Week 11 of the Grand European Tour
Week 11 – Day 74 – Monday 11th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
Today was an enforced lazy day. Our second day of rain in 74 days kept us in the van all day so while the dramatic headline of the EuroNews online paper I posted yesterday did not come to pass, ie there was no storm of biblical proportions – it was still not a day to go outside. I topped and tailed last weeks blog and posted it in the morning and the Navigator set about a tidy up and some cleaning. Exciting eh? In the evening there was a bit of a disaster as the water pump kicked in for no apparent reason, a sure sign there is a water leak and as predicted a cold water hose to the boiler had separated from its attachment to the boiler and water was pouring everywhere. The pump was switched off quickly but it was too dark and too cold to fix it so it was left till the morning.
As there is nothing much happening today I thought I would bring you up to speed on the Festive period in Spain thanks to a Facebook posting I saw recently. (I hate Facebook – but it can be useful sometimes)…
“If you think that Christmas is commercialised then think again…… This is how Spain does it…
December 6th – Día de la Constitución Constitution day is a celebration of the day Spain became a democracy and 6 December has since been a national holiday in Spain. The day is seen as the start of the December holidays and a long 3 day holiday is sometimes taken in conjunction with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
December 8th – This is the public holiday of Immaculada (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) which marks the beginning of the religious Christmas celebrations. Most notable in Seville.
21st December – In a few cities including Granada the celebration of Hogueras (bonfires) takes place. This date marks the winter solstice (shortest day) and where it is celebrated involves people jumping through fires to protect themselves against illness.
22nd December – All over Spain people never stray far from a TV or radio as the Christmas lottery is drawn over a period of many hours. Everybody in Spain buys tickets for this lottery in the hope of winning El Gordo (the fat one) and the winning number usually means that a good number of people from the same village become a lot better off overnight. Besides the big three prizes there are thousands of smaller prizes shared by people all over Spain. You can buy Spanish Christmas lottery tickets online.
24th December – Christmas Eve is called Nochebuena in Spanish (Goodnight) and it is the most important family gathering of the year. In the evening people often meet early for a few drinks with friends then return home to enjoy a meal with the family. Most bars and restaurants close in the evening. Prawn starters followed by roast lamb would be a typical meal rounded off with a typically Christmas sweet called turrón which is a nougat made of toasted sweet almonds. Another typical festive sweet is called Polvorones which is made from almonds, flour and sugar. Cava, Catalan champagne, would be the chosen drink for the Christmas toast though plenty fine Spanish wines will also be consumed with the meal.
25th December – Children may receive a small gift on Nochebuena or this morning but the day for presents is 6th January, Epiphany, when the Three Kings bring gifts for the children. Christmas Day is a national holiday in Spain so shops are closed yet it is not a day of great celebration but rather a calm day when people go out for a walk, drop into a bar, etc. Another large family meal at lunchtime is common though it’s becoming more common to see families eating out on the afternoon of Christmas day.
28th December – This is the day of Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents) and is the equivalent of April Fools’ Day when people play practical jokes on one another. Often the national media will include a nonsense story in their broadcasts. In some villages youngsters light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to carry out civic tasks such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.
31st December – New Year’s Eve is known as NocheVieja. It is a big celebration all over the country with street parties and special nights in hotels and clubs everywhere. Until midnight people tend to stay at home and on the stroke of midnight it is traditional to eat 12 grapes, one on each stroke of the clock to bring good luck for the new year. In Madrid and other main cities revelers congregate in the main square (Puerta del Sol in Madrid) and eat the grapes along with a celebratory bottle of cava then head out into the night until after sunrise.
1st January – A low key public holiday with plenty people sleeping off their excesses.
5th January – There are processions all over Spain this evening where sweets are thrown from the floats to all the people who come out to watch. Every town has its own variation such as in the Sierra Nevada where the Three Kings (Wise Men) can be seen to ski down to the village.
6th January – This is the Feast of the Epiphany (Día de los Reyes Magos) when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem. For Spanish children this is the most important day of the year when they wake up to find that Los Reyes Magos (the Three Kings/Wise Men) have left gifts for them in their house. Santa may leave them a token gift on December 25th but the Three Kings are their favourites, especially Baltasar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the gifts. During the day of 6th the Three Kings continue their good work and are seen distributing gifts to children in hospitals all over Spain.”
We may not be visited by Three Kings on the 6th of January but our two daughters and son in law, Simon, will be flying in to spend a week with us.
