Saturday, 29 March 2014

When it’s spring again

It’s been a while since I posted – almost a month and now it’s officially spring. Having had a hit and miss January and February due to personal  circumstances we seem to have hit the ground running in March. 

We’ve been so busy doing nothing that I haven’t had time to give any thought to the blog.

My last post said that we were hiring a car so I’d better rack my brains and think back to where that month has gone – it’s all going soooo fast.  So to avoid boring you too much I’ll try to break this month down into smaller chunks.

We hired a car at the beginning of the month and so we had a few days out.  Having shared the car with Nick and Joy it meant that we oldies didn’t have to pack day after day into travelling around but could do alternate days.  So the car – promised a Fiat Panda (or similar) and got a Fiat 500 – a very cute car but not big enough to get four adults and two dogs in so we did alternate days rather than travel around together.  To be quite honest though 3 days was enough, we got to see everything that we wanted to see and if we want to go further afield then we will do that when we leave here and take the van. The problem with Spain is that you can’t take dogs on buses or trains unless they can be carried – and by that I think they mean carried in a dog carrier – well Connie is just a bit big for that but we did think of turning her buggy into a sedan chair to see if we could get away with that. So we’re a bit tied to how long we can be out if we can’t take the dog with us.

So our first day out was to Villajoyosa, a seaside town about 5 miles south of Benidorm.  While looking for the way to the beach we overshot the town and ended up in some pretty dodgy area.  The trouble is that a lot of new apartments are built under speculation and sometimes the resorts just don’t take off and they end up unsold and empty which makes the places end up looking like ghost towns, and this was just one of those areas.  We headed back to Villajoyosa with a view that we might not be staying long.

Well I’ve got to say that if I had booked a two week holiday and ended up in Villajoyosa then I’d have been more than happy.

A lovely sandy beach stretching  for miles with views to Alicante.  Lots of seaside bars and a nice little harbour to keep the interest.  A steep hilly walk up to the town but it all looked ok.  Very pretty.
We stopped for the necessary refreshments at a bar on the seafront and were amazed at the tour busses that travelled along the seafront narrow road.  One wriggled around the corner and as it passed us and I said “Look, that tour guide is Lisa from Wyndham’s.”  It’s a small world.


We had a drive through leggo land.  Which was horrendous.  The roads are so busy and the streets all look the same with the towerblocks shielding the sun from the side roads.  Yuk Yuk Yuk, don’t like Benidorm.

We drove back via Carrefour (yes that’s a well-known resort just outside Benidorm) to pick up some bulk shopping and then we went off to Calpe to satisfy our curiosity. 

Calpe is across the bay from Albir and has a rock like Gibraltar sticking out at the end (but a lot smaller) so we wanted to see this a bit closer up.  Funnily enough once you get close to it, it looks a lot smaller than it does from a distance. We had a walk around the harbour area which was surrounded by  fish restaurants and was very pleasant, but we thought expensive so we walked around a little but generally were very disappointed at Calpe and don’t plan to go back there again.  However if you are thinking about going to Calpe, apparently the beaches the other side of the bay are much more interesting.  So that was our first day out sightseeing in the car.

Next day busy doing nothing.

The following day we planned to go to Guadalest which is a town literally built on the side of the mountain and the castle (no longer there) dating back to the 12th century.  This is one of the main tourist areas in Costa Blanca and well worth the visit.  You park up and walk up some steps into the entrance to the old town.  You can only get into the old town by a tunnel through the rock and then you find exactly what I said, the old town. It must have been well protected in past times in the town because any invaders would not have seen it as they approached.  Below Guadalest is the main reserviour for the whole area.  This was pretty impressive and apparently we could have gone down to see it but we didn’t realise until after we returned.

Views from Guadalest towards the coast

Entrance to the old town (actually we were coming out at this point)

Main street into Guadalest old town

Reservoir from the top
The entrance to the old town is near the bell tower and you can just see some of the old town and the peak of the rock - it must have been very well hidden and protected

I only visited one museum which was the  Minature and Gigantic museum and that was pretty unusual.  In it were miniature carvings like a self-portrait carved out of a grain of sand and a bull ring on a pin head.  I haven’t got a clue how they were done.  And then beside it you would see the same thing in a large size.  A lot of erotica though with some of the minatures!!!!  
Connie enjoying her day out in the back of the car

Iain’s not one for the mountain roads so we came back via the lovely Benidorm which is the road the buses use. What I would say though is that the mountain roads around here are used by the professional cyclists as training grounds so the roads are pretty scary, not only have you the obstacle of overtaking the bikes on the way up but when you are coming down the mountain you have the bikes overtaking you, sometimes both sides of the car at once so they sandwich you and you can’t move either left or right.  These guys seem to have no fear at all.

