Toughs Travels travel blog


The Next bit - the Spainish Inquisition

Tuesday 28th September

Right you lot, it's sing-a-long-a time; so after 3 - 1, 2 and 3 "We're off to sunny Spain, Viva Espanya"

Ok that's enough!!

So we leave a quiet (no wind) and sunny Argeles to head down and up and down a very twisty coast road before heading across country and then down to Blanes (nr Gerona). Now I know we are all in the EU, and crossing borders should be easier - but France to Spain - well there used to be a border checkpoint - but now there's nothing but an old deserted building - no checks at all - we could have 45 refugees in the back - and no one would care!!

So we arrive at Blanes - never heard of it - well neither had we - but it's just down the coast from Lorret-de-Mar (you'll have heard if it - Costa Brava ken!)

The camp site is ok - just at the edge of town, and across the prom we have the beach. But the town of Blanes is tourist hell - "English Breakfast - All Day" - "Irish Pubs".

And it's got colder and cloudier - not what should happen as you head South!

Wednesday 29th September

So, a boat trip to Tossa-de-Mar is the order of the day. Pleasant enough journey stopping at various resorts/bays along the way. Lloret-de-Mar does not look inviting but Tossa is a pleasant surprise. Not too big, situated in a nice crescent bay with rocky headlands at either end - and a nice old town and an agreeable main street, that whilst touristy, is much more up market than Blanes (pronounced blan-es, in the local lingo).

However, as we wait for the boat to return the sky is turning dark and it looks like some rain is on the way. But as we return to the caravan it brightens up and we decide that a swim in the Med is required - a bit chilly but invigorating none the less.

Later at the campsite a van converted to a motor home draws up in the next pitch to us and as Carolyn watches the back door open - she exclaims "a Polar Bear has just stepped out of the back" - WELL of course it was not a real Polar bear, but a Huge, White, Fluffy Dog- no really big!! But the strange thing is it just looks round, calm as you like, sniffs the air and settles down on the ground. Now, most dogs when they are released from a car/van, bound around and bark a few times - not this thing - never a peep from it!!

Later the people take the dog for a walk and as soon as they go a white fluffy cat appears at the windscreen and just sits and looks out - so we name them the Polar Bear and it's Cub. Question "are we losing touch with reality?"

Thursday 30th September

So time to make our way to Barcelona, and the first part of the journey is fine, quiet Autopista's that don't charge a lot. But, though we were prepared for poor road signs in Barcelona, we missed (well not really but it was very small, and only one, that lead off to the left on a busy five lane motorway and we were in the right inside lane - expecting an exit to the right) the correct through route to the south - so we ended up slap bang in the middle of Barcelona!!

However, Carolyn's navigation got us on the right road for the airport and so south to the selected campsite at Sitges, about 30 mins away.

The site is at the edge of town but there is a nice broad, long promenade to walk/cycle along to get to the heart of the town. Which we do later in the day, as our laptop internet service is playing up - so we eventually find an internet café that is open. The Spanish really go in for long lunches - most places close from 12 (or 12.30) through to 5.00pm - now that's not a siesta, that's time enough for a very long kip!

Friday 1st October

Well, that's 4 months since we landed in Sweden - doesn't time fly when you're having fun!!

So we have a lazy day - around the caravan in the morning doing a few chores and down to the beach in the pm for a dip in the Med - ah! It's a hard life!!

Anyway we need to conserve our strength, 'cause tomorrow we are off to Barcelona to meet Carolyn's pals (the Three sisters) Tricia, Nicky and Angie. They are in town for a girl's weekend - God help the boys in Barcelona!!

