Friday, 30 November 2012

We finally reach Malaga

Today we arrived at a campsite near Malaga where we are to meet the tour leaders and other clients who are taking dogs with them to Morocco. We need to visit a vet tomorrow to get a health check for them. Then we will do final bits of shopping and fill up with LPG before making our way to Algeciras Monday and catching the ferry on Tuesday morning.

Yesterday we took the motorhome up to 2,407 metres to the ski resort at Sierra Nevada. The road wound up and up and soon we were above the snowline but the road was clear all the way until the last 50 metres into the aire where we had hoped to spend the night.

Someone else had made it up there
but they must have gone up the
day before, prior to the last snowfall!

We stayed on the main road........decided not to stop up there anyway as we had a deadline to get to Malaga today and we didn't want to risk getting snowed in.

Safer down here!















So after a sit in the sunshine reading and watching the skiiers and snowboarders, we set off downhill again and headed off to another campsite nearer Malaga but inland.

Enjoying the sunshine and pure air

















Thismorning we had a miserable wet journey with poor road surfaces but eventually arrived at Malaga Monte Parc where after some lunch we set to with the washing machine again as the afternoon brightened up. 


So we are very close now to the proper start of our Moroccan adventure. Wonder if I'll be able to fit one of these in my hand luggage for Drew when I fly home for New Year?

Sheesh anyone?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Granada

On Monday 26th November we set off from Despenoperros (after the kind campsite manager drove somewhere to get us some bread and wouldn't take the money for it) and arrived in the afternoon at the Beas de Granada campsite with wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada. Mountains....and what's more, with snow on them! Terrific!

View from the campsite at Beas de Granada

Nigel explored on his bike and I set off downhill into town with the dogs and my back pack to do some shopping, only to find the supermarket didn't open till 5pm. Not got used to this yet! Anyway, it didn't really matter as there was nothing we really needed and it was a walk.
Back at the 'van we discussed the next couple of days. Tomorrow afternoon we will go into Granada for a general look round and return on the bus. Meanwhile we will get the campsite to organise Alhambra tickets for us for Wednesday. 

It's not fair, we never go anywhere!

We enjoyed our walk around Granada, especially the old town which had narrow alleyways with shops overloaded with Moroccan goods....fascinating the array of "goodies" and very persuasive shopkeepers. Nigel bought a thick zip up cardigan which started off at 35€ and was soon reduced 30€ "just for you". I think we need to practise our bartering skills, could probably have got it for even less! 
Promise of things to come!










We then set off to walk to the Alhambra to get our tickets for tomorrow to avoid having to be there so early but we saw a bus and jumped on that and were really glad we did as it was a long way and up a very steep hill. Tickets printed, we went back down into town (again by bus) and went to find something to eat. After a pizza each, we visited the cathedral and then made our way back to the bus stop for the return trip to the campsite. Fortunately, we eventually found a supermercado and were able to stock up on a few essentials. 
The dogs survived their long afternoon and were glad to see us and even more glad to get their meal! Nigel had taken them for a long walk before we went, they still seemed quite satisfied with that, thankfully. Late in the evening it started to rain and this then turned to snow.
Wednesday morning we were up early to go to the Alhambra. Having seen the route to get there from town we decided it would be best to get a taxi straight there.


Court of the Myrtles
Granada through a decorated archway


What a truly fantastic place. The decoration in the Nasrid palaces has to be seen to be believed, photographs do not do it justice. I cannot imagine what life must have been like during its heyday. We were both enthralled by the complexity of it all. It was cold and didn't really warm up till we were leaving at 2pm but it did not spoil our enjoyment and wonder. It must be even more amazing in the summer with all the gardens in full bloom. There were many many staff in evidence who must work very hard to keep it all in good order. The audioguides were useful again but with loads more information than it was possible to take in.
Our taxi collected us at 1.45, we had stunning views of the Sierra Nevada on the way back.  Again the dogs were pleased to see us and they got another long walk this afternoon. We're trying the campsite restaurant tonight.....hope it's good. Tomorrow we hope to make it to the Sierra Nevada Aire at over 2000 metres, weather permitting.


