La Manga 2013 – 14

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Update 1st March 2014

The weather generally improved through January and February in La Manga with more sunny, warm and dry windy days. We did lots of running and Mel went out windsurfing on about 20 days during these first two months of 2014. Mel made contact with Peter Hart to get his advice about buying some new windsurfing kit and ended up ordering it from Peter as he could give a good deal. There was another dinner and dance with Dirk on his keyboard and we had a few Friday night fish & chip evenings with Anne & Derek. We booked the ferry from Portsmouth to Spain for October again as we decided this was the best route for getting to La Manga.
The BBC stopped broadcasting from the satellite which we could receive in Spain on the 6th February – the day before the Winter Olympics started. We still had ITV channels, Sky News and BBC red button so we could watch some of the Olympics but without the BBC commentaries. Eventually ITV went too so we had no English channels but we managed to stream the channels through ‘Film On’ and Apple TV.
On Sunday 9th February we had very strong winds in the evening and overnight. Many people on the campsite had damage to windbreaks, awnings etc. The wind was so strong that it knocked our motorbike over and we didn’t get to sleep until about 3am. Mel had to help our German neighbours, Monica and Gerald to take their tent down during the night before it blew away. The next morning there was dust everywhere as the wind had blown sand off the beach and soil off the fields across the campsite. There was a major clean up operation everywhere over the next few days. People said there had never been such strong winds here before.
Isobel came back at the beginning of February and we managed to get a run in before we left. She had been back to Scotland then to Austria skiing and then back to La Manga. I had been increasing the distance I had been running and had done two runs of 13 miles in training for the half marathons I plan to do at home in May and October.
We left La Manga on tWednesday 19th February and drove to an overnight stop at San Rafael del Rio near to Peniscola. See the page on Les Arcs 2014 for next report.

Update 16th January 2014

There has been some better weather since Christmas with sunnier, warm days. Bit more wind too so Mel has windsurfed a few times. We have also been on a few long walks as well as continuing to run on a regular basis. We decided to extend our stay here until the middle of February before we go to Bourg St Maurice. We will stay there until the 21st March hoping the snow will be good enough to ski/snowboard then and we will avoid the English Half term school holiday. We will go home on the 24th March to see all our family and friends and hopefully do a few races.
On the 2nd January we went on a short ride on the motorbike with Anne & Derek (on their bike) to go for a walk to see the huge guns at Bateria de Cenizas on the way to Portman. It was a dull day but just right for walking, not too hot but still pleasant. The history of the guns and the area is interesting (see the post); we went to the harbour at Portman afterwards. This area is being reclaimed after being spoilt by all the mining activity over the years; this is an ongoing task!
We have decided to come to La Manga again for next winter; we paid our deposit and reserved our pitch PQ41. All being well Derek and Anne will be opposite us again which will be good. We have made many friends here and there is a positive community spirit. We see all our neighbours most days and have a chat about the weather, camp activities, new arrivals etc. There is a mix of European countries represented with most of them speaking English. We do make an effort to say ‘good morning, how are you?’ in their language though!
Yoga started again at the beginning of January and Spanish lessons with Carol for Mel too, although he has decided not to continue with the latter. Lessons with Delphine start again on the 17th January and we will keep up with those until we leave.
We booked the ferry to Greece for the summer; we will be catching the Anek Lines boat from Venice on the 1st June. We have been communicating with Hans and Marianne, a Swiss couple we met in Vassiliki last summer and we are planning to stop off in Brienz near their home on our way to Venice.
We have spoken to Laura & Ella several times and to Sam & Caroline. All are well, busy with their lives in the UK. We have lost some fence panels between our house and Mike & Pat’s next door so they will need replacing. The weather at home hasn’t been very good whilst we have been away – lots of wind and rain, although mild. They don’t seem to have had it too badly in Crewe fortunately.
On the 15th January we went on the local bus to Cartegena, The bus stops at the entrance to the campsite and the fare was very reasonable – 9 Euros return for both of us. It took about half an hour to get there and we had a very enjoyable day in the city. The sun shone and it was warm & dry; we walked around quite a bit eventually finding the outdoor market. There were lots of stalls selling clothes, shoes and slippers. We went into the Naval Museum and enjoyed an hour looking around there; we had a look at the first electric battery submarine invented in Spain by Isaac Peral. This has been restored and is now displayed in the museum. We had lunch in a restaurant on the harbour which was very nice before catching the bus back to La Manga. It was a good day out for a change and easy to get there on the local bus.