Saturday 2nd October

So it's up and away on the 9.20 bus, from our campsite gate to Barcelona. A very pleasant and comfortable journey, despite a little concern when the bus ignored all signs to Barcelona. All was well though - it was just going to neighbouring villages to pick up more passengers. Arrived in the big city and made our way to our meeting point with the 3 sisters, opposite the famous and fantastic Sagrada Familia (sadly, another grand building covered in scaffolding!) Only to find they had decamped to a nearby McDonalds for necessary sustenance following last night's 5am bedtime! These girls have a lot of stamina! Then a very rambling walk eventually took us to La Rambla and the Placa Reial, a superb square courtyard surrounded by Tapas bars. By this time it was lunchtime so we found a table and ordered loads of delicious tapas, wine and beer. Yum yum!! Angie has been learning Spanish and felt obliged to practise how to order a carafe of wine - she was word perfect by the 5th carafe!! (She didn't drink it all herself, I hasten to add!) What an excellent way to spend an afternoon - a long, lingering lunch with friends! Eventually though it was time to move and we said goodbye (or adios) to the 3 sisters and headed towards the train station. It was too difficult to find where the bus dropped us off and anyway I like trains! It was a long walk, but took us through some shopping streets, all buzzing at 7.30pm. The train fare was cheaper than the bus fare, unusually, but the journey was not as nice. The train, (a double-decker), was very busy and had more of the feel of an urban bus than the Edinburgh to Glasgow shuttle train! When we arrived in Sitges we didn't fancy walking the 2km to our camp site so jumped in a taxi, thus more than doubling our fare home!! An excellent day out!

(PS this is Carolyn writing again, a day later, in Neil's absence. Hands up those who guessed this!!)

Sunday 3rd October

Neil home for a few days. Up at our normal time to take Neil to the airport - his departure times are much more civilised than when he flew home from Venice. He drove so chose the Autopista route. Having mentioned before that the tolls are cheap here I have to point out that that is only if you are going a long distance. They charge you a flat rate here. Rather than giving you a ticket and paying when you leave, you pay at the beginning of a section, so we paid 4.28 Euros for the short trip to the airport. And all the amounts are odd figures - no round numbers! I drove back by the C31 - dual carriageway until the last 10km which winds up and down mountains and round hairpin bends with fabulous sea views - when you have a chance to look!

The sun is hot so spent the afternoon on the beach, reading, snoozing and dipping in to the sea every now and then. What a life!

Monday 4th October

Go to the 'Hipermercat Sabeco' that I sussed out in Vilanova yesterday (closed on Sunday). Since Neil is not with me I take the time to peer at all the unusual local stuff, checking prices and ingredients. Also take advantage of Neil being away to buy some smelly cheese and a cauliflower - guess what I'm having for tea for the next few nights! End up spending all morning there - can't imagine enjoying a whole morning at Safeways!! The weather is hot so it's down to the beach for the afternoon!

Tuesday 5th October

The day starts well. It isn't too sunny which is fine as I'd planned on a chores morning. Do the washing (in the camp washing machine). Wash the caravan - its old, so all the more reason to keep it looking as smart as possible. Hoover inside the caravan - well I suppose you wouldn't Hoover outside! Then a light lunch and down to the beach. I forgot to take the bicycle lock with me so being cautious I took the bike right on to the beach with me. It was breezy which was nice at first but then it clouded over, so when I finished the book I was reading I went back to the camp. Then of course the sun came out again so it's back to the beach, remembering to take the chain to lock the bike up. The sun is being awkward today so after an hour or so I decide to go home again. But where is my bike?? This is where the day really turns sour. It is not there, where I left it, carefully locked up to a sign saying 'Disabled parking only'. I walk up and down the prom. In case I've got confused about where I left it, although I am actually CERTAIN it was tied to this particular pole. After some time feeling all sorts of emotions I have to accept the fact that IT HAS BEEN STOLEN!! Yes - GONE FOREVER! What a bummer. I feel quite upset.

So after I've started to get used to this I drive down to the police station - would have cycled if I could! Not a hope of getting the bike back of course but I feel I should report it. A dour man takes the details, speaking no more than is absolutely necessary. He prints everything off in quadruplicate and hands me my copy. The only sign of any humanity is a slight smile when I ask him where I can buy a new bike!

Go home to drown my sorrows, but as usual when I'm upset I don't even feel like drinking! Oh well, at least the liver gets a rest - Tricia will be glad to know!

Wednesday 6th October

Mooch about a bit then go to the hypermarket to check out their bikes. They are all chained up in the entrance lobby, so its look but don't try! Prices start at 200 Euros. Think I'll check out the bike shop in Sitges tomorrow.

