Dentists, Doctors, Daughters and Sons

DSC_8687aAfter leaving our friends in the south of France we made a couple of stops on our way to Calais for the ferry.

We found a beautiful “freebie” in a small town called Bonnival and camped by the river for a couple of days.

The river looked beautiful by day but the sunset coupled to the floodlighting made it worthwhile staying up past by bedtime (8:35) for a few shots.

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Leaving Bonneval we headed for Rouen and pitched up on an island in the Seine.  Alongside some rather unusual company:

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There must have been an amateur soccer night at the nearby sports centre because a dozen or so firefighters turned up with their equipment, swapped flameproof leggings and steel boots for shorts and trainers and jogged in to the hall.

 

Then it was back to GB for time with the family, with the dentist, with the doctors, with the Peugeut dealers and MOT inspectors before setting off again for France, Belgium and here in a sweltering 36 degreeC. Luxembourg.

 

Ewes, Views and Expensive Wines

Crossing in to France from Spain brought us in to the “Pays Basque” with remote villages and hamlets dotted around the hillside and valleys of Basque country.  We stopped for one night in the main town: Saint- Jean-Pied-de-Port but the weather wasn’t being kind to us and we moved on.DSCa-8466

There were animals in the fields but most of them on the farm where we stayed were indoors. These sheep were milked by machine every day and the milk curds were made into cheese and the whey fed to pigs.

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Following the farm tour the French motorhomers next door invited us for a “Small beer”.  We tasted the farm’s cheese and we tasted the farm’s sausage, both were delicious. Then someone brought out a bottle of wine, I served a plate of Cheddar, a Champagne cork was popped, two reds, 1 white, numerous hors d’ oeuvres and five hours later we went back to the van for tea.

We had often stopped in a small town called Marmande before because they have a wonderful “aire” by the River Garonne” and as it was on the way to where our friends Nigel and Lindsay live, we stopped for the night.  The bright spring weather took my camera along the riverside.

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Our friends who have a very good knowledge of the area took us to see some beautiful towns in the area of the Dordogne valley that we might otherwise have overlooked.

For instance the beautiful Chateau d Eymet in Eymet.

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Chateaux on the Promenade de Larmane over the river Dordogne, Saint Foy La Grande.

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Flower festooned ancient boat winch above the river Dordogne.

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My door knocker obsession again.

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Windmill and onlookers, Montpezat

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Beer deliveries French three wheeler fashion, Saint Foy La Grande.

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Most of what we learned from Nigel and Lindsay had to do with food and drink. Whether it happened to be live oysters and chilled white wine for breakfast…

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Or some of the locally produced wines.

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But the highlight of our trip around the region was a visit to Saint Emilion, origin of some of France’s most prestigious wine.  Vines have been cultivated here for thousands of years and the Romans used to pop over the Alps once in a while for a sup of the latest vintage.

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The town is built out of limestone and has seen quite a lot of erosion both from the atmosphere and from visitors.   It was founded by a monk called, coincidentally enough, “Emilion” He lived in a cave that was later transformed into the Monolithic Church that still stands.

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A view over the town from above the Monolithic Church.

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The town is a popular tourist destination and wine is what the townsfolk want to sell to the tourists.

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There is an awful lot of it about and even if your tastes extend to a vintage year similar to your own, the locals can probably cater to your peculiarities. (If you have the ready cash, that is!)

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Much of the symbolism used around Saint Emilion is of course wine related.  A stained glass in a wine shop?

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However, we were with an experienced guide who was willing to show us some of the more unusual aspects of the tow.  The Collegiate church and it’s cloisters were built between 1100 and 1700 (No not 11 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon!) and have some very interesting architectural and decorative features.

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Some interesting photo opportunities if you can run half way round the square in the ten seconds your self-timer on your camera takes.

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But the most unusual aspects were in the stained glass windows.  Here is a longshot of one:

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Look at the right hand panel:

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Definitely a pair from specsavers.  The next scene from the last supper contains this image of Judas looking like a comic book villain complete with sneer and Bag of silver.