Update 27th December 2013

There still wasn’t a lot of wind for windsurfing during the latter part of November and most of December so Mel wasn’t out on the water much. We continued to enjoy running and cycling but on a very wet and windy night at the end of November we had our bikes stolen from our pitch. We decided not to replace them until we get back to the UK so that put a stop to any more cycle rides.
Mel has been very keen to improve his Spanish and has kept going to lessons three times each week, two sessions at the C&C Club Rally and one with Delphine. We both enjoy the lesson with Delphine and get a lot from the interactions with other people. This class also includes some Germans, a Belgian lady, a Swedish lady and fellow Brits, so there is an interesting mix of languages spoken! Delphine herself is French but speaks fluent German, Spanish & English.
There was another dinner, dance evening with Dirk on his keyboard at the beginning of December. We sat with Derek & Anne again and there was less people this time so more room for dancing! Once again it was an enjoyable evening with good company and a convivial atmosphere.
It was Mel’s birthday on the 6th December; it was a dry, bright day so we sat outside and enjoyed the warm sunshine. It is also a national holiday in Spain so there was no Spanish lesson and no shops open. There was no wind again so it was a quiet non-eventful day. We went for fish and chips to the campsite restaurant in the evening with Derek & Anne which was very enjoyable.
It was Lesley’s birthday on the 18th December and we hired a car for three days. On the first day we drove to Almeria and visited a few campsites to see if any were suitable for windsurfing/running/cycling. None of them matched up to La Manga although some were nice sites. We had lunch at a place called Retamar which was very pleasant and got back to La Manga about 7pm – it was a lovely day out for my birthday.
The second day we went towards San Javier and called in at a new campsite (Lo Monte) near Pinatar, a very good site but no beach nearby to windsurf. We stopped for coffee, did some shopping and then headed back to La Manga. In the evening we went to the Chinese restaurant in Cabo de Palos. We ordered the food and when it came there was so much we ended up bringing half of it home and eating it the next day. On the third day we went to Parque Mediterraneo at Cartegena with Derek & Anne. We had a look round the shops (Decathalon, Primark, C&A) and then did a big food shop at the Carrefour. We went for fish and chips again at the campsite restaurant with Derek & Anne in the evening.
Christmas week brought more wind and Mel went out windsurfing on several days, including Boxing Day. There was very strong wind during the night on Christmas Eve and we had to make sure everything was well tied down. Many people had their awnings or windbreaks blown down – nightmare! Christmas day was a wet, windy one but we had a lovely lunch in the motor home and watched TV. We spoke to Ella on Christmas morning and she was very excited, opening her presents from Father Christmas. Mel sent messages to all his family and everyone seemed to be having a happy Christmas Day wherever they were – Laura, Dom & Ella in Wrexham; Caroline & Sam in Buxton with Annie; Tom & Ellen in Hong Kong; Phil, Tony & Lynn all in London.

Update 21 November 2013

There hasn’t been very much wind over the last few weeks so not a lot of windsurfing. Mel had his second kite surfing lesson but decided not to carry on for now. It’s expensive and there wasn’t really enough wind for him to give it a good go. Maybe he will try it again in Vassiliki next summer.

We had very heavy rain and a hailstorm with loud thunder and bright lightning on Tuesday 29th October in the evening. The hailstones were quite large and made a lot of noise on the roof of the motor home but fortunately there was no damage. The wind was strong all night and we didn’t get a very peaceful sleep. The next morning there was evidence of the severity of the storm by the amount of mud and debris on the roads around the campsite and the local area. There are no drains so the water just flows like a river along the paths and roads; there are hills behind the campsite so it just runs off them to the coast adding to the volume of water.

Mel ordered some new, larger wheels for his windsurf trolley and they arrived about a week later. He has fitted them to the trolley and they make it much easier to take it to the beach.

Mel continues to go twice a week with Anne & Derek to the C&C club’s Spanish lessons and we are both going to the lesson on Fridays with Delphine. She is a very good teacher and we are getting a lot out of her lessons. She has also set up an evening of conversation for people of all nationalities to talk to others in their non-native language. Many people of all ages came to the first session last week and we sat with a Spanish lady and a Dutch gentleman. We enjoyed it but could have got more from it if we had all been of similar ability in the non-native tongue!

We have been for a couple of bike rides – the first one wasn’t very far and Mel seemed to struggle a bit. When we got back he found that both his tyres were flat which explained why he had found it so hard! We went again the following week after he had blown up his tyres. We went to Los Urruitias which is about 8 miles from the campsite. We had a lovely ham & cheese toastie and café con leche before setting off on our return journey. We decided to try the coast path rather than the road which was a mistake. It was very wet and muddy; Mel immediately fell off his bike and got covered in mud. We turned back and went home the way we had got there – by road!