After Guadalest we thought it would be a good idea to park up in Benidorm and have a look around – NOT! There’s absolutely nowhere to park that seemed reasonable, there are hundreds of traffic lights so it’s stop start all the way through.  We thought – we may not be celebrities but get us out of here – fast, so we didn’t get to see any of Benidorm except the commercial streets between the high-rise concrete lego tourist hotels.  So we did just that and made haste back to Albir, where I had a very stiff drink with Nick and Joy when we got back as I was absolutely knackered by the stress of the driving.  In fact that stiff drink turned into one of those impromptu parties, where we were joined by Sheila and Mick, Hannah and Thomas then Jo and later James who had woken up from a well needed rest after a very liquid lunch. Nick is a bit of a social hand-grenade and people just kept joining us.  It was one of those warmer evenings and we were all able to sit outside until well after dark. This then turned into one of those short days that we had experienced just a week before on the day of the paella party.

The following day we recovered from the impromptu party while Nick and Joy went off for the day in the car.

So now we were into Saturday and we decided to go and see Xavier and Denia.  As we’d taken in Calpe a few days before we  thought we would go a bit further afield up to Oliva.  We headed along the N322 which is the original main coast road and drove through Gata de Gorges. This was pretty spectacular scenery, the gorge is still being mined and the road goes through the middle of the mining.  A bit further along the N322 just outside Oliva we saw a woman sat at the side of the road doing her knitting, sitting on a very comfy looking chair – strange we thought and thought no more of it.  Onto Oliva.  

Well we followed the signs to the beach and down some very nice looking roads and came across a very modern looking area full of villas overlooking a wonderful sandy beach.  We thought how nice we had come to a really nice town and let the dog out of the car and took a walk along the promenade.  The beach stretched for miles and was of a very light fine sand backed with some low dunes – absolutely ideal for holidays.  However on closer inspection there was only a few people on the beach (I know it’s out of season – but) and then looking at these fine villas we realised that most of them were empty.  This was a ghost town.  It seemed that someone had had a very bright idea of building a new town along these wonderful beaches only they hadn’t brought any life to it.  It was really weird and we went very quickly from “How nice” to this is horrible let’s get out of here. Not only that but as in all of Spain, dogs are not allowed on the beach – this we have respected, but here, at every entrance to the beach, dogs had been allowed to foul the entrances and it was pretty disgusting, it really did need to be cleaned up.

There are  a lot of campsites in Oliva and I could see a harbour to the north of the beach where we were so being the eternal optimist I thought we must have missed something.  We decided that we’d check out some of the campsites and followed the signs to “The Campings” – this took us along a narrow road out into the sticks and it wasn’t a very pleasant place at all, a gypsy pony and trap with entourage were travelling in the opposite direction so we didn’t know where we were heading.  At the first opportunity we abandoned the idea of checking out the campsites and drove back towards the town.  After a bit of driving around the town we decided that we had made yet another mistake and it was time to put Oliva behind us, as far as possible. We found our way back to the N322 and headed south without even getting out for another stroll or seeing one of the famous campsites.
Along the N322 we saw the same woman still sitting at the side of the road and laughed at what she might be waiting for, then we saw another, all dressed up and the penny finally dropped – these were prostitutes plying their trade along the main dual carriageway, waiting for the lorry drivers.  Bye Bye Oliva I don’t think we will ever go there again.

So by now it was nearly lunchtime so we headed off to Denia to find something to eat.  Denia is the town where you can get a ferry across to Ibiza. Nick and Joy had been there the day before and said that they didn’t like it very much so we weren’t expecting a lot but at least hoped it would be better than Oliva.  Just north of Denia it seemed that the same thing had happened, build a resort and hope that people would use it.  There were a lot of hotels  and apartments and along the main road there were a few bars, but no life or soul.  If I’d landed here on holiday I would not have been too pleased.  

However by the time we got actually into Denia we found it was a much nicer place.  Along the seafront near the harbour we found Jamaica Inn which is the oldest inn at Denia.  Tapas and a couple of drinks (not for me the driver)  later and the world was a much better place.  

Jamaica Inn

The inn itself was stunning, inside the building were beautiful wood carvings in the beams and pillars and the internal doors must have been a couple of hundred years old.   I would be happy to stay in Denia for a few days if I was travelling through there again.