Thursday 7th October

Neil returns to Spain

Friday 8th October

Cloudy start to the day - should we move on? As Neil has found that there is a Theme Park with lots of White Knuckle rides about 50km down the coast - but then the sun comes out - decisions, decisions!!

But we stay put and have a nice meal out in the local "busy street" - Though we do it in two separate courses - One as a tapas snack - Gambas Saladas and Tacos Jamon. Respectively a plate of unshelled prawns and a plate of cubes of ham! Then an hour's visit to the internet café, then back for the "main" course!

Saturday 9th October

Away at 10.15am for the short drive to Cambrils, just south of Tarragona. The site is very quiet but ok for us and the toilets, whilst a little elderly are clean enough (well - almost!)

A chap from Gillingham in Kent stops by to chat - they've been here for a month and got a fantastic 66% discount on the daily rate - which makes their month stay only cost 180 euros - bargain I'd say. But it's not the sort of place we'd want to stay for a month!

A walk along the prom confirms that it's more "down market" than Sitges, but nice enough - and we try a rented bike shop to see if they have a second hand bike to sell for Carolyn - but we decide that a nice, shiny new one would be much better!!

Sunday 10th October

Sunny but windy this morning so it's definitely off to the Theme Park. But things don't go well. Firstly, we end up in a ticket queue that does not move for 25 mins - no that's not an exaggeration - some dick heads are at the front of it and have some sort of problem. Neil does go up and shout at them in English, but they think he's just MAD, which or course he is!!

Then it comes our turn to buy the ticket and they will not take the credit card without further ID - which we don't have on us. So we have to pay cash - just as well we have enough - just - but this leaves us short for drinks and lunch.

So, after a white knuckle ride - The only 8 loop roller coaster in the world, by the way - we try a cash machine for more dosh. Well it whirls away, gives the card back and a receipt, but NO MONEY, ****ing Hell. That's 220 Euros less to spend!!

So we try again, only 70 Euros this time - and success - so, after noting down the number of the machine and the help line number, we go off to get a well earned drink.

Later in the day, after more white knuckle, bone shaking rides we call in at "Guest Relations" on the way out and speak to a very nice, English speaking girl (Maria) who phones the help line for us and explains that there was a communication problem. Money will show as being taken from our account but will be credited in a couple of days - well it sounds like a good result but we will wait and see.

Monday 11th October

So, away and south to follow the sun towards Alicante. The Autopista is fairly quiet, but they know how to charge for the privilege. One section costs 17.75 Euros, that's about £11.00!!

We decide to stop at a coastal place called Javea/Xabia on some maps - why it's got 2 names - no idea - maybe it's like Spanish and Gaelic!! Any way the site is ok but quite a few UK registered caravans, and one HUGE one we park next to. It really makes ours look dinky!!

The local beach is only about 400 meters away and a level cycle ride, but of course we only have one bike still!! There is a bike shop in town, but as it's a National holiday tomorrow it will probably be closed.

After dinner we take a stroll along the seafront - and we cannot make up our minds if we like the place or not!! Some of it is nice, some too touristy and others, well refined somehow. But it's curious that some bars are busy and some really quiet - there seems to be no logic to it. However, we spy one restaurant offering, what seems to be a fantastic deal. Three course meal including a bottle of wine for only 6.95 Euros per person. Yes, a bottle per person and the food all for 6.95 - well that's tomorrows dinner sorted then - what the food will be like who knows!!

Tuesday 12th October

Cloudy start to the day - NOT what a national holiday should be about! So we laze about in the morning - play table tennis -and yes Carolyn wins again!!

We then take a drive round the town, initially to look for a bike shop, but not only is it closed today- but it is closed until for a full month from 24 Sept to 24 Oct. What a way to run a business - so we will take our custom somewhere else.

We then take a drive up to Cap San Antonio - the headland just to the North of the town - great viewpoint. Then to the lump of rock that sticks up hereabouts and can be seen for miles around - it's a National Park - Montgo. The sign says it takes two hours to walk to the top, some 753 meters!

