Winter Trip to Spain
Christmas and New Year in La Manga
The weather continued to be very good over the Christmas period, sunny, dry and warm almost every day. As we woke up each morning the sun came out and we planned our day, we were getting used to saying ‘another lovely day’!
Mel had to fly back to the UK on the 21st December, unfortunately, to attend Agnes’ funeral. He was back on the 23rd and it all went like clockwork – return flight from Murcia to Gatwick, car hire for driving to and from Cornwall, Premier Inn accommodation for one night in Hayle and one at Gatwick. A sad occasion but he was glad to be able to be there, seeing the family and saying farewell to a much loved Gran to Caroline, Laura and Tom.
Christmas Eve involved some shopping at the Spar in Cabo de Palos, Mel running in the Calblanque National Park again and a bit of windsurfing. We watched the Strictly Come Dancing Final as we now had access to IPlayer on the lap top so were able to catch up on some programmes we had missed. We went to a fellow windsurfer’s ‘parcelo’ for drinks and nibbles and met other Brits who are staying here for the winter.
On Christmas Day we went for a run together into Cabo de Palos and after coffee and showers we got ready to go for Christmas lunch in the campsite restaurant along with many others. The food and service were good and we sat with some folk who we had not met before so it was interesting to chat to them about how they came to be in Spain in December.
Boxing Day was another lovely day so we ran and then there was a sponsored swim taking place in the sea so we went to cheer them on. We barbecued our steaks in the afternoon and sat outside to eat them as it was warm and sunny. What a great way to spend Boxing Day!
Pictures of us barbecueing/eating outside
On the day after Boxing Day we went on the motor bike to Cartegena via La Union and through the hills – a very scenic route. Cartegena has a lot of historic sites to visit; the city has been working hard to recover some of these sites which had been built on or covered up in some way. We went to the Roman Theatre Museum and the Castle and walked around the streets and harbour front. We stopped for lunch on the harbour and sat outside in the sunshine once again.
We called in at the retail park again in Cartegena and managed to get some coffee for our ‘Tassimo’ from the large Carrefour supermarket there. Had a quick look round Decathelon to see what there was just in case we (Mel) needed anything! When we got back to La Manga the parcel from Towtal had arrived with the replacement relay for the bike rack lights – good service.
Mel took me running on the hills again. It is really good having this national park so close with so many running routes in a lovely location. You can get to the beaches on the other side of Mar Menor which, at this time of year are deserted.
Pictures of running in the hills.
The days between Christmas and New Year were filled with running, relaxing, reading and enjoying the nice weather and the local area. We spent New Year’s Eve relaxing in the motor home and watching a few TV programmes. At midnight there was a firework display on the beach so eventually we went to sleep after everything had quietened down.
We are thoroughly enjoying the lifestyle in Spain and loving the weather and the opportunity to run in spectacular countryside and beach side locations. We have been living in the motor home for over a month and it is proving to be very successful for us. We are managing to make it work for us without too much difficulty. Already considering how we can do this again next year but for longer!
First two weeks
It took us a few days to get set up on our pitch (PQ43) but eventually we had the safari room erected, the windsurf equipment ready for action, the push bikes good to go and the motor bike revved up! The weather was warm, sunny, dry and the blue, cloud free skies made us feel the effort to get here was so far well worth it. We started running straight away; we were feeling ready to get going again after a week of doing no running whilst we were travelling.
Picture of motor home set up on pitch plus some running pics.
We have quickly got to know people near to us on the site – fellow Brits, windsurfers, runners, cyclists i.e. like-minded folk here for similar reasons to us. Everyone is very friendly and helpful – Mel acquired a trolley to take his windsurf kit to the beach on the first day and was already being invited to join the other windsurfers out on the water.
Picture of Mel taking his trolley to beach
We sampled the campsite restaurant for Sunday dinner and it was a nice meal at a reasonable price. The shop on the site is a fairly well stocked Spar with fresh bread daily and a meat counter and vegetables/fruit etc available. The staff in the reception speak all languages and try hard to answer queries satisfactorily.
On the third day I followed a fellow runner who turned out to be a Scottish lady called Isabel who has been here for a while and for several years previously. She ran along with me and showed me a way back to the campsite along the beach. We arranged to run together again later in the week so that she could show me an off-road route through the National Park across from the campsite.
Pictures of us running with Isobel
After she had shown us one route Mel went again on his own and found other routes and deserted beaches. Then we went on our bikes to do more exploring and discovered that it a big expanse of amazing landscapes and a multitude of running possibilities unbelievably close to where we are camping.
Pictures of hills and us on bikes on hills
Mel went out windsurfing 3 times in the first week. One of these days in particular was very windy and he had a good time planing out there with his newly acquired mates! I cycled along the beach and took some pictures of him on the other side of the bay. The next week the wind disappeared and there was no windsurfing but plenty of looking at the water just in case!
Pictures of Mel windsurfing and on the beach
On the second Sunday we went on the motorbike to the outdoor market at the local town (Cabo de Palos). It was a labyrinth of stalls selling all sorts of goods from perfume to clothes, olives to chickens (cooked!), fruit and vegetables to shoes! Very interesting for our first visit but I guess you get used to this if you go often. There seems to be a local market on every day at a town near us if you needed to go to one. We had café con leche and churros sat outside a café in the sunshine and did some people watching.