Week 11 – Day 75 – Tuesday 12th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
In the morning I fixed the hose issue and tightened up the jubilee clips on all the other joints to be safe. Because the water system is pressurised, any leak is a problem as not only can the heating not be used but the taps in the kitchen and toilet as well as flushing the loo so any leak has to be dealt with asap. After that we cycled to Mercadona for some bits and pieces.
We had a mission this afternoon. Our wi-fi device needed to be posted back to the UK so we had to find a Post Office, or Correos as they are known here so we decided to cycle into El Campello proper, a couple of miles away along the esplanade. We were advised that cycling is forbidden on the esplanade but a blind eye is turned in the winter months when there are fewer people walking on it, as you can see below.
We set off just after lunch and it was a great cycle with only a few hundred yards on the road. El Campello is not as developed for tourists as Benidorm and the like so there were few high rise hotels and the higher buildings seemed to be flats with restaurants on the ground floor facing the sea.
The view round the bay with the mountains as a background and blue skies was really lovely. It took about 20 minutes to reach the end of the esplanade at the marina where we chained up the bikes to go and search for the Correos.
It took a long time to find it and walk there…only to find it had closed for the day a few minutes earlier at 2.30. Hey Ho as they say, well I do anyway!
Part 2 of our mission today was to find somewhere that could exchange our Campingaz cylinder for the BBQ but this turned into mission impossible as well because the Spanish size of cylinder is bigger than is sold in the UK, so it was back to the van and a cuppa. Long story short – the campsite came to our rescue and for a returnable deposit they loaned us one of their cylinders for the duration of our stay so we can get back to cooking outdoors again.
Week 11 – Day 76 – Wednesday 13th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
Today turned out to be a very productive day. Needless to say, but I will for the record, it was another day of clear blue skies and warmth. Our mission today (again) was to post our Huawei wi-fi device to our daughter to reset the sim card and bring it out to us in January. Inside the device is a 30g Vodafone data sim which we use constantly to transmit a wi-fi signal to our devices like tablets and laptop so we can access the internet to write this blog, keep up to date with the news and weather, and keep in touch with our e mails, and the girls by Viber and Hangouts. All well and good and the 30g is a lot of data, but Vodafone had to put a spanner in the works by only allowing the data to be used abroad for 3 months at a time, hence the need to send it back to the UK to be switched on there so we can use it again for the second part of our trip starting in mid January. Google Maps guided us to the nearest Correos where, thanks to Google Translate and an understanding counter assistant, we managed to send it off by air mail.
We then cycled to Carrefour, an absolutely massive hypermarket that not only had the bananas we needed but a couple of things for the van that I wanted to replace/upgrade, a new hose to fill up our inboard 120 ltr fresh water tank as our old one was proving to be too short at some of the places we had been filling up at so Carrefour had the very thing in a 15 meter concertina type hose with a number of different fitments, especially one that fitted the smaller thread common on Spanish taps. I also bought a new large storage container as the one we had in the garage was falling apart and so with these purchases back at the van the afternoon was spent tidying up the garage and other assorted tasks including washing one side of the van using my new super duper hose. What about the other 3 sides I hear you say? Mañyana remember…
Week 11 – Day 77 – Thursday 14th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
On Tuesday we had cycled down to the esplanade and turned left to El Campello proper so today we decided to turn right and see where that would take us and it was another great cycle heading south along a wide esplanade interspersed with palm trees testifying to the very mild climate here. We came to the end after 2.5 miles and had a seat taking in the view right round the El Campello bay then further round the coast to the tower blocks of Benidorm in the distance. There was a statue there of a couple looking out to sea which was proving popular with passing locals who rubbed it, presumably for good luck.
I took the plunge, OK not a plunge, but a paddle, the first of the trip and not as cold as I expected.
Not to be outdone The Navigator dipped her toes into the Med as well, and we agreed that this is something we would not be doing in Loch Fyne on the 14th of December.
I think this is a cycle we will be doing again as it was about a flat 5 mile round trip with a good outlook round the bay with the mountains as a background, something that has come as a bit of a surprise to The Navigator who had a notion that Spain was mostly flat, for no other reason than she remembered this line from a very well known song – “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! Your starter for ten – what is the song and famous film it was featured in in? Answer at the bottom of the page.
Back to the van and a BBQ of de-boned chicken thighs and I’m not ashamed to say I made a great job of them…
Week 11 – Day 78 – Friday 15th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
Today has been another lazy day and we never moved off the site today, not even for a cycle. A benefit of not moving off the site is that we haven’t spent anything today which helps keep the average daily spend on an even keel. The forecast was excellent for today, but in reality it never quite lived up to the billing, with the odd cloud in the morning giving way to a grey overcast afternoon, and it was neither warm nor cold, if that makes any sense.