We then head to the south of the town to a bay mentioned in the Rough Guide, and it's lovely. No hotels, only villas (mostly large and unoccupied) and a little bar right on the beach - not modern, just a plain covered terrace with old wooden tables and chairs - Bar La Barraca. So we have a drink and resolve to come back tomorrow for a swim in the clear blue sea and then lunch on the terrace.

In the evening we go down to the sea front and try out the Scallops restaurant and have a really good meal, including 2 bottles of reasonable wine for 15.90 Euros - so about £12.00 - and we turn down the sweet course cause we are too full. When they come to take your order for drinks you ask for 1 white and one red, they bring you a whole bottle of each - all included in the price! To eat we had for starters of Quails Eggs and Prawns and a Pate, then Carolyn had two large deep fried fillets of Hake, which would rival in quality those sold at the famous Anstruther Fish Bar, and chips and veg and Neil had a Gammon steak with loads of chips and veg. Astonishing Value for such quality!!

As we were sitting in the open air restaurant right at the front, we could see clouds in the distance being illuminated by lightning - quite spectacular.

And of course later in the night at the caravan what did we get - yes thunder and lightning.

Wednesday 13th October

So, sunny day - it's off to the beach for a swim/snorkel and some lunch. And it's really nice. Not as busy as yesterday and we get a nice spot to sunbathe - then a swim and a snorkel - lots of lovely little fish to see - not what you'd call an aquarium - but nice though.

Then lunch on the old bar terrace - small seafood salad then a real Paella dish for two with a bottle of the house white wine - all overlooking this tranquil bay with little waves coming in - idyllic!!

One of the quaint things about this bar is that the patron hand writes out ALL the bills himself - that's all he seems to do!! The waitresses bring him the sheet from their notebooks with what the table has had and he transposes it to a proper bill head - all without looking at the menu and adds it up without a calculator and that's it - Ah the good old days!!

Thursday 14th October

The sun is shining so we pack a picnic and head off for another quiet beach (NATURIST!) It proves to be in a beautiful spot - not many people and lovely clear and warm water. Not touristy or 'Brit-ful' - just superb. Our bums are so white it could be embarrassing if busier, but in fact it is just superbly relaxing. We were not sure about Javea when we arrived but now we really like the whole area. Also, there is an International School (maybe Carolyn could get a part-time job) and a racket sports club. Here you can play tennis and squash (the first time we have seen it played abroad). But a more popular game seems to be 'Padel Ball'. This is a cross between Racquet Ball and Tennis. Too complicated to explain. I (Carolyn) thought it looked fun , but Neil's opinion was 'boring'!

Friday 15th October

So now we have to decide - move or stay? This is a tricky one, though helped by the clouds in the sky, so off we go! Carolyn is pushed on by her desire to purchase a new bike so we drive to the Decathlon shop in Alicante and spend an hour or so there making a choice. This is an amazing shop - it covers EVERY sport you can think of (OK- we didn't check out tiddleywinks! ..) Eventually a nice ladies mountain bike is chosen - a bit of suspension - but most importantly a comfy saddle! - and Neil is sent to pay. He has to go to the car to pick up dosh and sadly what does he also pick up - a flat tyre!!! A real good news and bad news situation! So the NEXT hour or so is spent changing the wheel. (Take off the bike rack to get at the spare....unload the back of the car.........you don't want to hear the rest....). Get it all done and the good (?) news is .. there is a McDonalds over by, so lunch is soon sorted!

Now, what to do about our duff tyre? We think we have found the problem - slashes in the side wall - not good - but whatever, it has to be fixed. Eventually decide to follow our original route to Fortuna and hence Murcia. Leave the A-7 towards Fortuna and both our hearts sink, though we say nothing. It's more like an industrial estate, specialising in concrete tubes and cement, than a tourist spot!!

And, there are dozens of articulated lorries plying the road - bringing rocks one way (for crushing) and speeding back up the road for their next load - must all be on some sort of bonus system, given the speed they travel at.

Eventually arrive at our chosen site and it is amazing! We have our own, personal little bathroom - loo, shower, basin etc. and it is so nice! (Yes - nobody else uses it!) So then we decide to eat at the restaurant. It also is fabby - quality and quantity superb! Only 8 Euros per person for a three course meal including coffee and a bottle of wine between us.