Picture of us sitting at the cafe
On my birthday we drove along La Manga strip on the motorbike to the marina where the ferry goes across the bay. We timed it wrong so didn’t actually go on the ferry but it was a lovely day again so we sat outside a café and had another café con leche.
Pictures at the marina and us sting outside café
La Manga (The Sleeve) strip is a 20km long strip of land, maximum 300m wide with apartment blocks and hotels all the way. Looks a bit like Miami beach (apparently) but at this time of year it is completely deserted and closed up; no people around, no shops open, no restaurants serving food. We found a windsurf beach we had visited 9 years ago where Mel learnt to sail a catamaran, again nobody there now.
Pictures of beach where we were 9 years ago
We went back to Cabo de Palos harbour and had lunch outside one of the restaurants there. I had mixed fish – interesting and delicious, Mel had salmon, a bit of a different way to spend my birthday.
Pictures on Cabo de Palos harbour
First two weeks in La Manga
Mel and I are currently in our motor home in La Manga on the Costa Calida in Spain. It is mid December and we are sitting outside enjoying the warm weather.
This is our first trip abroad in our motor home and we arrived safely after a 7 day journey from home to here.
We left Cheshire on the 1st December and travelled down to Folkestone on a lovely dry and sunny Saturday. We had an overnight stop before crossing the channel using Eurotunnel on Sunday 2nd December.
After a very comfortable night we set off bright and early for the Channel Tunnel, finding it with ease and checking in was a dream! We drove on to the train with no problem at all and within 35 minutes we were driving off in France. We would definitely do it this way again as with the help of a well-known supermarket’s vouchers it cost us a mere £27 return. What I had forgotten to take into account was that France is one hour ahead of us in December so we actually started the driving at 12 o’clock midday.
We were heading for an overnight stop over south of Rouen but because of the later start than planned we ended up trying to find it in the dark – not the best way to do it. We parked up on a very dark large gravel area behind the community centre in a small village. We were the only van there and there was no electric or water so we switched on the gas, locked the doors and settled in for the night.
We set off again on Monday on the next stage of the journey past Le Mans, across the Loire and to Loudun. We cut the day short by stopping at Chalais, an aire just off the main road. It was a bit lonely though until another motor home pulled up alongside us and made us more relaxed. It is a good place to stop from the point of view that you have not gone off the route at all and all the facilities are available free – we hadn’t got used to this being the case a lot of the time in France.
The next day we continued on around Bordeaux which was very busy. We just took our time and it was no problem. We were heading for Cap Breton for our next stop over. There is a massive aire behind the sand dunes and several vans were already parked up. There was no electricity or water though but we thought we would manage again with gas and the water we had on board. We went for a stroll over the dunes and watched the Atlantic waves crashing in on the beach. When we went back to the van the wind just got stronger and stronger and as we looked out of the windows, one by one the other vans moved off. We decided to do the same as we didn’t want to be battered all night by gale force winds. It was a bit hairy as we drove off – we were not sure where we were heading for – and then a large branch broke off a tree and hit the cab. Fortunately there was no damage but it scared us, the bang as it hit us was very loud. We drove on very nervously now through Bayonne, passed Biarritz and onto St Jean-de-Luz. As we drove through the town we spotted a number of motor homes parked up by the side of the road on a very crowded aire. We turned around and pulled in but were very unsure of whether to try and squeeze in to one of the spaces or carry on. A very helpful fellow Brit jumped out of his motor home and suggested we parked parallel with the road in front of his and several other motor homes. It was not a very peaceful night however, mainly due to very heavy rain pounding on our roof but also the proximity of the road. We left fairly early and headed for Spain via Irun to Pamplona. This is an interesting part of the route climbing up through the mountains and through several tunnels. It was cold and there was snow at the top but none lying on the road. On the map this route looks very winding but you hardly notice it as trucks heavily use the route and they have clearly improved it so they can go this way safely.
We carried on to Zaragoza and found the campsite where we planned to stay for the next night. The following day we set off and took a very interesting road, winding through the countryside and hills with not much traffic on it. One of our cupboard doors flew open at one point and we pulled off the road to shut it. The drop down was a bit steep and Mel had to reverse back a bit as the wheels were spinning. At this precise moment a Spanish police vehicle came up behind us peeping and gesticulating furiously! As we came to a halt he approached us and asked to see our documents and queried why we were reversing onto the road. Of course we weren’t actually trying to do that but he didn’t understand and said he would have to fine us as it was illegal to do this. Mel took him to where our wheels had been spinning and did his best to explain what had happened. Very quickly the policeman understood and instead of fining us said he would caution us and help us to get back on the road by stopping the traffic and watching us out. Spanish police can be very helpful!
We made one more overnight stop just off the main road from Valencia to Madrid. On the seventh and last day of our journey we drove via Alamanza and Elche towards Murcia. The ring road around Murcia was fine although a bit busy. We arrived at Caravaning La Manga in the afternoon of the 7th December, very pleased with ourselves and looking forward to spending a few weeks windsurfing, running, cycling and relaxing.
We managed to get a good pitch on the massive campsite not far from the beach and near to some fellow windsurfers. Mel very quickly made some friends to go sailing with and acquired a trolley to take his kit to the beach. Everyone is very friendly and helpful, lots of Brits, Germans and Dutch here for the winter. We think we are going to enjoy this! Should we come earlier next year? For longer? All things to think about!