So on from Denia to Xavier.  We took the main road between the two and as with a lot of journeys here if you’re not on the N322 you might just find some challenging roads.  As we had a car and not a 7.2 tonne motorhome we thought this would be no problem.  We it wasn’t a problem for me but as I’ve already said Iain is not much of a one for mountain roads, especially when Mr In Charge (yes his initials are IC) is not very much in control, let alone in charge. I thought it was  a lot of fun but I must admit that I’d had enough by the time we got to Xavier. 

A kinder bit of road when it wasn't too scary to take pics

It’s a shame that we went up to Oliva because we’d done quite a lot of driving that day and so were feeling a bit tired by the time we got to Xavier and didn’t really want to bother to get out for a walk so we just drove through the place.  Basically it has a long sea-front road to the town but the beaches left a lot to be desired.  They weren’t even pebbly like in Altea but were positively rocky.  It’s really not a place for a beach holiday, but I suppose if you’re a rinkly and don’t want to sit on the beach all day with kids then it’s a pretty good place to go to.  Along the coast you can take a narrow road up the peninsula to Cap Negra where the views are apparently spectacular and you can see all the way across to Ibiza.  I say apparently as we had already had enough of small scary roads for one day and declined to make the trip just to look out to sea.   So we boringly headed off inland again to the safety of the N322 and headed back to Albir.  We’re not being very adventurous are we.

So returning once again to the campsite, this time we managed to avoid a "welcome home safely" (any excuse for a drink)  impromptu party.  Nick and Joy had been to El Cisne market and I think Nick was resting before taking Joy out to Kaktus Hotel later that evening for some flamenco dancing. 

Sunday – rest and housework.  Yes in all this we have to remember that we are living this life and not on holiday so you don’t just stack up your washing to take it home, it actually has to be done on site.

By Monday we’d all had enough of travelling around and no one had any real desire to use the car so I just took Joy off shopping for a few hours.

Another week gone by but at least we’d been off the campsite for a bit and seen something else of Costa Blanca.

Next instalment – Day out to Benidorm, El Cisne Market and some other stuff.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Write-off February - Bring on March

It’s been nearly a month since my last post and it’s been quite mixed.  We both returned to the UK for Emma’s funeral which of course was a very sad occasion.  Thank you to everyone who sent their condolences, either by comment on the blog or by personal email.  I had to leave the wake early as I had flu and Iain followed me back to the hotel shortly afterwards.  So we basically slept all the rest of the afternoon and night – only getting up to return to Spain.  I could see how relieved Iain was to get rid of the hire car so that he didn’t have to drive any more.  We then kindly shared our germs with everyone on the EasyJet flight – hope it didn’t ruin their holidays. 

Over here they seem to call this flu the “Benidorm Cough” – I must admit that I got over it fairly quickly but Iain is only now returning to normal after nearly 2 weeks.  Loads of people on the site have had it.  So we’ve had to virtually write off February and we’re starting again from March. We’ve now been here over 2 months and we still haven’t gone out of Altea and Albir (except on our journey to the Airport). 

So what have we been doing?  I really don’t know, the days seem to go so quickly that I haven’t even done much crafting with my “toys” that I’ve brought with me to stop me getting bored.  I seem to have taken up crochet –but that’s partly because it can be done outside in the sunshine, doesn’t make much mess and only requires one ball of wool and one crochet hook to be got out.  It does mean though that we’ve got lots of “granny squares” and crocheted flowers lying around the place.  I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to do with them.  I had intended to do baking and making sweets – at least the results are edible and you don’t end up with loads of STUFF hanging around but that involves being indoors and the weather has been too good for that.

So it’s generally, walk the dog, get  some shopping, have a coffee in a bar, come back for al fresco lunch, have a little sit out in the sunshine, perhaps a little siesta (when in Rome), walk the dog, go to the bar to download our TV for the night and then have dinner.  And of course there’s the boring stuff like washing up, cooking, cleaning and washing the clothes, although I do seem to have forgotten what an iron is for. There’s also Spanish lessons twice a week but as I’m totally c**p at languages I’m really not learning anything useful.  If you go out then many people speak English anyway.  I think we would be better off learning Dutch as although most of the Dutch speak very good English, we do have a neighbour who doesn’t speak any and he jabbers off to us in Dutch and we haven’t got a clue what he’s saying.  He even decided that he’d like a look inside our motorhome and just walked in, obviously thought he’d been invited.

That reminds me that the other day I was at the ladies when an English lady asked me if I spoke English, I of course replied that I did as I was English, “Oh good” she said, “what does that mean then”, pointing to a hand-written note on the notice board. My reply was “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue, it’s written in Dutch and I speak English” – work that one out!