Saturday 16th October

The main event is trying to get the car tyre fixed. So, fortunately Carolyn had spotted what looked like the Spanish equivalent of Kwik-Fit just outside the town so down to the "Vulco" we go.

And as you might expect on a Saturday it's fairly busy - but it's got three BIG garage doors - for the trucks to get in - but only seems to be one guy in overalls working!!

Anyway he looks over and we converse - well mostly sign language - but he comes and looks at the tyre and motions that we should bring it into the garage. So we do and then after a while he asks us to come back in one hour - No Problem pal - off to do the shopping then.

And as it's Saturday - it's the local market - with umpteen stalls, selling everything, including the "kitchen sink", gas rings, paella pans of all sizes from large to ginormous, clothes, shoes, curtains, bedding, fresh veg, live chickens and rabbits!!

Back at "Vulco" the boss man appears and we watch him take the tyre off the rim and examine it closely. He motions that it has been stabbed three times with either a knife or a screwdriver on the tyre wall and that it is not repairable - So a new tyre then!!

But, he does not have the correct size in stock and it will be Martes (Tuesday - for those of you with no Spanish skills) - before the tyre is here. OK, but how much - he will not know till he phones on Lunes (Yes that's Monday).

So, will have to stay put and return on Monday to establish if the cost is acceptable and then it will be Tuesday before it's fitted - so probably Wednesday before we can leave!!

So back at the site, we go up to the thermal pool (36 Deg!!) but have to pay 4 Euros each to get in!! - But it's nice and relaxed and sunny and the beer at the bar is only 1 Euro - so it's not going to be too much of a hardship to stay a few days!!

Sunday 17th October

So, can't take the car away for an explore - with no spare tyre - too risky!!

So, wash the windows, tidy the car, sit in the sun - gosh it's such hard work!!

Later in the day we decide to go for a little bike ride - Carolyn's really keen to try out her new bike - this will only be its second outing. BUT NO - we only go 20 yards and she's got a flat tyre - So, we take the wheel off and sure enough the tube is punctured - so we replace it as it looks a bit dodgy - and off we go.

From the landscape here it's easy to see why they filmed many Westerns here - it was a bit spooky - expecting Clint Eastwood to appear out of the thorn bushes - as in a Fistful of Dollars!!

Monday 18th October

Bit cloudy today - if we were fully mobile I think we would be off, further South!

But, we go to the "Vulco" and the tyre will cost 167 Euros - so about £100 GBP. Not too bad as the cheapest we found on the internet for UK delivery was £88.03. So, the tyre should arrive Manana - yes that's what he said - and if not Manana - then the next day. Ah, so we're stuck here!

One of the "three sisters" - Angie texted us this afternoon - she and her partner are in Spain near Cordoba - but that's about 200 miles from us right now and we will not be away till Wed/Thurs - so we may not meet up as hoped!

Tuesday 19th October

Just a quiet day in the sun, until 6.00pm to visit the tyre shop. But no joy, tyre not arrived -manana!!

Wednesday 20th October

Cloudy start to the day, but boy does it warm up, and by mid afternoon it's 94 deg. in the caravan. And at 6.00pm we go to the tyre shop AGAIN. No tyre, and not now possible to get a matching Bridgestone tyre, but a Dunlop one of the correct size could be here tomorrow - yet another manana!!

So, on the way back to the caravan we stop at the internet café in town, and eventually get on and check our emails (our laptop and its mobile card can't seem to get a Vodafone signal here abouts) - but nothing earth shattering from home.

Thursday 21st October

A few drops of rain - good day for an explore in the car - but not without a spare tyre!!

More rain in the afternoon, so no topping up the tan - though Carolyn is SOOO Brown anyway!!

At 6.00pm we go off to the tyre shop - and lo and behold - we have a new Pirelli tyre for only 140 euros, about £90 GBP, which is pretty good, considering.

So, the ends of another episode nears, but think on this quote from a knowledgeable Spaniard:-

"What men call gallantry, and the gods adultery,

Is much more common where the climate's sultry!"

Here endeth the sermon - for the moment!!

Take care from Neil and Carolyn. Hasta la vista Baby!!



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