Week 10 of the Grand European Tour
Week 10 – Day 67 – Monday 4th of December 2017
Benidorm – 0 miles
Week 10 of the Grand European Tour
We arrived in Benidorm yesterday afternoon and booked into Camping Villamar which featured earlier this year on the Channel 5 documentary series, Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun. Camping Villamar was shown in most episodes, with their Entertainment Manager ‘Happy Days’ one of the documentary’s main characters. We booked here out of curiosity to see it for ourselves and also for the proximity to our neighbours hotel.
If you missed the series, Channel 5 described it as follows – “Fancy swapping the damp and grey of the UK for a new cheap-as-chips life in the sun? This new Benidorm-based observational series charts the lives of Brits who have done exactly that. Caravan parks across the sunny Spanish coastal town are bursting at the seams with British ex-pats blinging up their statics, tarting up their tourers and tucking into tapas on the cheap. Local business owners slog 24/7 to make a profit in a town where two pints can cost just one euro.”
Today was a lazy day. We decided to go nowhere and do nothing. I spent most of the morning configuring a new system for sending out e mails after I post a new blog (apologies if you received 2 e mails last week – but better that than no e mails after recent problems) and with the tests working OK, I posted last weeks blog at lunchtime.
After lunch we got out the chairs and sat outside in the very warm sunshine until about 4ish when we made use of the sites facilities and had a swim in the indoor pool, our first of the trip. I say we had a swim, but in reality it was The Navigator that had the swim, and, as I swim like a brick, I did some aqua aerobics!!
Week 10 – Day 68 – Tuesday 5th of December 2017
Benidorm – 0 miles
Another cold night, in fact some washing left out on a line overnight, like our towels from our swim, were stiff as a board! We were up fairly early as this morning we were cycling into Benidorm to meet John and Margaret, our next door neighbours from back in the real world, and their friend Amy from Tarbert, all here enjoying a few weeks of winter sunshine. We met them at their super looking hotel then went for a walk to their favourite coffee shop. Amy and I shared a pot of tea and it was refreshing (boom boom) to see it brought to us brewing away in the pot rather than my previous tea encounters in France where the method of service was a cup of hot water and the teabag still in the paper wrapper, to then have to make it yourself by dunking the teabag into the cup. The British influence in Benidorm was highlighted in that one small encounter.
After the refreshments we continued our walk, ending up on the esplanade and our first look at the famous Levante beach which was fairly busy with people strolling about and quite a few actually in swimwear on the beach itself.
We circled back to the hotel and said our goodbyes to the trio before we cycled towards the old town and then onto the esplanade before having lunch at a beachfront restaurant where we managed to get a table at the front in the warm sunshine. We got talking to the couple who kindly vacated the table for us and it turns out they are fellow motorhomers over in Benidorm on a 2 week package break as the woman had sustained ligament damage so preventing them from bringing their van this year. She hoped to be fully fit to take up their roles again as Caravan Club Wardens at Winchester when the season gets going around Easter.
Both of us had not had a haircut since the week before we left back at the end of September and although it would not take much explaining for me to instruct someone what to do with mine (a No2), The Navigator needed to explain in great detail what she needed done to someone who spoke the Queens English so we headed for Hepburns, the British owned hairdressers we had seen featured in the Channel 5 series, and we were lucky enough to be fitted in there and then. Not only did I get my No2, but also a zero on top and my eyebrows trimmed for the princely sum of €5. Talk about Bargain Brits in the Sun! After buying a few groceries we headed back to the van around 4, just in time for some more aqua aerobics, or so I had hoped, but The Navigator would not go near the pool so soon after her new hair do.
Week 10 – Day 69 – Wednesday 6th of December 2017
Benidorm – 0 miles
We had been informed that the weekly Benidorm market was on this morning but as we did not need anything we decided to have a lazy morning on the site and cycle into Benidorm after lunch, which we did, only to find the market still going strong at 1pm. We chained up the bikes and had a walk round it but were disappointed to find it was mostly tatty clothes and handbags etc on offer, not even a remote patch on a French open air market where they concentrate on fresh local food.
We cycled along to the end of the Levante beach and had a walk around what is known as the ‘old town’ but it did not look historical in any way, but at least older than the high rise apartments and hotels. We had a walk around the ‘old town’ and on to see the next bay, which had another great beach and was not as ‘full on’ as the Levante beach.
On the way back to the bikes we came across a narrow lane full of tapas restaurants and so we succumbed to the lure of a couple each with drinks. Well, that was until the waiter informed us that the house specialty was sizzling garlic prawns and I took pity on him and ordered a plate to help his commission… Superb was our verdict and on a par with anything we have tasted in San Sebastian.
After this unintentional pit stop we decided to cycle from one end of the Levante beach esplanade to the other to work off the calorie intake we had just consumed. I mounted the GoPro onto a fitment on the handlebar and filmed the journey to give you a flavour of Benidorm on a December day on the Spanish Bank holiday for Constitution day, a celebration of the day Spain became a democracy and the 6th of December has been a national holiday in Spain since 1978. The day is seen as the start of the December holidays and a long weekend is normally taken in conjunction with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 2 days later on the 8th of December, a day that celebrates the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin all of her life. For Roman Catholics in Spain, it is observed as a day of obligation with required church attendance..
BENIDORM – THE VERDICT
We had never been to Benidorm before, only seeing it on the comedy program of the same name and Bargain Brits in the Sun and programs like these. Our neighbours have been coming here since the late 60s and still visit for some winter sunshine twice a year in December and March, and I can see why. We were fortunate to be there when it was warm, but airy in the evening. I think it is a very different place in the summer when the resort is full to the brim with a younger age group, but if you are of a certain age, the winter is certainly the time to come and because of the fierce competition for business, food, drink and entertainment, as well as flights to Alicante are very cheap which is another obvious attraction. Would we come back? I don’t think we would rule it out, especially when our roaming in a motorhome days are over. As to Camping Villamar, it was spotlessly clean with no complaints at all, but glad to be there in the winter and would hate to be there in the summer months. It is camping on an industrial scale!
Week 10 – Day 70 – Thursday 7th of December 2017
Benidorm to Cala de Finestrat O Morales – 11 miles
Today we left Camping Villamar to head to El Campello just down the coast but we have 4 nights to go until we book into our site there and so the plan is to wild camp until Monday. After we left the site we followed directions for Alicante and found a big Mercadona supermarket within a few miles and stopped for a ‘big shop’, if €38 can be called that, although it is the most we have spent so far on the trip in one day for grocery shopping. While The Navigator was stowing things away, I consulted the Park4Night App and found a car park right on the beach at Cala de Finestrat O Morales, a few miles to the south of Benidorm. The bay here is not on the same scale as the 2 main ones at Benidorm but is attractive none the less.
If you are of a jealous disposition you may not want to read this paragraph so you may want to skip on to tomorrows blog post. We arrived at the car park at mid day to find we were the only motorhome here, never a great sign as it sows the seed in your mind that there may be restrictions and you have missed the notice saying ‘no motorhomes’ or ‘no overnight parking’. The only sign of any relevance was one forbidding vehicles over 3,500kg so we were OK as that is Louis official loaded limit. We had lunch then set off for a walk to the nearby few shops and bars which didn’t take long and returned within half an hour to get organised for an afternoon on the beach. Yes folks, as the UK was affected by Storm Caroline and temperatures plunged into minus, we were basking on this beach on the 7th of December! Although there was a slight breeze coming off the water it was very warm, so warm that The Navigator was down to one layer, now that is warm! From the beach we could could see 2 police officers walking past the van but we returned later to thankfully find no parking ticket. In fact over the next few hours the police drove around the car park quite a few times without looking at us so we knew we were OK to stay the night. Just as the light began to fade around 6ish we were sandwiched between 2 Spanish vans for the night.
Did I just say we were OK to stay the night? About 8pm blue flashing lights appeared at the front of the van and the 3 motorhomers were hailed by the police car loudspeaker to come out of our vans. I got the drift, if not the detail of what he was saying and assumed he didn’t want hands up, or on our heads as as my Spanish is still non existent! I tried the smile and ‘I am from Ardrishaig’ and ‘I know nothing’ tack in a Manuel from Fawlty Towers accent but it didn’t work, and neither did the protestations of the Spanish motorhome drivers, so, within 10 minutes we were off the car park looking for somewhere to bed down for the night. We found a good spot 15 minutes away and had a quiet night there in the company of another British van.