And this time next week we really will be in Morocco!



Alhambra

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunny Spain

We've now been in Spain for a week, we have just arrived in Santa Elena in Andalucia, about 250 k south of Madrid.
We are on a campsite in the Despenaperros National Park and have wifi...yeah! 



Today's drive down the A4 motorway from Aranjuez was quite boring initially, industrial and agricultural  landscape eventually giving way to olive groves interspersed with vines and then rolling hills. Unfortunately we stayed on the motorway too long, following Tom Tom which took us through a series of tunnels, we should have come off at a previous junction and gone the scenic route. Never mind, as we came into the campsite and I went to reception to pay, Nigel spotted some birds we have never seen before....azure winged magpies....beautiful!


Azure winged magpies


To go back to our arrival in Spain, the first night was spent in a lovely aire which we had to ourselves in the foothills of the Pyrenees.



Since then we have stayed in various campsites as aires are few and far between on our route. First stop was Mendigorria where we were the only people on the huge campsite for several hours, then two more outfits arrived. Here we were able to use our washing machine and get all of our washing done (apart from bedding) and hung out to dry on the airer. Nigel then cycled around and I had a walk up to the hilltop town with the dogs.


Washing day motorhome style



Burgos Cathedral
One of the many vaulted ceilings



Our second campsite was at Burgos where we stayed two nights. The first night we had a heavy frost, brrr, it was cold in the morning, glad we'd had the central heating fixed!  We caught a taxi into town the morning after we arrived and enjoyed several hours in the amazing Cathedral. We were both enthralled by its splendour, it is the most ornate ecclesiastical building we have ever been in. We had audioguides but it was just too much to take in!




The showers at the campsite were also remarkable...lashings of hot water at an incredible pressure, felt like hydrotherapy! Burgos was an excellent spot for dog walking, around the campsite there were cycle and footpaths and they were very well enjoyed by the locals, a constant stream of groups of walkers and singles were making the most of the dry weather. I have never seen as many people out for a walk anywhere and only a few of them had dogs!


Friday 23rd we moved further south on to a little village called Riaza, the campsite was quiet and pleasant and we strolled around the village in the morning and saw the old bullring and enjoyed the architecture.


On Saturday 24th, we carried on our journey which took us quite easily (though the traffic was heavy) through the centre of Madrid and into the town of Arunjuez. The Madrid skyline was fantastic, the architecture modern and futuristic. Too bad we couldn't stop and explore but with a seven and a half metre motorhome, parking is not easy! Aranjuez campsite was another good overnight stop but was not dog or cycle friendly. Here we met up with another couple we had seen on the campsite in Burgos but had not spoken to, they are also on the same Morocco trip as us.


Thisevening we had a catch up on facetime with Drew, Alana and Hattie. Priceless! Wonderful to see and talk to them and Hattie was very alert. I'm very proud of Drew, he's a great dad!



Tomorrow the Sierra Nevada, we hope!


Monday, 19 November 2012

Morocco bound at last


Sunday 18th November 2012

We left Bolton for the second time on Wednesday 31st October, 18 days later we are sitting in the motorhome under the shade of tall oak trees in Southern France about 50k from the border with Spain. Not that we need the shade....today it's raining, first rain for a week, we've had some lovely balmy, sunny days while we've been on the move so far. Tonight is our 51st consecutive night in Liberté Too.

As we left to drive to Hull for the ferry, Hattie gave me my first beaming smile. Brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye, I can tell you.

At the weighbridge en route, we found we were alarmingly over our payload so at the first opportunity we lost almost 200 kg of weight by just about emptying the freshwater tank. We decided we would have to reassess the situation once we got to Liberté.

The Hull Zeebrugge crossing was “lively” with gale force 8 to 9 winds but we were okay. We had a double cabin which was much more comfortable and roomy than our usual bunks. Once off the ferry we headed in pouring rain through Belgium to Luxembourg where we spent one night and got some cheap fuel.
Being stopped by the Belgian police for pulling out in front of them in an aire and having to turn round to avoid a low and narrow bridge were the “highlights” of the drive through Belgium, they really should learn something from their neighbouring countries about how to look after their road surfaces.

It was great to arrive eventually in St Jean de Losne....it has a “coming home” feel about it when we arrive at the boat, not that we had the energy to visit that night, we waited till the next morning when we set to with the jobs that needed doing to winterise her. First job was to unload the new leather cushions that had taken 6 months to get there! Great success, they fit well and look very smart. 
My phone has not really captured the colour
 very well but you get the drift!


I cracked open the accordian for a few blasts of Waltzing Matilda, Schottische and my other favourites. I can still play it...yeah!!!!

A very busy week ensued, winterising jobs for Liberté and removing weight from Liberté Too. All marred by the heating in Liberté Too failing resulting in no hot water or central heating, not fun in the autumnal chill. We were very glad we had the secondary truma blown air heater installed. Many e-mails and phone calls to the UK, a trip to the Pilote and supposed Alde agent in Dijon were unsuccessful and much stress was encountered. I was relieved to be able to communicate with a bilingual Alde France employee who eventually secured an appointment for us for Monday 12th at an Alde agent in the Auvergne, so the next leg of our trip was planned around that visit. Bearing in mind our previous penchant for getting lost in Clermont Ferrand, we were relieved to find that this time we went nowhere near the place!

In the meantime, Nigel brought hilarity to the boating community by stepping off the end of our pontoon in the dark carrying a printer! The printer was brand new, (and floated!) bought for the MH but surplus weight we could do without so it was heading to the boat to be left there. Wonder if it'll still work? Oh, he also had his wallet in his back pocket containing 600 euros which have now been dried out and thankfully you'd never know owing to my swift administrations with paper towel and a rolling pin! The next evening was quiz night which was very enjoyable and good to catch up with people we hadn't seen since May.

Our first stopover on leaving St Jean was a night (pouring rain) at Decize in the company of Jenni and Roger, it was as always great to see them and Roger surpassed himself again with a wonderful curry. I shall hurriedly gloss over the fact that Jenni overcooked the rice and had to start again!

Next morning, still raining we headed off towards Roanne, the aire being next to the port. We met some other English boaters who came into the motorhome for a drink in the evening, they had met J and R at Decize the week before.

Good news on the Monday morning, our heating problem was diagnosed and fixed and we were on our way within an hour and a half......great relief all round and we could feel ourselves beginning to relax at last. Not to mention the joy of being able to have showers again! It was a circuit board malfunction (trés rare, so I was informed), so new one fitted and tested. Voila!

A lovely few days ensued, travelling through some gorgeous scenery in the Auvergne and the Dordogne valley. We have strolled around some remarkably quaint villages we would never ordinarily have seen, been in churches and town squares all so different and unique.


Tea and biscuits en route in the Dordogne


Now at the coast west of Bordeaux, we have at last seen and climbed up the Dune du Pyla and wondered at the remarkably vast forest de Landes which stretches for miles to the east of it.
We have learned a valuable lesson, that is not to park under oak trees on windy nights in autumn....the cacophony of falling acorns is not conducive to a good night's sleep especially the tympanic tones of the ones that land on the Sat dish! The next day of course, those that remain on the roof roll about when you set off and skitter off the front noisily when you brake!

Soon we will be in Spain and I will be out of my comfort zone, not being able to speak a word of Spanish. Meanwhile, today is a rest day.......we've had croissants as it's the last Sunday in France for a few months. And it's still raining!

Surprising sight...steps up the Dune du Pyla

It was worth the climb!