately that does not, as yet, include the kidney stone !!

And so, whilst the end of their trip turned out to be a little more eventful visit for Dougie and Avril than we had planned, at least they still got to visit Estepona on their final day, we were able to meet up with them in the town on our return from the hospital. Although Shazza and I were actually more than pleased that this time, on their second visit to us here on the Costa del Sol, that thankfully their were no ‘Floods Of Biblical Proportions‘ this time around and that we had managed to take them around parts of Andalucia that they had not seen before, from the Mediterranean shoreline up into the Mountains.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Lifestyle Choices And Our Future Vanlife

I am not certain if it is because I am now in that ‘certain age’ bracket, you know, that time of life when you begin to get a lot more aware of those extra pounds that seem to be adding on at an alarming rate and getting harder and harder to shift !! But just recently I have been reading and watching a lot of travel ‘Vlogs’ on ‘You Tube‘ and some Netflix documentaries that seem to be heavily orientated towards what you eat, how this does not just effect our weight, which I think everybody is already well aware of, but that it can actually impact significantly on our health, and yet again, I am pretty certain that this will not be a mind blowing revelation to the majority of us ? And, just to clarify, I had not consciously sought out this particular subject matter, it was more just by coincidence  that I began to observe that more and more people, who were now publishing their ‘Vanlife’ blogs, of which I watch quite a lot, were choosing the ‘healthy eating’ lifestyles. I did wonder whether part of the reasoning was to do with their ‘travel budgets’, but to be honest there was no clear evidence, either way, to support my reasoning so perhaps some of the younger generation are just a lot more health conscious these days ?

Now the one word that has kept regularly cropping up is ‘Vegan‘ ? I have to confess that this was a new word for me, I had thought, in my complete foodie ignorance, that this was actually just a new ‘posh’ word for the, generally, much younger, more modern day ‘Vegetarians’, but apparently not, whilst there are many similarities it would appear that there is a marked difference in the philosophy between the two and ‘Veganism’ is more than just a ‘personal’ health or dietery thing but it has much more to do with the wider impact on our planet !!

Now Shazza, as you probably well know by now, enjoys her Cooking and Baking, it is one of her regular hobbies, interests, pastimes, call it what you will, but it will not surprise you to know, that it is also something that I wholeheartedly encourage and support, and I consider myself priviledged to be considered as her number one victim chief food taster, when it comes to sampling her numerous new recipe’s that she regularly conjures up, a type of ‘foodie magician’ I suppose, and like magicians, sometimes things do not work out as expected !! I guess that in medieval times she would probably have been considered an ‘Alchemist’ or perhaps worse, a ‘Witch’, as she bends over her large bubbling pot or ceramic basin, mixing up her edible potions, with a hushed breath quietly speaking those haunting words, ‘Hubble Bubble Toil and Trouble‘ followed by a strange and scary cackling laughter. However, back to the real world Eric, and I do have to say that she does, in all honesty, take this pastime quite seriously and always on the search for new recipes or ideas so she does tend to watch a great deal of ‘foodie’ type programmes, not just about cooking but also documentaries on food and healthy eating. Now to be perfectly honest I am just more interested in the active participation, the sampling activities, so I usually just switch myself off when she is having one of her ‘foodie’ TV sessions and I find something else to occupy my mind. However, and in my occasional weaker moments, I sometimes half listen, or mentally and visually, switch in and out of what is actually going on. Now during such periods, I again started to hear that word ‘Vegan’popping up on quite a regular basis and, even though I am, and suspect that no matter how many bowls of salad Shazza trys to push in front of me, always will be, a Carnivore. But I did start to become a little bit inquisitive about what this ‘Vegan‘ stuff was all about, but, before you, my fellow Carnivores, start ‘yawning’ with disinterest at the potential prospect of reading about my ‘evangalist’ experience, where overnight I turn my back on 50+ years of eating animals and turn into a totally plant eating new age person, relax, this isn’t that much of a scary blog post, believe me, it does not happen so no need to have nightmares !!

