Week 18 of the Grand European Tour – Week 18 – Gibraltar to Jerez via Cadíz
Week 18 – Day 123 – Monday 29th of January 2018
Gibraltar – 0 miles
Louis celebrated his 10th birthday back in June last year and he has seen all types of climatic conditions and not been phased by anything that nature has thrown at him. So far.
Last night was incredible. We arrived at La Linea de la Conceptión on the border with Gibraltar yesterday morning and the driving conditions were challenging, but tolerable with the wind gusting, but we’ve driven in worse conditions in the past. The site we are on is at the marina with The Rock in front of us and the yachts directly behind us. The wind increased greatly overnight and the rain was battering down on the van roof. The noise of the wind itself coupled to the sound of it whistling through the rigging of the yachts, added to the van being buffeted from the side, meant it was very uncomfortable and sleep was nigh impossible. The Navigator, bless her, felt queazy and got up to put clothes on and lie on the bench seat at the front as the motion high at the back on the fixed bed was akin to actually being on one of the yachts bobbing about in the marina.
With morning breaking the gale showed no sign of abating, in fact it was getting much worse with Radio Gibraltar reporting gusts of 100km an hour with trees being blown over, schools closed, scaffolding collapsing around buildings etc so we hunkered down for a day in the van. Between us and the Rock is the runway for Gibraltar Airport and a few planes managed to land and take off yesterday afternoon, but not today, the scheduled Easy Jet flights due at 11am and 4pm from London were diverted to Malaga. I know that there have been gales back home in the time we have been away, and although this one matches them for velocity, it is still reasonably mild air that is rocking Louis.
We had a 20 minute walk around the marina this afternoon but it wasn’t pleasant to be out so we retreated back to the van for a cuppa and that was the sum of it for today with much the same forecast for tomorrow.
Week 18 – Day 124 – Tuesday 30th of January 2018
Gibraltar – 0 miles
The day started early. 3am early when the alarm on the Hymer van next to us burst into life as it has done on 6 random occasions since it arrived on Sunday and parked beside us. The only saving grace for it was that out of dozens of empty spaces on this Aire he chose to park on the windward side of Louis so sparing us more buffeting than we actually experienced. Because of this incident The Navigator had difficulty getting back to sleep so it was 10am before she woke, but no harm done as it is still blowing a gale with frequent rain showers too. As I was waiting for The Navigator to regain consciousness I watched the crew of a large sailing yacht get ready to put to sea which is about as close to madness as you can get in these conditions. The only other event of note this morning was a large RAF plane taking off.
After The Navigator lost the battle to make sense of the instructions at the on-site laundry and someone then sabotaged her wash by opening the door of the washing machine prematurely, we had lunch and decided that, although it was blowing a gale there didn’t seem any prospect of rain so we decided to walk into Gibraltar for a wander about. The only thing I really want to do here is get the cable-car to the summit and take in the view and history of the place, is not on because of the on going gale so it was just a general walk about.
Clearing customs wasn’t a problem and neither was walking across the runway as todays flight from and to London was diverted again. Its not an easy walk into the centre of town as the pavements are narrow and the route is not particularly well signposted down Winston Churchill Avenue. After entering the archway that leads to The Grand Battery through the massive defensive walls of the Grand Cassements Gate you find yourself in a square comprising mostly tourist attractions and fish and chip shops with the main pedestrianised street leading off with shops, some very recognisable from back home like Marks and Spencer, and also a fair amount of tourist tat shops and off sales selling very cheap booze and cigarettes.