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Even the drain covers bear the arms of Saint Emilion. Perhaps the most expensive vintages are stored below.

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Many thanks to Nigel and Lindsay for the tour, wine and accommodation.  Here is a celebratory bottle of Les Cordeliers, named for the knots in the monks habit, being consumed in the gardens of the Collegiate Church. Thanks once again very much to Lindsay and Nigel.

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The Knight of the Rueful Countenance.

There are but two or three towns in Spain where the knight  errant Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza have any adventures.  One of these is Puerto Lapice, just south of Madrid and in the heart of La Mancha where the Don is knighted and the town is also near to the famous “Tilting at Windmills”  site.   Needless to say the inns and shops of Puerto Lapice abound with souvenirs of the Cervantes characters. 

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There are opportunities to have your photo taken with the characters,  with their creator Miguel Cervantes or as the Don himself.

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There are several  inns in the small town each one purporting to be the very same one, “The Venta Inn” in which Don Quixote was knighted.  We tried several of these of course and decided that the one with the best tapas was probably the genuine article.

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On a hill high above the town stand three wonderful examples of the very windmills Cervantes had in mind when he decided that the rather fanciful knight mistook one for a giant and attacked it mounted on his trusty steed Rocinante.  We were there long enough to see the windmills in all lights from early morning to floodlit night time.

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The walk to the top of the hill early one morning was worth the effort just for the wild flowers growing beside the track.

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Travelling further north, we skipped around the very busy city of Madrid, the closest we got was the tiny town of Pinto just off the motorway.  Even here we were close enough to the city to have to take motorways instead of our preferred small roads.  The countryside was still covered by olive trees wherever we looked but the further north we got the greener it appeared until climbing higher in the hills of Northern Spain we found rivers with actual water in them. (Even a few trout but I left them in peace.)

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There is still plenty of evidence of the hot summer months to come, however, as this avenue of budding trees grown for their shade along a city street testify. 

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We had travelled this part of our route several times in the last twenty years so we hurried on to Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees Mountains where we knew of a very good place to stop at the top of the pass leading down in to Saint Jean Pied De Port in France.   

This is a famous stop on the pilgrim route to Santiago De Compostela and has some fine hospitals and churches. 

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It also has some very interesting views and wildlife because of its altitude. 

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An as yet unidentified moth.

 

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A pair of pond skaters.

 

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An enormous leech.

 

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and a hairy spider.  All found along the stream running through the Roncesvalles pass.

 

The beauty of sleeping in a motorhome is that the evening view is still going to be there in the morning when you wake.

 

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France from Spain at bedtime.

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The same valley at breakfast time.

 

France promised from the morning’s view to be a bit cloudy and cold and for some days, unfortunately,  it was.

Cathedrals, Cities, Mountains and Olives

Working our way along the coast of southern Spain brought us to Rincon,  a location recommended by a delivery driver un the UK.  We were happy to stay here for the night to start with but the weather, the facilities and the price persuaded us to stay first one more night then two then eight.  We were on a good cycle route along the beach and the bus route in to the city of Malaga.  We were wary at first of visiting the big resort but finally plucked up the courage to venture in to town. 

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There is, however, much more to Malaga than the bustling holiday resort.  It has a very well preserved old city centre, cathedral and hilltop castle. 

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The cathedral is a little crowded by the surrounding buildings but still gives an impression of grandeur from the ground but is best seen from the castle. 

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Or better still from the inside. 

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The workmanship that went in to this building was an enormous undertaking especially when you consider that no one who started the project would ever be alive on its completion.

I loved all the wood carving around the choir stall and organ which wasn’t even done in the city of Malaga but was imported from elsewhere. Imagine the packing, loading, carting or donkeying that must have gone on for it to have arrived in one piece. 