Now just bear with me whilst I back track a couple of years or so !! What do you mean, and the rest ? okay maybe four or five ? I was always a skinny kid, how skinny ? well lets just say that my mother would not let me go outside to play with my siblings or friends when the winds were anything more than a slight breeze, just in case I got swept away never to be seen again, although I am sure that their were times when she had just wanted to open the door and let nature take its course !! I was always well underweight for my age and height, which to me was a good thing because I could eat anything that I wanted to, especially all of the nice tasting ‘bad stuff’, burgers, chips, fried bacon, sausages, cream cakes, sweets, ice cream, potato snacks, chocolate bars etc. etc. Cor blimey I got tempted to go out and raid the supermarket shelves after just writing those delicious sounding words !! But being a skinny kid also had another advantage, I was never bullied, because I was so light on my feet and so I was able to run faster than the bullies chasing me, and whilst at school, I became a very good cross-country and Fifteen-hundred metre runner. But things began to change during middle age, probably around my late Thirties, early Forties when suddenly my waistline would not stop growing, either that or my clothes were getting put on the wrong laundry setting and shrinking !! Now I am not talking about ‘Obese’ size proportions, more like going what seemed to be overnight from a 30″ trouser waist to a 34″, and then a 36″, and a 36″ Jacket chest size to a 42″ !! In reality, this metamorphis occured over a number of years, rather than days or weeks, but still, to me, it all seems to have happened pretty damn quickly. The worst thing about all of this was it seemed to only take a couple of days of eating the ‘bad stuff’ to pile the excess pounds on, but, even with changing my diet, and partaking of lots more exercise, it could take weeks before the bathroom scales and mirror, showed any evidence of the excess weight disappearing, if at all, which was not just soul destroying but also far from motivational towards maintaining the healthy lifestyle regimes and sufering the withdrawal symptoms from not having those lovely ‘bad for you but delicious’ tasty treats.

Now I know that you are probably wondering where all of this is coming from, or perhaps what it is leading to ? Well, over the past few years, having the ‘Campsite Wardens’ jobs, which for me at least has been generally more of a hands on and very physical sort of job role, keeping my weight down and maintaining a quite reasonable level of personal fitness has not been an issue. Probably less so for Shazza, but still, and moreso when we were both ‘Assistant Wardens’, she had to undertake some quite physical tasks and in all fairness, even though we are now ‘Wardens’ in charge of our own site, she still continues to undertake some of the physical tasks, but probbaly less so now, as I tend to deal with the majority of the external ground work and the general maintenance stuff whilst she now focuses primarily on the Administrative and Customer Service side of things. We also use our limited periods of time off, one full day a week to get out and about and keep active, so basically, whilst we are working during those six month periods we do not have too many concerns over our general weight or health. But, we are now looking a lot more to our rapidly approaching retirements and without these physically active six monthly jobs we will need to look at how we maintain a healthy lifestyle, not just exercise but also in what we eat.

Currently, during the six month long periods we are not working, and until we properly retire, the majority of our Winter breaks are spent in our ‘bolt hole’ in Spain and as you will know, if you are regular followers of these blogs, we keep pretty active whilst we are out here. Whilst we are not excessive drinkers of alcohol, barely drinking very much at all whilst we are in the UK and working, however, whilst we are in Spain, we do certainly indulge ourselves way more than we ever do when in the UK, although not excessively. We also like the whole Spanish culinary experiences too, so in short, we both fight a lot more with controlling our weight and waistlines during our Winter breaks, however, I always have that thought in the back of my mind, and it is my handy excuse, that I know that I will be able to shift any excess once we are back at work.

What is also on our minds is that we both know people, family and friends, who do suffer with health issues of varying degrees of seriousness and of course we read the media and watch the TV, so ‘all’ of us are probably much more aware of the rising health issues these days, with the vast amount of social media channels available to us, just how prevalent some of these medical issues are, all around the globe. Cardiovascular and Respiratory complaints, Dermatology Complaints, Depression, Diabetes, Cancers, the list just seems to keep multiplying year on year, but we, the general public, just seem to accept these things as being part of our normal life, and perhaps think of it as just being a bit of a lottery really, on who will, or will not, get struck down with any of these diseases, but I am now beginning to question as to whether it really is just a game of chance ? Now, I am not trying to sound judgemental here and so I should also say that I know that there are many medical issues these days that are also as a consequence of genetic, economic and social issues. However, it appears to me now, and I do say ‘now’, being literally very recently, because I too have only just become more self-aware, that there are also a whole range of issues that we bring upon ourselves simply due to our own lifestyle choices, or our general personal fitness and of course our dietary choices. Probably what has shocked me more is discovering, through watching a variety of programmes, that a lot of the cocktails of drugs, and other medications, that are dished out by Doctors, do not in fact cure or otherwise resolve the issues, and in many cases they can just compound it by masking the underlying cause of the particular problem, when in fact we can, and quite simply, do a whole lot more in respect of our own well-being and health, if we can be bothered to that is ?