I spent the morning editing a couple of 123 Seconds In… videos including the upmarket La Baule and one of my favourite places, l’Aiguillon sur Mer, a destination not planned, but found by good fortune. The video shows the watersports centre we were parked at for free (€5 from April to the end of October) and the long flat beach of the nearby village of La Faute sur Mer which was perfect for the land/sand/yachts that were whizzing up and down the beach in the strong breeze.
With the Huawei winging its way to Belfast and the data on my phone running low, it may not be this week that I can get the videos uploaded to YouTube, all the more in the following week if that is the case. The campsite offers free wi-fi in the vicinity of the reception area but it is painfully slow. We did walk along later in the afternoon to try and upload the videos but the first one I tried was going to take an hour and forty five minutes instead of the normal 20 minutes, so I gave up and returned to the van to light up the CADAC and have another BBQ, this time 2 home made pork skewers.
Apparently Friday evening at 6pm is Bingo night in the campsite bar/restaurant which we have passed up on (so far) but must admit to being curious as to how it would work with Spanish staff and the residents mostly Belgian, German, Dutch, French and Brits, but anyway it was raining by then, so this evening was spent watching an episode of Breaking Bad, downloaded from Netflix, and listening to 7 episodes of Donbey and Son by Charles Dickens, courtesy of the BBC Radio Player. Its not Christmas without a helping of Dickens!
Week 11 – Day 79 – Saturday 16th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
Yet another lovely day to wake up to, with cloudless blue skies and the merest hint of a breeze. We combined a cycle with a call into the Mercadona supermarket then sat out and enjoyed the sunshine. We are on the last pitch, furthest away from the site entrance and so the road to us ends where we are.
In the last day or two a young girl has been cycling up and turning so we said hello to her and the reply came back in English which was a surprise as we Brits are definitely a minority here. It turns out she is here with her parents, Joel and Phillipa, who have done the opposite to us and travelled round Portugal into Spain and will be heading on for Italy and beyond for a year before young Astrid goes to school. This is the second young couple we have met doing this and it makes a refreshing change from the 50s/60s couples which are the overwhelming age group on sites like this. We had a long chat with Astrid’s dad, Joel, who came looking for her and we exchanged experiences on the road for a while.
About 3ish we had our BBQ, pimento turkey steaks today and salad followed by cheese and biscuits and a bottle of Mercadonas finest €1.49 Valencia white for me and anything red for the Navigator.
By 4 the sun dips below a tree over the fence from us and our space goes into shade and it is cool if you are not in the sunshine so we normally tidy up and retreat to the van. I edited some 123 videos and the latest was from Biarritz, a really elegant lovely town but the weather was a bit blustery the day we visited. There are only two French videos left to do, Lourdes and the Pyrenees before I start on the Spanish ones. I’m steadily catching up…
Tonight we watched the final 2 episodes of Breaking Bad, a series we have loved from start to finish.
Week 11 – Day 80 – Sunday 17th of December 2017
El Campello – 0 miles
Sunday is market day and we wandered round about 11 to find more or less the same assortment of stalls as last week. Then our best buy was 2kg of tangerines for €1 and this week the same seller was offering 3kg for €1. I’m sure it would have hurt his feelings if we passed him by so we stocked up again. The afternoon was spent doing not a lot in the sun before we polished off the rest of the turkey steaks done to perfection on the BBQ again. And dear blog followers, that was about it for the day.
Next week is the week before Christmas but you would hardly know it. There are a few street decorations up but nothing like the effort back home. I’ve yet to see a Christmas tree in the window of a house or flat and probably because we don’t have a TV we are not particularly in a Christmas frame of mind yet as this year we can’t watch all the Christmas special programs and films that traditionally you do in the run up to the big day.
Finally for this week, sad news from back home. One of The Navigators cousins passed away this morning and will be greatly missed by the family. Tommy was a lovely bloke, full of fun with a ready smile for all and it was always a delight to be in his company at family events. Our thoughts are with his wife Norma and family.
The famous line, “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! was written by Alan Jay Lerner / Frederick Loewe in the song ‘The Rain in Spain,’ one of the main tunes in My Fair Lady.
To put this week into context here are two maps showing where we are…
The red dot on the first map shows us just north of Alicante.
The red dot on the second map shows our location on the outskirts of El Campello.
We have settled into life at El Campello and in the run up to the festive period we go off exploring on the Tram to Alicante. Stay tuned…
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