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From the 10th Century castle at the top of the hill, the whole city is laid out like a map and with a good lens I could pick out many of the important city features.  The castle is famous for a rather obscure reason; it was the site of the first battle where both sides employed that new fangled gunpowder stuff, surprising there is so much of the castle remaining.   

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As we walked (Yes walked for about an hour up a steep path imagining all the time what it was like for armoured and armed soldiers trying to storm this particular castle in the midday sun!)  the Plaza De Toros  came more and more in to view. I stopped every quarter of an hour or so and took yet another picture of the bullring not knowing if i would get a better picture higher up but I did.

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A 9,000 seater stadium worthy of the Romans but events could be viewed for free at the resting place halfway up the hill.

 

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The castle itself is set on the top of a wooded hill with its own wildlife which have come to accept the daily influx of visitors eager to see the view from the top.  Among these were a few squirrels in the trees posing just long enough for a quick snap or two.

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After the long climb up and then down the castle hill, we rewarded ourselves with some light refreshment (A bucket of beer, some roast potatoes and ham.) in the city.

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Well, it was a very hot afternoon. 

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Very neat motorbike parking is essential here in Malaga so that everyone can be fitted in.

 

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A quick goodbye to some of the local inhabitants then we were off, heading east along the coast.  The old road still meanders along beneath cliff faces and above dry river beds (We never saw one river with water in it until we were nearly halfway back up Spain.) but has been superseded by the new motorway for most of the way. 

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The view from the old road is what still makes it worthwhile to travel that way even if it takes three times as long to do so.

 

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We moved further along the coast to Almerimar,  a thriving little seaside resort surrounding a marina full of very expensive looking yachts.  We parked along the quayside in order to get the morning view across the water.  We hadn’t realised that we had been here before until we saw the distinctive Harbour Master’s tower.

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Yes this is the early morning view from our bed complete withe the reflection of the cooker in the glass!

We have commitments believe it or not.  We must be back in the UK for several reasons.  We have to get the van M.O.T, we must get ourselves tested and prescribed by our doctor, we must get the van habitation test, we must visit the dentist,  get the van serviced and repaired but most of all to visit family and friends (if we are still welcome!!)   Therefore, we are heading north away from the med but not yet away from the sunshine.

 

The drive through the centre of Spain is mostly quite tedious with motorways, traffic, factories, desert and most of all OLIVE trees.  Now we love olives and cook with nothing but the extra virgin olive oil from these trees but….  there are several billion of them….in straight rows stretching to the horizon in every direction. 

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Wherever you look it is olives, olives, olives as far as you can see.  No wonder Spain is considered the world’s largest olive oil producer. 

We parked up for a night next to an olive oil extraction factory with a sort of outdoor exhibition of antique methods of extracting oil.  Some of which are self evident in their function but others baffled me.

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If anyone has any ideas what this machine did, write your answers on a self addressed envelope (no stamp necessary) and pop it in the post!

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From high up in city of Ubeda it is possible to see 18,414,657 individual olive trees. (more or less!)

Buzzy Bees, Bends, Butterflies and Birds

Not everyone has been busy. Whilst the sun shines some of us take the opportunity to stop a few rays.

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Others here make friends with the flowers and get ready for the summer to come.

 

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But we all welcome the sun in one way or another.

 

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Unfortunately the sun doesn’t last forever. AS we neared Tarifa further along the coast, the wind picked up and it became altogether colder and darker.  The site we chose to stay on had one or two access problems and we got one wheel spinning in the air getting on the site.  Needless to say it was a free site but it was right on the beach so worth a little trouble getting there.

 

Had we known what getting off was going to be like I doubt we would have contemplated the site.

 

There were already some unusual occupants of the site.

 

There was a carpenter making musical instruments in his most unusual (in Europe) workshop:

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There were the usual residents of fields to be seen from the bedroom window first thing in the morning announcing their presence by ringing their cowbells.