Why has this become so significant to Shazza and I now ? Well, like  millions of other people all around this globe, who spend their whole lives working, preparing themselves to reap the rewards of their labours in their retirement, to then enjoy the freedom to start living what has been referred to as the ‘Golden Years’, but only to then reach that point and have the rug lifted from under their feet, finding that due to medical issues, caused by perhaps previous poor lifestyle choices, that they do not get the opportunity to fulfil those long awaited dreams. Now we too are nearing that point, retirement that is, and whilst we are both fortunate to currently consider ourselves as being ‘reasonably‘ healthy and of a ‘reasonable‘ fitness, although far from Olympian Athletes, we also know that we have not, and still do not, always live the perfect healthy lifestyle, so no, we certainly do not consider ourselves as some sort of Saints, far from it, and I guess, thus far at least, we have both been fortunate enough not to have been struck down with debilitating or life threatening issues. But we are nearing our dream, which, as most of you already know, is to have an actively mobile, and energetic retirement, we have made the choice not to live in the relative comforts of a ‘conventional’ permanent based home, but instead, our ‘home’ will be what many consider to be just a small compact plastic box on wheels, yes our 6 metre long and 2.2 metre wide Motorhome. We intend to use our ‘mobile’ home to take us around numerous different Countries, to sample many different cultures, to see, with our own eyes, wonderous landscapes, to trek up to the tops of waterfalls, to use our own feet to walk up mountains and to hike through forest trails, to kayak on numerous lakes, swim in many different sea’s, lakes and rivers and of course visit numerous villages, towns and cities that we have never seen or visited before and perhaps even take the opportunity to learn some new skills, in my case, to fish with a rod and line in both coastal and inland waters. To do all of this, in our ever increasing senior years, with bodies that will be naturally ageing, muscles and bones getting wearier and taking longer periods to recover, so we already know that we need to ensure that we keep ourselves fit and healthy, so that we can enjoy our long awaited ‘vanlife’ retirement.

So, what on earth has all this rambling on got to do with that word ‘Vegan‘ ? Well to be honest, whilst I understand the ‘principle’, and I have to say been educated in ‘some’ respects about the natural healing properties of consuming a ‘Plant Based Diet’, what this word ‘Vegan’ actually did was lead me towards watching a much wider, and diverse, range of health related documentaries, not just about healthy eating. But, as some of you will already know, I can sometimes have a bit of a cynical view on certain subjects, I call this my ‘Gullability Protector Tool’. Watching a multitude of ‘Veganism’ focused programmes proved to me that my Cynical outlook is sometimes quite a handy tool to have in one’s arsenal, for there were several different producers, or should I call them ‘groups’, that presented their individual case for being ‘Vegan’. However, watching quite a diverse selection of such documentaries only proved to show that they each tended to conflict with each other in what they were saying about what you should, and shouldn’t, eat, and the reasons for doing so. Now, and this is purely my own personal view, surely they should have all been singing from the same hymn sheet ? That is not to be dismissive about the ‘concept’ of ‘Veganism’, but having Shazza, not only as my keen Cook and Baker, but she was also a teacher of the three main Science Groups, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, so she understood much better than me, what was being said about the chemical and biological effects, so she could translate this into ‘simple’ language for me so that I could understand and she coukd also answer my numerous very cynical questions, conversely, she could also discount and even dispute some of what the people presenting these programmes and facts were spouting about, especially the bits that they do not tell you about, like the essential vitamins that the body requires that you cannot get from just eating a ‘Plant Based Diet’, like Vitamin B12.

So what is my conclusion ? Well it has certainly opened my ‘mind’ to wanting to live a more healthier lifestyle than perhaps I do at present, purely for my own benefit, whilst also being receptive to some of the broader perspectives in relation to looking after our world. However, I also still firmly believe in the concept of ‘Everything in Moderation’ and we are both pretty open to trying new foods, a must if you are to fully appreciate travelling to numerous different Countries and enjoying the varying Cultures and traditions, which will and almost certainly does include the gastronomical aspects, which is one of our favourite parts of any new cultural experience. But I guess the question is whether I am ready to change from being a carnivore to someone who solely eats a ‘Plant Based’ diet ? The reality is that I am not yet convinced that this is what I either ‘need’ or ‘want’ to do, well at least not yet anyway, but I also believe in that saying, ‘Never say Never’, so perhaps there is hope for me yet. As for Shazza, well she too does like eating meat, but much less than myself and she has often stated that she thinks that she could quite easily stop eating meat and become ‘Vegetarian’, she understands the concept of ‘Veganism’ and from a dietary perspective would be prepared to stop eating ‘red’ meat but would continue to eat lean Chicken and a wide variety of Fish.