After walking the length of Main Street we set sail for one of Gibs other main attractions for tourists from dear old Blighty, Morrisons. This store was featured on a fly-on-the-wall documentary series a year or two back and considering it is Gibs only major supermarket it was a big disappointment. Yes it had everything that you would expect a Morrisons back home to have, but at a fair old mark up at that. We bought a few things, but considering that we had not shopped in a British supermarket for 4 months now, and given the quality and cheapness of the Spanish supermarkets, it was easy to limit ourselves to a few things. Diesel at 80p a litre caught the eye, but I’m not sure it would be worthwhile risking a customs check to bring the van across the border to top it up. We had a cuppa at the neighbouring McDonalds before heading back, and again was surprised at the prices on offer, over £7 for most meals, which, when its not that long since we had 2 Burger King meals for €5 in Malaga, shows the value on offer in Spain.
Because the weather was not conducive to my usual shorts and sandals, I had long trousers on today with socks and shoes and this did for my feet and I was in agony walking back to the van, as was The Navigator, but it was her back that was troubling her, a condition she still blames on childbirth, some 30 odd years ago!
Gibraltar – the verdict – glad to have ticked the box to say I’ve been, but not sure I would come back if I was in southern Spain again. To me it was expensive compared with Spain and only diesel, booze and cigarettes were notably cheaper. If the cable cars are not operational again tomorrow, I think we’ll call it a draw and move on, as there is more of Spain to see before crossing into Portugal.
Week 18 – Day 125 – Wednesday 31st of January 2018
Gibraltar to Conil de la Frontera – 85 miles
Its a draw after all and we are moving on today, its still blowing gale, although marginally less so than the previous few days but its still grey, overcast and chilly so its onwards away from Gibraltar, no great pics from the summit of The Rock, no pics of The Navigator with the Barbary Apes, altogether a bit of a disappointment given we have traveled almost 4,000 miles to be here but we can’t complain about the weather overall as we have had 4 great months on this trip. The next city on the way north is Cadíz, but we are taking the coast road and if anywhere takes our fancy we will stop off.
The road out of La Línea de la Concepción is straightforward and is signposted for Algerciras, a fairly big industrial town that is signposted for a long way up the coastal highway as the Spanish do not really acknowledge Gibraltar, so don’t signpost it until the last few miles. As you skirt round Algerciras the road begins to climb and it is not often that you drive at the same height as wind turbines but that is the case here. The land around is much greener that up to now, and dear reader, there are cows and sheep merrily grazing so my quest to see some farm animals in Spain has only taken 4 months to be achieved. The view up high is lovely looking over the Atlantic now, yes the Atlantic, as since leaving Gibraltar the sea to our left is no longer the Mediterranean and the weather has brightened up and is now sunny, but still chilly.
Coming down the other side we pass the signs to Tarifa, another coastal town and therein lies another disappointment. In researching the route for this trip I had read of other motorhomers staying at Tarifa and from there you can either go on your own, or take an organised tour to Tangier in Morocco on a fast ferry which takes about 50 minutes and includes a guided bus tour of the Tangier area, lunch in a local restaurant, and guided walking tour of the city and markets before returning in the evening. Even although Tangier is not the best city to visit in Morocco, this trip sounded good, if only to tick the ‘been to Africa box’, but if the wind was too strong for a 6 minute gondola ride up The Rock, it was certainly too strong for 2 x 50 minute trips on a ferry there and back.
Continuing up the coast past some whitewashed villages, one in particular caught the eye, Vejer de la Frontera, an imposing whitewashed hilltop town where apparently fighting bulls are bred in the neighbourhood and a running of the bulls is held annually at Easter.
Not much further on the Park4Night App said there was a motorhome Aire in El Palmar, a small surf and beach resort so we headed there but could not find the Aire, nor hardly any living souls.
We then headed on to the next town a few miles further on along the coast, the much bigger Conil de la Frontera where we parked on the front beside the beach, just where a river enters the sea here. One of the features about driving along coastal Spain is the huge number of dried up river beds you cross over, which when called upon funnel the water off the mountains and into the sea. On this drive from Gibraltar we had seen lots of fields of lush grass being grazed by cattle and rivers full of water, a sure sign that this Atlantic coast gets a higher rainfall than the Med coast.