Getting back to normal

Last week Iain was back on the Wyndham’s pool team.  It’s rather a long (and for me boring) evening so I decided to stay in and have a nice evening watching TV with the dog.  He arrived home at about 1 am and as normal I was pleased that he had got home safely.  However he was sitting on the step of the motorhome having a nightcap and cigarette when he decided to examine at very close quarters the small pebbles that cover our pitch – so close indeed that he is now sporting the badge to prove it.  That’s what happens when the message from your brain to your feet that you are standing  up, doesn’t actually get there and your top half moves and the feet don’t follow.

Blood everywhere,   which I only discovered when he got into bed.  So there I was patching him up at 1am – so much for my early night.  I couldn’t find the plasters so it had to be a wet wipe with some Elastoplast to keep it in place – I’d never make a nurse.  He looked like Pudsey bear – at least in my disgust I hadn’t stuck the plaster in his hair.  I was amazed that it was still on in the morning and we didn’t have blood all over the sheets.  When I asked if he was suitably pleased with himself after last night’s performance the answer was “Well I won both my games!”

But I did win both my games!

The following day, the Dutch (this site must be 75% Dutch) were having an end of winter season Paella party.  We couldn’t find any reason why 28th February was chosen, it’s not a special day and could only deduce that the Dutch start to leave and return home in March so it’s their celebration to say Adios to all their camping friends.  Anyway we were all invited, so we duly bought our tickets and turned up at the said time and place, which happened to be the tennis courts at 2.00pm.   The paella fed more than 100 people from one huge paella dish and it was simply cooked over a bonfire.  The Dutch entertained us with the campsite choir who had been practicing all winter and then did some line-dancing – they do seem to be keen on their line-dancing – personally I can’t see the point just going around and around doing the same steps all the time and just ending up back where you started to do it all again – it’s very regimented and repetitive.

We had a very nice afternoon with Joy and Nick and the booze was flowing.  We held up our end for the brits and were the last to leave at around  6.00pm.  I collapsed a little tired and confused when we got back to the van and awoke about 9.30pm to find Iain already retired for the night – might be something to do with the fact that I’d collapsed on the settee and left him nowhere to sit so he decided he might as well go to bed.  The wine must have been good quality though because I didn’t have any signs of a hangover in the morning.  That was the shortest Friday that I can ever remember.

Saturday – it rained – wow, the first real rain in two months. It had just started raining when we left with the dog – and Nick and Joy’s dog Paddy – for a walk when a Swedish neighbour Thomas asked if I knew what this item was (pointing to an umbrella) and did I want to borrow it.  I retorted that I was English and used to getting wet and thank you for the offer but I didn’t need it.  I know this sounds bad after the previous two days drunken episodes, but we’d just got to a bar (purely for the intention of downloading our TV of course) when the heavens opened and we were stuck there for an hour or so.

Yesterday, Sunday, was my birthday.  For the first time since we got here I managed to get up early and take the dog on the seafront for sunrise, well actually I missed sunrise but we did get a good 45 minute walk before breakfast. 8.00am and already 23C. The day was spent relaxing and then we went to the Italian restaurant with Nick and Joy for dinner in the evening.  I didn’t want to have dinner early as I really didn’t want a repeat of a short day like Friday.  All in all I had a lovely birthday and thank you all for your kind messages on facebook and email. Also yesterday, the weather seemed to change suddenly.  23C at 8.00 am and it was the first time that the evening has been warm. Up until now the evenings have been quite chilly but yesterday the evening was very pleasant and only needed a light cardigan to keep warm.
This morning though I DID manage to see the sunrise – quite beautiful actually.  A good 45 minute walk for the dog and back for tea and breakfast.   I couldn’t resist sharing some photos with you all.

I’m getting itchy feet now and not sure whether I want to move on at the end of March or to stay until the end of April.  Some of me says, we like it here, we are close to everything, we have a decent pitch and then something says, but it might be just as good or even better somewhere else. Everyone tells us that the facilities here are a bit basic - here's the toilet block - but we are finding them more than adequate. 

Solo Traba Jodes Del Camping

I’ve looked up the comment on google translate and quite frankly I can’t publish it here. 

Actually it’s not the “real” toilet and shower block but I would suspect that it might be the original one.  I’m not sure whether it is being kept for posterity or it is about to be knocked down.  It was quite a find though and well worth a picture.
Campsite entrance on the promenade
So no decision has been made yet but I do fancy a campsite with more facilities such as an indoor swimming pool etc.  We have also heard some bad stories about one up the road where they have over booked and people are sharing pitches  - and that apparently is a C&CC rally site.

We’re going to hire a car tomorrow so we do intend on doing something with our time here. We might even spend some time visiting other campsites in the area to see if there’s anywhere else that we might like to go next year.