I know that this blog post has been a long way off from the normal subjects of my ramblings, however, I do very often have periods where my thoughts are on some broader aspects of our general lifestyle, although to be truthful, it was actually watching several of the ‘vanlife’ Vlogs that brought this current subject to the fore. We, being Shazza and myself, try not to be judgemental on ‘others’, in particular, on how they choose to live their lives, perhaps if we were all a little more tolerant of other people in all respects, this world would be a much nicer place ?

After all that writing I have made myself hungry, time for a ham and cheese baguette and a glass of cider me thinks 🤔

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Sure Sign That Winter Has Arrived !!

So, after what had been quite a flurry of activity in October, with the publication of numerous blog posts that is, my ‘ramblings’ appear to have come to a sudden halt ? Have we burnt ourselves out already with too much activity too soon, like a ten-thousand metre distance runner that sprints away from the starting gun at breakneck speed, to then run out of stamina before reaching even the half way point ? Or could it be that we have been so engrossed in watching the various activities on the Political Battlefields, and I use the ‘plural’ terminology, because as well the shananigans still going on back in the UK, it is almost like a mirror image over here in Spain. So just for those of you who perhaps are unaware, the Spanish citizens have been having as much trouble within their Government, and associated political parties, as we have back home in the UK. This weekend just gone, Sunday 10th November, the Spanish held their fourth ‘General Election’ in as many years, they too have a ruling party with a minority government and so the current Prime Minister called another election in an attempt to re-dress the imbalance. However, that decision to go to the ‘polls’ proved, yet again, to be a mistake and instead of strengthening his parties position it weakened it, and in the process strengthened others, now where I wonder have I seen that happen before in the not so dim and distant past ? Catalonia is still demanding Independence and causing major issues on the domestic front, having recently just blocked one of the main border crossings roads between France and Spain, the Spanish economy is on the down turn again, and the unemployment is once again rising, so when people, from ‘outside’ of Spain, ask me, as they do, what the locals here think of Brexit, you may well understand when I respond by telling them that the majority of the Spanish do not really give a damn, they have much more important concerns nearer to home to contend with. The same is true I am guessing in Italy, and Greece, and Germany, and …………………………………

Of course it goes without saying that we still have our own UK Political farse running, but fortunately, now we have taken a much more of a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to the whole Brexit fiasco, it is actually quite humerous to watch on SKY News. Boris Johnson, yet again trying to fool everyone with his far from elequent bumblings, “Second Referendum on Brexit, Never !! Peoples Vote on Brexit, not a chance !! But let us just call it a General Election instead, the stupid electorate will never know the difference“. Then of course there is Jeremy Corbyn, “Look, I just do not want to have to make a decision on Brexit, I may upset party members if I make the wrong choice and all I want at the end of the day is to move into No.10 and have people call me Prime Minister“, bless him, I bet he still wears flowers in his hair and smokes weed whilst waving his banner ‘Ban The Bomb’ and chanting his revolutionary war cries. Then of course we now have the youngest and newest party leader to enter the frey, Jo Swinson, “Move over and let me in, I am the woman who will cast aside democracy and just cancel Brexit, because as Prime Minister, I can, and I will do whatever I want, no matter what the people of this land tell me they actually want“. Now then, should I mention Nigel Farage, no as their is not really much point, I mean it isn’t as if he is even standing as a candidate !! It is just a pity that unfortunately one of these clowns, and it doesn’t matter which one, as they are all the same in my book, are actually going to just become yet another ‘Sheriff of Nottingham’ and use the workers, industries, the economy and peoples taxes as if it were their own personal money in their own personal bank account. If their is one thing that this Brexit fiasco has highlighted more than ever, not that we didn’t realise it before of course, but all politicians, from whichever colour party, or cause that they say they represent, their priority is not what is best for the Country, but what is actually in their own best personal and party interests.