After a pleasant lunch, during which we saw an eagle gliding about 30 feet above the van we headed for the town’s Mercadona where we stocked up again. The area looked quite pleasant so we found an ACSI campsite and booked in for 2 nights.
Week 18 – Day 126 – Thursday 1st of February 2018
Conil de la Frontera – 0 miles
Not a lot to say about today as we did nothing, no walk, no cycle, nothing of any consequence, just relaxed. Because I was plugged into electricity I used the laptop to write up the Blog for The Alhambra Palace, most of it anyway, and accompanied The Navigator to the reception office where she swapped a couple of novels as she is getting through them at a rate of knots. We also had a chat with a couple from Durham who had been in Spain almost 2 months, but only on 2 sites, La Manga and here.
Week 18 – Day 127 – Friday 2nd of February 2018
Conil de la Frontera to Cádiz – 34 miles
This site was found from the ACSI book and was €15 a night, a bit steep for January, but it had a fair few Germans and Brits in. Most of the Brits we spoke to seemed to be here for a while as both motorhomes and caravans had awnings out and assorted equipment. Don’t get me wrong it was a good big site and the facilities were excellent, best showers so far for The Navigator, and for me it was the first site I’ve been on that had a jetwash which we put to good use before leaving, all of that was welcome, but the site was a good few miles from the beach and the town was 70 odd miles from Gibraltar and 30 odd from Cadiz, OK for the caravanners to get about in their cars but not so convenient for the long stay motorhomers.
We washed and serviced the van and set off to head for Cádiz further up the coast but stopped off at a wildcamping spot just out of the town we had been told about and it did have an amazing view out to sea and a super sandy beach but The Navigator didn’t fancy staying here as there was no easy way down to the beach, and although it looks summery in the pictures below – the wind made it a tad fresh!
I had picked an Aire about 10 miles to the north of Cádiz but though it was too early to go there so decided to head for the city and get our bearings, have lunch then go and park up. That was the plan but the great thing about having a motorhome and this type of holiday is that you can be flexible and change your mind. And thats what we did, change our minds, as we found a car park with motorhomes in it at the container port within an easy walk of the old town where for the princely sum of €3 you could stay overnight. No facilities at all, but for €3 a night you can’t complain, especially as we had prepared the van for such an opportunity.
After lunch we headed for the old town and after picking up a free street map from the tourist information office we started to explore. The first pleasant plaza was outside the town hall with fountains and a few stalls selling crafts and home made jewellery etc.
This led onto a street which took us to the city cathedral, another ancient and imposing structure built between 1722 and 1838 and known as “The Cathedral of The Americas” as it was built with money from the trade between Spain and America.
The 18th century was a golden age for Cádiz, a major seaport then and still to this day. Cádiz is situated on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea and is, in most respects, a typically Andalusian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well-preserved historical landmarks.
The older part of Cádiz within the remnants of the city walls is commonly referred to as the Old Town and is characterised by the antiquity of its various quarters and while the Old Town’s street plan consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cádiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted with numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Columbus from the New World.
We had a lovely afternoon wandering about taking in the sights and getting our bearings for a full day in the city tomorrow. I was the only person in the city in shorts and sandals, and The Navigator was dressed for a sunny winters day – and she was still feeling cold…
So there we were, back at the van at a great location, a hop, skip, and a jump from a lovely old city, what could possibly go wrong?
I am the first to admit that I’m not in the first flush of youth, but even when I was in my first flush of youth I have never in my life gone OUT to a disco that STARTED at 1am. We went to bed, read and settled down for a good nights sleep when at 1am loud voices and the monotonous drum/base beat that passes for music nowadays started just across the road from us, and wait for it – it went on till 7am!! I managed some sleep but the poor old Navigator needs as close to silence as she can get before drifting off, and she got 6 hours of unrelenting din!
Week 18 – Day 128 – Saturday 3rd of February 2018
Cádiz – 0 miles
We had a good look round the old town of Cádiz yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Today would be more of the same but with 2 missions – find the market and find a restaurant we passed yesterday that had a great €8 menu and have lunch there. The old town is a maze of narrow streets not always adhering to a rectangular grid pattern so navigation is not as easy as it could be.