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But as I hinted, getting off the site was not going to be easy.  I had worked out a route but not quite carefully enough.  I gave Sheila all the instructions but got one front wheel down a pothole so I take full responsibility.

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The damage was mostly superficial and was mended within hours.  A fat and purely cosmetic exhaust pipe extension was torn off as we entered the pothole.  However, the worst thing was that the fresh water drain connector came off at the same time and filled the hole we were sliding about in with 100 litres of fresh water.  Gooey and messy.  With the help of another camper we propped up the offending wheel and pushed, shoved, revved, reversed and drove out of there.  Mmmmmm lesson learned I hope.

Tarifa is known for the incessant winds and they hold kitesurfing championships there and is just along the coast from Gibraltar, our next destination.

We parked in La Linea which is just on the Spanish side of the border with Gib.  We were on a car park overnight right out in the open and subject to every whim the wind could come up with.  We were battered all night, it was almost as if we were at sea.

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You really do have to cross the runway by foot to get to Gibraltar, this is after you have been subjected to the usual security checks at an international frontier outside of the E.U. even if most of it is computerised and automated.

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Fortunately for us there were no delays as all the planes had been grounded because of the high winds.

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Gibraltar was a disappointment because the cable car was also grounded because of the winds so no mountaintop photos but we did get to shop in Morrisons with our pound coins  for ginger beer, Hot Chocolate and similarly Hot Cross Buns to keep us warm up in the mountains – our next destination.

 

“Today I am mostly driving John around the bend”  Take a look at the satnav as we approach the town of Zahara.

 

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Well worth the wiggles and the climb though.  A little hilltop town, one of the many Pueblos Blancos of Andalucia that we visited.

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We camped on a picnic ground beside a lake below the town.  The lake was formed when they built a dam across the lower end of the valley.  When we visited the water level was very low and a lot of the original valley floor had been exposed.  It seems that they simply built the dam, let it flood and left everything to rot away.  I walked across the floors of houses, along muddy streets, through abandoned forests to a street sign recently exposed by the receding waters.

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The main attraction of these mountains for me was the birds nesting on the sides of the crags.  Mostly Griffon Vultures, huge birds with a wingspan of nearly 3 metres, they spiral skywards on the air currents without the need to flap their wings more than a couple of times an hour.  I started photographing them with my (Very Cheap!) 500mm lens and got one or two passable pictures:

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Then switched to my more expensive but less appropriate lens and got a few more,

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but whilst camping below, I had met  Terry, a man with a similar passion for the birdlife who owned a MUCH more appropriate lens for these birds.  Terry invited me to try out his lens

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I am just SO in need of one of those lenses, a Sigma 150 – 600mm zoom lens.  Unfortunately it weighs nearly as much as all the rest of my camera equipment put together, is long enough to use as a walking stick and costs nearly £800.00 (My birthday soon if anyone is thinking what to buy for me!!)

 

Oh. The butterflies, I forgot:

 

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A species found in this region of Spain called the Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumin rthat I spotted whilst we were on a cycle ride along a disused railway line near a town called Coribe.  We cycled about 13km for a picnic lunch then 13km back to the van.  We slept that night in the disused car park of the disused railway station on the disused railway line. Very quiet.

 

Sheila spotted a very obliging Spanish Viperine snake doing about 25mph downhill  and skidded to a halt nearly knocking me off my bike but it was quite worthwhile for the photographs.

 

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Oh! In case you were wondering; it was Sheila doing the 25mph not the snake and no it is not a venomous snake, quite harmless. (But it still gave me the eeebie geebies when it stopped posing for the camera and skidaddled across the track at 25mph.)

Carnaval Conil De La Frontera

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We extended our stay in Conil for purely economical reasons – (50% discount if you stay a month) but we were then able to see the carnival that was much advertised about town.  The main procession was due to start at 5 in the afternoon and go on for about 3 hours.  We turned up at about 6 and there wasn’t a soul on the streets.   Were we too early? too late? No idea!  We had a beer in one of the nearly empty bars, did a bit of shopping in one of the poundland type shops (Where we saw the most unlikely scruffy man buying a “Fairy Magic Wand”) and went home.  When we got back, one of the other English Greytiders said “Didn’t you hear? They postponed the parade because of the high winds expected.”