But I have let Political commentary seep into my ramblings, something I had promised myself not to do, so time to get back to my more usual inane ramblings. No ! is the answer to the question, we have not been sat idle, we have got our first visitor of our Winter season out with us at the moment, Shazza’s mum, who arrived on Sunday the 3rd to stay with us for two weeks. But, and I do mean this with the utmost of respect, she is now of an age which is beyond our level of fitness and mobility, so she cannot partake in any of the more usual ‘Shazza Adventures’, so we are taking a more sedentary pace during her visit, but that does not mean that we have not been getting out and about, enjoying the sunshine, and of course the mandatory trip across the frontier on to Gibraltart to get her bottle of Whisky at a very acceptable ‘Duty Free’ price, purely for medicinal purposes you understand, just to keep the chill out when she gets back to a cold, and very wet UK. She was a little concerned as she lives very close to the River Don, the one that has recently made the UK National News as one of the villages, Fishlake, had to be evacuated as it was completely flooded. It is not a million miles away from her house, so close in fact that the evacution centre is within one of the community halls in her village. Fortunately, one of Shazza’s brothers who lives close by, went over to check her house and reported that it was okay, which put her mind at rest, even though I had also tried to reassure her by telling her that they would not have used her village as a relief location for the flood victims if her village was also at risk of being flooded.

We have had our ‘bolt hole’ here for five years now, but in that time we had never visited the rather ‘petite’ castle at the bottom of our hill, the place where we actually park our car on almost a daily basis !! Strange how you just sort of by-pass things when they are right on your doorstep ? So we decided to drive down, visit the castle and then walk on into the Marina where we could make sure that she could obtain some hydration !! The day had started off a little bit murky, not cold, but the visibility out to sea was not clear and the brisk breeze was creating a small swell, however, this was not sufficient to prevent the local fishermen from going about their normal business and we spent a moment just watching them as they pootled up and down hauling in their lobster or crab pots.

One of the few tourist cruising yachts still ploughing through the waves

The one thing that we have learnt from our Winter breaks here is that the weather is always better in the afternoon, it is as if the sunshine and blue sky are having a well deserved lay in after a long hard Summer, we knew the feeling. By the time we had parked up, conducted a bit of boat watching and then made our way the few feet from the car park to the Castle entrance, the sun and blue sky had woken up completely and it was back to business as usual. We had read that some of the rooms in the internal area of the castle walls were actually civic offices, visitors were permited to stroll around the Castle provided they did not interfere or disrupt the office staff. Entry to the Castle is ‘free’, but please do not tell the National Trust, they will have a nervous breakdown at the thought of a wasted oportunity to fleece tourists.

In yester year, the Castle buildings and surrounding grounds were much more expansive, however, now there is only one small part that is still standing, there are other remnants of the ruins around the village but now most of these areas have been taken over by modern day human habitations, metalled village roads, small Plaza’s, children’s play area, houses, cafe/bars, restaurants, church and a handful of independent businesses, however, we have just read, in our local Spanish newspaper, that funding has been made available to start escavating around the submerged ruins and they are making these areas into a bit more of a tourist attraction.

The only bit of the Castellon de Duquesa still standing !!

We entered through the small gated entrance and into the inner Courtyard, there was only one woman that we could see in one of the very small rooms, she was sat behind a desk and looking at a computer screen, but there was no evidence that this was being used as any sort of hub of office activity ? We aknowledged her with a cheerful ‘Buenos Dias’ and she smiled back. There were only a handful of rooms to wander through, it looked as if they were trying to add things to make it a bit more interesting, but to be honest there was not that much to look at, a local artist had some paintings displayed on the walls in one room, there were small historic artifacts in another, we meandered in and out all of them nonetheless, before continuing outside to explore the upper ramparts.

“Stand at ease Corporal Shazza”

Nice sea views and a few more Motorhomes enjoying a spot of ‘Free Parking’ right next to the beach

Flipping Tourists always getting in the way of a good photo !!

Fencing Duels, always more Gentlemanly than using noisy pistols and the activity, dependent on one’s swordsmanship skills of course, provided for a little longer spectator entertainment !!

They still provide, within the castle walls, fencing classes. I wonder if that includes making the gates as well ?

“If you can keep your head whilst all around you are losing theirs, you must be a visiting tourist”

Wow, what a handsome looking fellow, I hadn’t realised my Spanish ancestory went back so far !!

Well it didn’t take us very long to look around, even at a sedentary pace so, with the sun shining, it was time for a casual saunter down to the Marina to take on board some liquid refreshment, well, it would have been rude not to !! The one thing that struck us was just how quiet it was here now, ‘A Sure Sign That Winter Had Arrived‘ as most of the tourists with families had returned to whence they came, the promenade was virtually empty and so lovely and peaceful, the sea was a beautiful deep blue, as was the near cloudless sky and the tops of the mountains were clear, a good indicator that the warmth would last throughout the day.

Space at last, I do like the Winter Season over here

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments