Week 16 of the Grand European Tour
Week 16 – Day 109 – Monday 15th of January 2018
Santa Pola to Torrevieja – 31 miles
It rained overnight, quite heavily at that, but by the time we were ready to move on it had dried up, but it was decidedly cooler this morning.
The overnight stop at Santa Pola was not up to much, it was out of town on an industrial estate and the guy who owned it was trying his best to create an Aire but falling slightly short, certainly not worth €12.
We went to Elche in the late morning to get the ACSI pack from Caravanas Cruz and had a walk round the caravan / motorhome accessories showroom and purchased a few things we needed and then we decided to look round the compound hosting the brand new motorhomes but could not get in them as they were all locked, however there were a few that were impressive with price tags to match.
Then a slight panic ensued. Getting back to where we had parked Louis in the area where vans had come in for repair, we found Louis well and truly locked behind substantial metal gates. Lunchtime! And, as a Spanish lunchtime can last most of the afternoon we feared we were there for the duration, and a chilly duration at that. Luckily within a few minutes one of the mechanics came to get a van out and we made our escape.
The satnav was set for Torrevieja of which we knew nothing apart from it is on the coast and a woman we met 2 months ago in Cambrils was heading there so we though we would check it out, filling up with diesel on the way at €1.11 (£1 at todays exchange rate). A Mercadona was found as we entered the town for a few things then we discovered the coast and a huge area of empty space on the top of a cliff where a Dutch and German van were parked up so we joined them and had lunch looking out on a fantastic uninterrupted sea view.
I then drove into the town proper passing more cliff top parking places, the nearest one to the town and beach with about 15 vans already parked there, the majority Swedish believe it or not with only a couple of Brits. After a drive round the town which wasn’t up to that much we decided to go and join the other vans to wildcamp on the rocks beside the shore.
We managed to get a front row position and spent the afternoon relaxing and watching men fishing off the rocks. Later there was a great sunset and we had a short walk – it still was not as warm as its been.
In the evening we had a nice meal and watched some YouTube videos. Tomorrow we are heading further south in the direction of Cartagena, a town about 38 miles south of here which is meant to have some pretty impressive Roman remains. The Navigator decided to check the Cartagena weather forecast and reported it was going to be 29 degrees (88f) but with a chance of rain. Rain was not so promising but the 29 degrees sounded like an amazing transformation until The Navigator realised that she was looking at the forecast for Cartagena, Columbia, South America!!
Finally, tonight I saw the following message on Twitter…
The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings for Argyll and Bute, for wind, snow and ice over the next few…
I think you can insert hours, days, weeks or months at the end of that warning and not be wrong!
Week 16 – Day 110 – Tuesday 16th of January 2018
Torrevieja to Cartagena – 46 miles
Yesterday we were a bit flat. Leaving El Campello was one factor, having to bid farewell to the family after all too short a visit was another and the realisation that although we are still heading south and further away from Scotland, in effect this is the start of the second leg of our Grand European Trip that will ultimately take us home to colder climes, not a prospect to be relished at the moment after the great weather we have had in Spain so far.
Today we witnessed a magical sunrise over the ocean with the horizon an intense orange and the sea a deep dark blue and with not a cloud in the sky it promised to be another great day, not as hot as South America mind you! And so it proved – it was a scorcher. We left Torrevieja in mid morning after moving Louis onto a more photogenic spot for some ‘wildcamping’ photos with the sea as a backdrop.
Once we navigated through the town we hit the main dual carriageway heading south and found it to be pretty busy with lots of built up flats and apartments with shops, bars and restaurants lining the roadside as well. Once the built up area was cleared the immediate landscape changed to a very flat fertile fields of crops with the inevitable backdrop of a mountain chain, with a few peaks looking as though they had snow on them.
Just before arriving at Cartegena there were signs for the famous La Manga golf course and resort which was 17km away. We arrived at the motorhome Aire at lunchtime, got booked in and got the chairs out and had lunch al fresco. It was now very very hot and the lady from the British van parked in front, knowing we were Scottish came to show us pictures of her friends in Orkney standing beside their motorhome which was covered in snow. We spent the afternoon relaxing in preparation for an up-and-at-em-day in Cartegena, seeing all the historical sites, including a fairly well preserved Roman theatre and amphitheatre.
PS. If goats count, we saw our first farm animals since arriving in Spain on the 22nd of November , but still no cows, sheep or pigs.
Week 16 – Day 111 – Wednesday 17th of January 2018
Cartagena – 0 miles
I had to sleep with the rear blind closed last night so had no idea what to expect weatherwise when it was opened this morning but I should have known it would be a cloudless blue sky again. I had to waken The Navigator as we were heading into Cartegena for a full days sightseeing and she showed no signs of waking of her own accord. We headed for the nearby bus stop for our trip into town which at €1.20 each was a bargain, as most public services seem to be in Spain. Not quite sure where we had been dropped off we headed in the general direction of the seafront and within a few minutes stumbled on an area of Roman remains on one of the towns hilltops, which it turns out is not that difficult in Cartagena. We were the first people there and had the area to ourselves, perfect for starting to film 123 Seconds In… Cartagena, only someone (moi) had mucked up big time by forgetting to put the GoPro camera in the backpack, everything else was there, spare batteries etc but no camera, and if any city lent itself to being filmed, this was it. Fortunately I had charged my phone up overnight so at least I could take some pictures and a few short video clips.
It was now just after 11am and the temperature was steadily climbing so we headed towards the main pedestrian street which would lead us down to the seafront at the harbour. Cartagena has been an important port since Roman times and you can see why, it is a natural harbour with a fairly narrow entrance which is easily defended and is still used by the Spanish Navy today, along with commercial and pleasure craft. The seafront is well laid out and it was good to just sit in the sunshine and take the view in, it being dominated by a massive 3 masted sailing vessel being fitted out in the harbour, surely destined to be one of the largest sailing vessels in the world when it is finally commissioned.
The seafront is all modern and well laid out but it is easy to transport yourself back to bygone times when all the hilltop forts would have been in use and the Roman buildings like the huge theatre and amphitheater were in their prime. After wandering about the seafront we went to visit the impressive Roman museum and theatre and as you enter the admission building you go through a series of rooms with an audio visual tape running making it a fascinating visit, the history and excavation story was really interesting. You can sit where the Romans would have sat, and imagine the amazing atmosphere of years gone by. You can even walk around the old “stage” but it is the view from the cheap seats on the top tiers that is so special, taking in the hills and forts around the city..
After lunch in the main street we found the nearby castle which can be reached via a modern metal lift tower featuring a viewing platform dangling over the street below giving a great view of the ancient Roman amphitheatre which has also been used as a bullring, but is now in a sad state of repair and held in place by heavy duty scaffolding. Not as prominent as the castle at Alicante but it has more history attached to it with good displays and a similar strategic overview of the harbour. After all this walking about in the heat of the day, and to use a Scottish word, we were ‘puggled’ so headed for the bus back to the site, enjoying a drink of coffee (foul brew) and a cool soft drink before getting on the bus, which, believe it or not, The Navigator paid for!
Week 16 – Day 112 – Thursday 18th of January 2018
Cartagena to Almerimar – 182 miles
Out ultimate aim is to visit Portugal for the first time but there are a lot of miles to be covered before we get there so today we are taking a 3 hour drive down the coast to move us on a bit. There is still a lot to see and do in Spain but today is a driving day and todays destination is the coastal town of Almerimar where we can park Louis right on the side of a marina, never a bad place to be. The drive on leaving Cartegena was flat and through agricultural land and on a not too busy dual carriageway. As always I had set the satnav to avoid toll roads which took us further inland and added half an hour to the journey, my raison d’être being that by keeping off the motorways you saw the ‘real’ countryside, towns and villages, but in truth this journey was mostly dual carriageway with a few roundabouts thrown in for good measure. On Google Maps after every junction it shows you the distance to the next junction or roundabout and on one such occasion it showed 126 miles!
By taking the slightly longer route it took us further away from the coast and nearer the hills and mountains. Once we passed out of the Murcia region and into Andalusia we climbed over and through some of these hills and although sunny it became very windy. I’ve described before long drives where the scenery changes and becomes so very different and this drive was a prime example of that as we started off going through flat green fields of vegetables and orange trees then dry bare hilly country until we reached the area around Almeria where you could hardly see the ground, as, for as far as the eye could see was covered in greenhouses, not glass but white plastic/polythene. The dual carriageway skirts round Almeria but in doing so climbs over some high hills with bridges over deep gorges, not easy driving with the wind so strong side on to the van. Probably the reason for such an expanse of covered growing area is that this is the area with the most sunshine in Europe, more than 3,000 hours a year, with an average annual temperature of not less than 20º C.
Arriving in Almerimar we stopped off at a Mercadona for a few things then drove through the town to the marina to park up for a few days. Almerimar looked on first impression quite impressive, well laid out with a few lush green golf courses overlooked by some quality apartments and much less graffiti than in other Spanish towns. We parked up with a view of the expensive yachts to the front of us and a beach sweeping away into the distance with a view to the snow topped Sierra Nevada mountain range in the distance.
Week 16 – Day 113 – Friday 19th of January 2018
Almerimar – 0 miles
It rained quite heavily all night until about 10am which wasn’t forecast and wasn’t much fun so a lazy morning was called for. We were entertained in the morning by the comings and goings of the motorhomes around us and the marina staff trying to get 2 inconsiderate French vans to park front on to the yachts instead of side on as they were taking up enough space to get about 5 vans in.
After lunch it dried up and we got out for a long walk around the marina to the far side where I took the above picture of the motorhomes parked on the left and just some of the yachts on the right. The marina is massive and has a capacity of 1,100 yachts, so because of all the yachts and motorhomes, there are many bars and restaurants to cater for this influx of visitors.
Week 16 – Day 114 – Saturday 20th of January 2018
Almerimar – 0 miles
You know those mornings when you wake up but are not fully awake? I experienced one of those this morning when I dropped the back blind to look out to check today’s weather and instantly thought, pea-souper, as I couldn’t see the beach, sea or mountains behind us. It was quite a few minutes later after coming to that I realised it was a heavy dew on the back window and you could actually see a bright sunny day with a view of many miles to the snow capped Sierra Nevada peaks in the distance. The ironic thing was by 11am there was a real pea-souper and you could only see about 50 yards until about 3ish when it lifted. We were going to go a cycle today right round the bay but made do with a short walk.
The day started slowly with unscripted inclement weather, but it ended, as so many do here, with a brilliant sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.
Week 16 – Day 115 – Sunday 21st of January 2018
Almerimar to Granada – 88 miles
We have been so lucky with the weather and today was no exception, not only is it bright and sunny but very warm as well. In reality we should have stayed another day and had a relax in the sun as today was the warmest since we arrived here but ‘time and tide wait for no man’ so we decided to move on. Most of the time when travelling there is a dashcam recording our journey so I thought I would share the images as we were leaving Almerimar marina so that fellow motorhomers can add it to their list of places to try when driving down the Spanish coast. It is €9 a night, or €13 with electricity. By the way, I’ve increased the speed of the film to play at one and a half times the norm as I was driving slowly, so the voice you may hear is not a robot but The Navigator speeded up!
Todays destination is Granada where it will be cooler as it is almost 2,500ft above sea level and we will be skirting round the Sierra Nevada (meaning “snowy mountain range” in Spanish) which has the highest mountains in Spain and the highest point on continental Spain and Europe outside the Caucasus Mountains and the Alps, Mulhacén is the highest peak at 3,478 metres (11,411 ft) above sea level ,and, as you would expect with figures like that, the drive to Granada was spectacular.
From Almerimar we got back on the A7 Autovia del Mediterráneo route to Motril where we joined the A-44 Autovía de Granada / Sierra Nevada which heads from the coast north to Granada, or, to be accurate it climbs from the coast north to Granada.
The above picture shows how good the road is plus some of the snow on the mountain peaks. There’s no snow in Granada itself but the British couple opposite us here on the campsite are going skiing in a couple of days so there must be some good snow about here somewhere.
Tomorrow we explore Granada and the Alhambra…
To put this week into context here is the route we travelled…
We arrive in Granada to discover the delights there then head from Granada back to the Mediterranean coast in search of warmer weather. Will we make it as far as Gibraltar? Stay tuned to find out…
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