Next night we repeated the procedure and it was well worthwhile.  We had been visiting the outdoor market in Conil for a few weeks and had noticed that the material stalls were all very busy selling gauze, fur fabric, foam lining, felt, polyester animal prints etc. and it was easy to see that evening what they were making.

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The costumes and makeup were all brilliantly done and there were hundreds of participants.  This group danced along to their own music for the whole 3 hours.

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The children were dressed up as pirates, balloonists, punk rockers, red Indian braves and a hundred other costumes. 

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The adults were not going to be outdone by their children either and the oldest Smurf, wickedest wizard, scariest werewolf and most charming princesses were all in attendance.

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A great deal of effort and ingenuity was evident in all of the costumes.

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I don’t know if these bottles of Fanta were being sponsored bit they seemed to be enjoying the contents.

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Some of the costumes made from the fabrics from the market stalls.

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These golden boys of sport carried their podia a few dozen metres, had a quick drink, mounted up and froze like statues for a minute then marched on.

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Hells angels and angelettes. I was horrified to see that the little ones were not wearing  crash helmets but they did keep the speed down if not the noise.

 

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There were some fun costumes including these two Dames who walked in their cubicles looking as if in agony all the time.

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Clearly, some took the whole thing very seriously with costumes and makeup to rival Rio.

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Well everyone deserves a break now and then!

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Eventually everyone made their way to the seafront where a huge party was to keep going all night.  But this was Sunday, the original party would have been Saturday, giving everyone a chance to get a little sleep before school or work the next day.  I have no idea what excuses for not turning up for school or work they all used.

The Grey Tide

The grey tide washes back and forth over these lands.  At the approach of winter, thousands, tens of thousands and maybe even millions of motorhoming grey haired people flock to the south to enjoy a more comfortable winter climate than that of their homes in Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia and even northern Spain.

 

Here is a typical member of that group carrying out a typical Grey Tide activity:

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Or sitting in the sun enjoying this:

 

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We have settled in quite comfortably into such a community based near Conil De La frontera near Cadiz, spain  There are a few hundred of us on a fairly large campsite so we don’t get in each others way.  We salute each other with various forms of “Ola”, “Gooten Morgen”, “bonjour” or even “Mornin” as we gather round the washing up sinks or water supply point.  For some good food, good wine, good weather and of course good company are enough.

 

But not for me!  Here is a picture of me shark fishing from my stand up paddler:

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MMMM….Well anyway, there is plenty to see nearby.  The town of Conil De La Frontera is a short walk or cycle away

 

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Where the photobombing thrill seekers hang out by the sea:

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and just about 4 or 5 miles away is the port of Conil.

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Just about far enough away to work up a thirst cycling to the little bar there.  We have also walked there and back, some 16 km along the beaches and cliff tops. 

 

The next town inland is Veja, a hilltop fortified town with some typical Andalusian architecture and apparently ceramic frogs!

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Surprisingly for me, not far from Veja is an international centre for show jumping and some friends of ours took us on a trip to see it.

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A definite surprise for me to see this. 

We have always had a hankering to visit the Sahara Desert again and a few nights ago the desert visited us in the form of a red cloud that dropped tons of dust and grit on all of this part of Spain.  The results were pretty spectacular as can be seen from these two cars:

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We had to wash our van and awning pretty quickly before the dust set into red concrete, the owners of these cars may have been a little late for that.

 

Humans aren’t the only species to enjoy the early spring weather and these two were spotted near the beach in Conil.

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One of the delights of this part of the world is the Flamenco dancing and we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to witness a spirited display of the art form:

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We happened to turn up for a meal with friends on the night that the Dutch contingent of Grey Tiders had arranged a display. 