The first of the Dutch organised dinner and dancing evenings took place on the 8th November. We went along with Derek & Anne and had a very enjoyable time with a very pleasant meal, Dirk playing his key board, dancing Dutch & German style and excellent company. They are quite a different kind of social event and it is very entertaining to watch all the different nationalities singing and dancing together.

I have been for a couple of runs with Isobel who I met last year. She is quite quick and I ran the fastest I have run since being here so it is good training for me. We chat all the way too so that helps to make it seem to go by easier than when I run on my own. Bit like running with my club friends at home.

Mel had his best windsurfing day on Friday 15th November. There was strong wind for most of the day and although he missed the morning because of the Spanish lesson he was out on the water all afternoon. There were lots of windsurfers out as they had all been waiting for quite a few days for there to be some wind.

It has turned very cold this weekend (16th, 17th November) with a bitter northerly wind. It has been sunny in the afternoons so we have still been able to sit out but the heating in the motor home has gone on for the first time this trip. We are hoping it will get warmer again like it did last year so that we can run and cycle in comfort. Mel is also hoping for more wind.

First two weeks in La Manga 2013

We arrived in La Manga, Spain on Friday 11th October after a very successful journey;no delays, good weather etc. We left home on Tuesday 8th October and traveled to Portsmouth, we slept the night at the port and got on the Brittany Ferries Cap Finistre boat to Bilbao on Wednesday morning. The 24 hour crossing was a dream – smooth, efficient and seemed to go by very quickly. Our cabin was very comfortable and we had a good night’s sleep arriving in Bilbao Thursday lunchtime. After a slight detour made by mistake through the city we got on the way south. We had planned to have an overnight stop near Madrid but Mel felt OK so we pressed on and did the 550 miles to La Manga in one go with a few coffee stops and comfort breaks on the way.

We arrived at the campsite at 1am on Friday 11th October and slept on the car park overnight; they do not allow vehicles onto the actual campsite at night (fair enough). But that meant we were on our reserved pitch (PQ41) early Friday and had all day to start setting up and meeting friends from last year. Every time we tried to get something done someone would come along to say hello and we would spend the next 10 minutes catching up!

It took a few days to get the pitch set up so that it works for us but we are a bit wiser after last year’s experience, which helped a lot. The weather has been very hot, sunny and dry so far which has been great for getting set up. We have been out running and it feels great to be back. There has not been much wind so far but there were a couple of days when it was windy enough for Les to go out and Mel to keep an eye on her and to try a few ‘helitacks’! Mel has also rigged up the 8.7m sail he bought from Clive in Vassiliki a couple of times and is getting more familiar with it.

We went to the local market on the first Sunday morning and got a week’s supply of fruit and vegetables (you can’t buy one of anything – it has to be three lettuce for 1 euro, 2kg of oranges for 3.5 euro etc) but it is all very fresh and local so that’s good. We bought some kaki fruit (sharon fruit or persimmon) which we haven’t had before – it is very nice – bit like a plum/apricot and it is just at its best in Spain now. After doing the shopping at the market we like to go to the harbour in Cabo de Palos and have a café con leche and read the Sunday Times.

We have been to the local ‘ferreteria’ (iron mongers) a couple of times – they sell everything except food. We have bought some plumbing stuff so Mel could plumb the (hired) washing machine in the tent. It has been tried out several times already.

We have set the TV up to receive British channels by hooking up to a neighbour’s satellite dish. We made good friends with Anne & Derek last year and they came to Vass in June so they have happily let us use their dish. It has worked very well so far so we haven’t missed any Strictly Come Dancing. The only issue really is that all the times are one hour later here in Spain and sometimes that means programs are past our bedtime!

Mel set up our motor home wifi system which works well so long as the campsite wifi doesn’t stop working. We have spoken to Tom & Ellen in Hong Kong, Laura & Ella in Wrexham and Caroline and Sam in our house in Haslington (she and Sam are staying there whilst we are away).
We went for fish & chips with Anne & Derek on Friday to the campsite restaurant. It is very good value and is also very tasty. We have been to the Camping & Caravan Club’s Spanish lessons which happen twice each week; this is helping remind us of the basics but we have also been to lessons with another group on Friday mornings with Delphine. Yoga is on Tuesday mornings and there is tennis and swimming to maybe fit in as well. Plenty to keep us active!
Mel has booked some kite surfing lessons at the kite surfing school on La Manga strip. He started on Tuesday 22nd with his instructor José and was first of all learning how to handle the kite. Not enough wind the rest of this second week so no more lessons yet. Hopefully some wind next week for either windsurfing or kite surfing.

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