Week 10 – Day 71 – Friday 8th of December 2017
Cala de Finestrat O Morales to El Campello – 32 miles
After studying our options for the next few nights we decided to head for the site we were booked into to spend the next 5 weeks. On the way we found a Repsol garage thanks to the myLPG.eu APP which lists all the garages with an LPG pump (known as GPL in France and Spain), location and directions etc so I filled up the gas tanks before heading for the site. The site I had chosen for our prolonged stay over the festivities is Camping El Jardin in El Campello, near Alicante. If you click on the link to the campsite you will see they do a motorhome special deal for €17 a day but if you have an ACSI card it drops to €11 a night if you stay over 30 nights, which we are. If you are a motorhome owner it is well worth getting an ACSI card before you leave for mainland Europe. It is a card which entitles you to discounts out of season, usually before Easter and after September, but every site is different, as are the rates which are either €11, €13, €15, €17 or €19 depending on location, facilities etc. You pay about £15 for the card and 2 huge site directories but the payback is considerable, as, for example, we will be here 38 nights, times a saving of €6 a night = a whopping €266 saving. Kerching!
We caught them a bit on the hop turning up today as we were booked in from Monday, and someone was still on the pitch we had been allocated, but they found us a temporary pitch until then. It was a scorcher so we sat out and watched some British couples play Pétanque / Boules on the dedicated area opposite the van. Usually when we arrive somewhere we set off for a walk or a cycle to get our bearings but as we are here for more than a month there is plenty of time for that, or, as the Spanish say – mañana – an adverb I am reliably informed means ‘in the indefinite future’ which sounds about right in this context…
Week 10 – Day 72 – Saturday 9th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
Our long term pitch became available this morning so we moved onto it, pitching the van to one side to allow plenty of room to sit out and soak up the sunshine, well at least The Navigator will be as she works on her tan. When I had hair, it was fair. Now bald, the consequence of which means I tend to burn quickly so I ration my time in the sun. The site washing machine was put to good use and a few little jobs were done, but not too many, mañana remember!
Before we left on our 9 week European tour in 2015 we invested in a CADAC gas BBQ, a superb piece of kit that I heartily recommend. The Campingaz cylinder bought at the time had lasted us well but a new one was now needed to allow me (mans work) to cook outdoors for the rest of the trip so I strapped the old one onto the back of the bike and we set off to find a replacement. First stop was in 100 yards at the site reception but their cylinders were bigger than ours so the woman suggested we cycle to Carrefour, a supermarket about the size of 3 football pitches which sells everything under the sun – apart from a Campingaz cylinder our size! The girl on the customer services desk typed a name of a small backstreet DIY store she thought would stock it into my phone satnav, and after another 15 minute cycle we found it – and it was closed! So we gave up and cycled back to the campsite.
Week 10 – Day 73 – Sunday 10th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
On a Sunday there is a market 200 yards from the campsite so we walked round to have a look but it wasn’t up to much, more a car boot sale with benefits, the main benefit being the fruit and veg stalls which were incredibly cheap so we took advantage and stocked up for the week. The Navigator thought she would have paid at least 4 times as much at the Co-op in Tarbert if she had still been working down there instead of swanning around Europe. As I mentioned last week, this is orange growing country and there are many varieties on offer here but our best purchase at the market was 2kg of tangerines for €1 and I have to confess a bit of an addiction for them. All part of my new healthy lifestyle, honest Doctor! As well as the tangerines another fruit I am consuming in a moderate quantity are grapes in the form of white wine, and at €1 for a very decent quality bottle from Lidl, it helps me easily beat the 5 a day recommendations.
On our return from the market we sat out in the the sunshine, and its pushing 70 again today, no snow or ice here, although there is a bit of a breeze, but its a warm breeze!
My second cousin, Maureen, posted the following picture of our street back home on her Facebook page the other day with a sunrise over the Loch.
And this is our ‘street’ for the next 5 weeks…
I have been teasing slightly about how lucky we have been with the weather so far, but this online free newspaper in Spain claims there is a “historic” storm on the way on Sunday. As I type this on Sunday evening we have had another glorious day so the storm is either very late, or this is another example of the Fake News we hear so much about!
To put this week into context here is a map of our route…
We settle into life at El Campello in the run up to the festive period and I hope to put a dent into the 123 Seconds In… videos backlog.
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