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Not a place you want to be if you are suffering from a headache, those shoes and the stage floor make a perfect drum and even when there were several dancers performing together, they were perfectly synchronised.

I did enjoy the meal, however.

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Bulls, (more) Bridges and Bells

Driving through this part of Spain (Andalucia) brings some ancient advertising hoardings to view.  These towering monuments to commerce were outlawed in 1994 along with all other roadside hoardings but were brought back by public outcry  and now the Osborne Bull and the Tio Pepe guitarist reign supreme in the Andalucian landscape as part of the National Heritage.

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We were heading to Cadiz which was built on a peninsula but the need for easier access to the city necessitated building yet another enormous bridge.  cadizbridge

The bridge has a nickname and is called “la Pepa” perhaps after a popular children’s TV character. It is one of the highest bridges in Europe and I would have loved to have stopped in the middle for a bit of fishing but I would have needed 69 metres of fishing line just to reach the water.

We went to Cadiz knowing that we could stay on a large mixed parking site near the port for just 3 Euro a night.  (See the dot on the map below.)   The port noise was present but not too disturbing – lorries reversing, fork lifts lifting and ships shipping etc.  What we didn’t know, however, was that we were just by a theatre and even closer to a nightclub.  Once the port quietened down after teatime, the local drum and trumpet band turned up (Yes a DRUM and TRUMPET Band) and started practicing outdoors for the upcoming carnival parade.  They marched, drummed and trumpeted within 20 metres of our home until about 10:00 then gradually wandered off.  Time then for the nightclub to open.  They had a DJ whose sole purpose in life was to keep us all awake until 3a.m.

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I had hoped to do some fishing just by the car park but the sea wall was lined by a giants sugar cubes.  These blocks were 3 metres on a side in order to create a barrier to the waves.  They created a more than effective barrier to fishermen, if you fall between the blocks you are crab food.   I did walk out to the end of the “Y” shape on the map and despite joining several other fishermen and women, I caught nothing!

Cadiz old town is a very interesting city and boasts several hundred watchtowers used in ancient sailing times to get the owners in touch with their incoming vessels.  The shot below is a half dozen pictures sewn in to one 360 degree panorama.  It was taken from the top of one of those towers.

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The tower housed a “Camera Obscura”, an arrangement of mirrors and lenses that focussed an image on to a 2 metre wide tabletop screen within a darkened room. (The “camera Obscura” bit.) We were able to get an English language guided tour of the city without moving an inch.

We were able to follow this up with a visit in person as it were to many of the sites of the city.  We visited a busy fish market with the most amazing range of seafood species.  There were whole swordfish with metre long swords, spiny sea urchins, crabs, whelks, and 50 shades of prawns.

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Cadiz old town is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways.  Tiny doorways with interesting door furniture lead to even narrower ways.  So easy to get lost there.

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Luckily there are plenty of landmarks around the centre.  We visited the cathedral where I spent a happy hour listening to my own personal tour guide courtesy of a pre recorded message on a tiny hand held mp3 player.    We were able to climb the bell tower where they had lots of …..you guessed it – bells.

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Unfortunately for my hearing we arrived just before midday and despite a friendly warning from a local (who appeared to have climbed the 40 metre spiral slope just to get a signal on his mobile phone as he talked on it all the time he was in view) we stayed to listen to the 12 chimes.  Standing within a couple of metres of the bells, they were as impressive as the view.

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After another night at the same car park, (Surely – Surely they wouldn’t repeat the same noises as last night?) with an exact encore of the previous evenings performance, we paid up and drove on towards the town of Conil De La Frontera passing a few interesting sites on the way.

The port of Conil is a centre for the tuna fishing boats and is a hive of activity.  There are, however, some very strange sights here including the hundreds of anchors awaiting ships:

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And the graveyard of smaller boats:

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We arrived at our destination; Camping Rosaleda in Conil just about teatime and the view from our window was impressive enough to convince both fo us to stay here for a while.