The streets were noticeably busier today as most are in Spain on a Saturday with families out enjoying time together and people getting their supplies in for the weekend. As we wandered about the feature that stood out that wasn’t as noticeable elsewhere was the number of tiny little neighbourhood shops that had no signage, just open doorways where you could just see what their speciality was, like fruit and veg, hardware, confectionery etc and as there were no large Mercadona supermarkets or the like, they seemed to be providing a necessary service, if not making a fortune for their owners.
One of the features of this trip around France and Spain so far has been the amazing quality of the markets, especially for fresh produce, and this market in Cádiz is right up there with the very best of them. Most of the stalls were about 10 feet wide with a simple name above them like Diego etc, giving each one a personal identity as many were selling exactly the same things, be it fish, meat, or fruit and veg.
As well as the official permanent stalls there were a lot of men setting up wooden tables and selling different seafood items, but in the main it was sea urchins which they would half with a big knife or cleaver and sell on a paper plate with a plastic spoon or fork to get the edible centre out. The Navigator who loves her seafood, gave them a wide berth!
There were also many stalls selling drinks and eats which became incredibly busy after mid-day as people had completed their shopping and it was now time to relax, drink, eat and chat. We left the market to find the restaurant we intended to eat at, only to find it was not doing the special €8 menu we had seen yesterday, obviously a week-day special to attract custom when there were not so many people about. Although it was a lovely warm sunny day if you were in the shade it was noticeably cooler and this restaurant’s outside tables were in the shade, so we decided to return to the market and eat outside in the sunshine and very pleasant it was too, even though we had to stand.
After lunch we continued to wander about and found a street with more recognisable larger shops and The Navigator treated herself to one of her favourite brands of eau-de-cologne which was much cheaper than back home. We passed through the square in front of the imposing cathedral and had a seat in the sun in the square in front of the town hall to relax and watch the passers by. At about 4ish we headed back to the van for a cuppa and a comfy seat and as the van had been baking in the heat all day we both dozed for a while before dinner and an evening of podcasts. There was a glimmer of hope, that this being a very religious country, the disco would not start at 1am on a Sunday morning, so we thought we might get some sleep.
Week 18 – Day 129 – Sunday 4th of February 2018
Cádiz to Jerez – 30 miles
It was a grey morning to wake up to with some rain overnight. The disco had been in full swing again, but as I had moved the van further away from just in front of it, there was much less noise, however, a container ship had arrived late last night and moored just behind us and the dockers got to work overnight unloading and loading it again so there was some noise from that too, but we both slept better than our first night here as exhaustion had taken its toll on us from walking round Cádiz all day yesterday.
We tidied up and headed for our second last port of call in Spain, Jerez, or Jerez de la Frontera to give it its full name. Jerez is known as the city of sherry, flamenco, horses and motorcycles. In 2013, Jerez was the European Capital of Wine due to its fame as the home of sherry wine, a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town. The following year, 2014, it was the world’s first Motorbike Capital as since 1987 the Grand Prix motorcycle racing has been held at the Circuito de Jerez in early May. On this weekend, the city welcomes tens of thousands of bikers from around the world. The same circuit has hosted several Formula 1 Grand Prix, including the 1997 final race of the season, which was marred with controversy for a notable high-profile championship-deciding incident between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve.
That little bit of background to Jerez helps pad out todays entry as, after arriving at the Aire the rain came on and we decided to stay in and relax in the van. As we were checking in to the Aire, the couple who run it gave us a complimentary glass of Sherry each, which was a nice touch, and, much to the annoyance of The Navigator, I finished mine off, even though I don’t particularly like sherry.
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To put this week into context here is the route we travelled…
We explore Jerez and Seville then head west into Portugal…
Stay tuned to find out where we end up…
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