Bridges, Towers and Bruises

Once again we enter Spain, this time just about as far south as it goes.  We crossed this bridge between Portugal and Spain.  A massive piece of engineering. I wonder which nation had to pay for it – Spain, Portugal or the E.U.? It was free from tolls going to Spain but we did see a toll booth on the other carriageway.

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We headed south from the border towards Isla Cristina because of all the flood plains and saltmarsh we could see on the map.  It turned out to be a depressing landscape of plastic enshrouded industrial agriculture.  Not only did the plastic cover the crops, it covered the adjascent saltmarshes, roads and wherever else the wind decided to take it.  Thousands of tons of plastic waste littered the countryside.  It was ploughed in to the ground, wound around trees, flowing in the streams, scattered across roads and tucked into every conceivable niche.  What are the farmers going to tell their grandchildren when they come to grow crops?

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Not bothering to stay, we headed to Seville and the only bridge to cross the river Guadalquivir.  We had been told of a good cheap place to stay near the city centre but as we were looking for it we stumbled across some other motorhomers in what we have come to term a “Freebie” – a tolerated overnight parking place.

We were in good company:

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The Seville authorities seemed pretty relaxed about parking. Some French Fighter pilot just parked on the side of the road with his most unusual campervan or it may just have been a bit of a Mirage.mirage-f1-sevilla

Seville was not somewhere we were going to remember with any fondness.  We walked in to the city and did what we usually do in these circumstances; we sought the Tourist Information Office.  Once there we waited whilst two sour looking women faffed about with their computers, not even looking up at us although we waited five minutes.  When one deigned to catch our eye we asked for a city map and some information on what we should visit.  Half way through her explanation, her mobile phone rang and she spent another 3 or 4 minutes chatting on it.  Eventually I just took the map and we walked out without letting her finishing her spiel.  As we reached the door, she put down her phone and shouted “The map is one euro!”  I chucked the map down in disgust and offered her a few poignant words of advice on customer relations!

We did find some interesting places despite the aid of the Tourist Office.

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There were some spectacular roofs and towers with matching tiles.

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A pity about the communications mast intruding, I bet the architect didnt have this in mind in 1568 when a former mosque minaret was converted to the bell tower of the second largest cathedral in the world.

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It is amazing what you had to do in 1568 to get a reception on your mobile phone.

 

The trees in the squares and plazas of Seville were full of ring neck parakeets who quite happily took up the role played by pigeons in other cities.

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In fact the two species seemed happy to share the role of “City Watchers” from the same branch.

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There were other very interesting touristy places like the Plaza de Espana but about this time Sheila took a tumble, falling over a step in a dingy passageway and gaining several cuts and bruises in the process.  This just about put the lid on our Seville excursion and we limped our way back to the motorhome and took off towards Cadiz.

 

Last of Algarve for now.

Hate to be too british and talk about the weather but it has had quite an influence on what we have been able to do here in Portugal.  We have had what you might call superb English spring days complete with wild flowers and birds most of the time.

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These Paper White Narcissus growing in a ditch next to our camp site were a delight in January.

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These Brugmansia would do well to flower in a greenhouse back home but grow in gardens and hedgerows here.

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Between the rows of trees in the orange groves spring flowers grow in profusion.

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The fruit and nut trees are all in blossom making any day in January like a March or April day back home.

This month has been a good one for meeting family and friends.  Dave and Jacks came down in their motorhome and were with us for a couple of weeks –  a time for good food and wine and plenty of sightseeing.  Rob and Alison also flew in for 3 days at a luxury villa complete with indoor swimming pool and en suite bathrooms (with a BATH!) Here is Quarteria; a good place to stroll up and down the promenade with my son and his wife, sampling the local food and drink.

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Rob flew in and out of Faro airport where Sheila and I found a vantage point to wave them goodbye as they left.  (They never waved back – probably too busy consuming their free champagne and peanuts!)

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Then on to Albufeira to catch up with some of Sheila’s friends: Mike and Lin who were in the area for the golf (there is a lot of golf about in the Algarve) and met us for some beers and a wonderful lunch on the seafront.  We stayed just a couple of miles north of Albufeira town in  grand campsite with no fewer than 3 outdoor (cold cold cold!) swimming pools but had a great pitch with morning to evening sun.

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Getting in to town was different matter, however. Over to Sheila for a blow by blow description:

How not to catch a bus from Camping Albufeira to Albufeira Old Town

 

Having sent John to the reception to ask about buses, he was told to catch the bus outside the gates of the campsite to the Old Town bus station…..Sounds simple and as we were new to this area and having made arrangements to meet my friends Mike and Lin for Brunch we decided the bus might be quicker and easier than walking. Mike had advised us to make sure we got off at the Old Town bus station and not the new bus station and they would meet us there.

We arrived outside the gates in plenty of time and stood at a bus stop; we observed a few buses passing in both directions old the dual carriageway and decided that as our bus stop was on the wrong side of the road, it was probably only used for the return journey. We braved the traffic and rushed across the road in a gap in the traffic mere seconds before a bus pulled up..Phew! We then asked politely for tickets to the Old town bus station. He then pointed to the bus turning up at the bus stop we had just vacated and said in pretty good English that that was the one we needed and his bus didn’t go direct and would drop us at the new bus station where we could get another bus. While having this conversation the bus we wanted had already pulled off so we made the decision to stay put and get a connecting bus. So we found ourselves in the New Bus Station which was about the same distance from the Old Town as we were when we got on the bus….not a lot of progress in the right direction yet. Ever hopeful or just plain naïve we waited ten minutes for the bus we had been told would take us to the old town. It turned up and we stood patiently by the door as the driver ignored us and obviously did the counting up, tidying away before handing over the bus to another driver, who then chose to check all the tyres and windscreen wiper blades!! We were the first in the queue and being very British thought the local old lady with the walking stick very rude when she pushed in front of us, again being very British we stood back and smiled politely hiding our real feelings. (We later saw signs in a bakery to the effect that old people, the disabled and pregnant women will be served ahead of you in a queue. This is actually very respectful and nice!) We got on the bus, which is a circular bus (the bus is actually “bus” shaped but it is driven on a circular route) but still we were slightly puzzled when we passed the same auditorium 3 times and had still not stopped at the Old Town bus station. John eventually said he thought we were just leaving the Old Town and got out his phone with GPS…it clearly showed that we were heading away from the Old town….I suggested that John pressed his stop button which was located above his head which he did. Nothing flashed above the driver as it had when others had pressed their button so I suggested he press it again a little harder. Still nothing happened and we were now at least 2 kilometres away from where we wanted to be! The bus pulled to a stop and we could see the sea about 500 meters down the road so in a quick flash agreement we got off and decided to head for the beach and walk back! We starting walking along the sand and phoned and spoke to Lin who said she was sat having a coffee with Mike at the Old Town Bus Station! They walked down to the beach and we hurried the 2 kilometres along the sand until we met them. Bruch was put on hold and a few beers and a good catch-up later we all enjoyed a lovely lunch of pan fried sea bass sat looking out over the beach in the sunshine. A few days later when we again visited Alburferia and caught the correct bus into town we walked back as we realised we were so near it would be quicker!

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Once in town, Albuferia presents more than one face.  Of course it is the cheap and easy to get to summer holiday destination full of night clubs and bars for the brits to embarras themselves in but it has other aspects.  The harbour is a thriving fishing port well worth a peek.  There are thousands of the concrete hotel and villa complexes (some of which were half built and then abandoned) overshadowing places like the green tiled hotel from a bygone era.

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Onwards tomorrow and this wiry old knight atop the last roundabout before the bridge over the River Guadiana will be the last thing we see before re-entering Spain.

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