Thursday, 1 December 2016

A rainy day in Bolnuevo

Thursday 1st December. I haven't posted on the blog for a month or so as we haven't been travelling. This is a travel blog rather than a diary but i thought you might be missing us so here's an update on what we've been up to recently. We rejoined a couple of walking groups when we arrived here which means we get 4 good scenic walks every month. Whilst we are here in Bolnuevo we don't have transport so we rely on our friends Dave and Francoise to ferry us to and from the start locations for the walks. This week was a two walk week and so on Monday we drove up to the Mariposa Hotel in the Espuna mountains for our first walk of the week. These are always quite strenuous walks but after a few hours we return to the hotel where we enjoy a hearty Menu del Dia. On Monday morning we arrived only to find that the walk was cancelled as they'd had four days of rain and the guide wasn't too happy with the conditions underfoot - we should have checked the website before setting off. Oh well, we had a cup of coffee and drove back. Today was another walking day, this time with the Campersol walking group. Last night it started raining at about 3am and it hasn't stopped yet. We checked our emails this morning to find that today's walk has also been cancelled! The walks with this group aren't particularly difficult and again, after the walk we have a meal at a restaurant located wherever the walk starts and finishes. The restaurant is booked in advance and although there is no walk today we still get to have the meal so we'll be setting off soon for that, every cloud etc..etc... So, no walks this week other than the usual daily stroll down the paseo or maybe a walk into Puerto de Mazarron for a bit of shopping. Whilst the rain is not much fun for us it is badly needed in this region, drought conditions were officially declared earlier this year. A lot of water is supplied via desalination plants here but higher up and further inland we have noticed that the reservoirs, irrigation canals and lakes have been very low. Maybe this rain will top them up a bit. A fortnight ago the annual pilgrimage from Mazarron to Bolnuevo took place, here's a link telling you all about the history of this event -  This year we got up early (always a struggle on a Sunday!) and took the free bus to Mazarron where we joined the procession. Hundreds and hundreds of folk of all ages follow the statue of the Virgin which is carried by strong, fit young men the seven miles or so back to Bolnuevo. There are a few stops on the way where refreshment is taken on board - hot chocolate and churros for some and cold meats, bread and wine for others. If you are unfortunate to be at the rear of the procession you have no chance of finding anything to eat or drink; we stayed near the front reckoning that we could put up with the band playing in our ears if it meant we could grab some grub. Its a sharp elbows job to get near the food but we managed to grab a few slices of meat and a chunk of bread each, the paper cups had all been used or blown away so its a swig from the bottle of wine and hope that the person before you hasn't got herpes. At the last stop before Bolnuevo we carried on down to the village and joined some friends of ours on the terrace of their villa where we were again fortified, this time with cava and hors d'ouvres, while we waited to watch the procession pass. First the statue, the band, then the hordes of followers on foot and finally the Caballeros, many in traditional dress on their beautifully groomed horses. Bolnuevo is transformed during the weekend. A funfair on the beach, stalls all along the paseo, impromptu BBQs everywhere, large marquees with music blaring out all day and most of the night and, of course, the restaurants and bars are heaving. The old fishermen's houses which are empty for most of the year are full of families sat around tables groaning with food and drink on the terraces and balconies. Its a great weekend but by Tuesday afternoon everything has been packed up and cleared away, the beach has been cleaned and you wouldn't know there had been anything happening. There was a Tapas trail the week preceding the fiesta weekend, a dozen bars and restaurants offered a tapas and drink for 4 euros. We had a card which was stamped at each establishment and then entered into a prize draw. We didn't win the raffle but it was great fun getting our card filled up! We are now approaching Christmas and the campsite is slowly being transformed into a massive grotto. The full time gardener on site has filled every available space with hundreds of Poinsettia plants and most of the motorhomers have one or two outside, bought last weekend from the local school kids to raise money for charity. Nativity scenes and decorated Christmas trees are springing up all over the place and caravans and motorhomes are slowly becoming festooned with climbing santas and coloured lights. I reckon its a bit early yet but we buy a set each year and I'll probably put ours up next weekend. A few pics for you - Our winter home.  
Sunday dancing
  The tapas trail card.
Some pics from our walk in Librilla.
  The funfair.
The procession.
 I have a few more photos to upload but I'm having issues with pictures at the moment (plus ca change eh?) so I'll put them on the next blog.   Pat  

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sad Times

Sunday 30th October. I think we're lucky to be doing what we're doing, Phil says no - we're fortunate. She says we've worked all our lives and now we deserve the time we spend traveling around Europe and spending the winters in Spain with a nice climate and nice friends. Lucky/fortunate, whatever, we're certainly in a good place. But there are downsides to meeting new folks and making new friends. A few years ago we met a lovely couple from Scotland - Moira and John. You couldn't wish to meet a nicer couple. Earlier this year John wasn't feeling too well, we all joked about it - too much beer, put more olive oil on your salad, you'll be ok in a day or so etc...etc.... Moira and John drove back to Scotland last Easter time and, to cut a long story short, when they returned home John was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor. When we got home to the UK we drove up and visited them for a few days in the village where  they live in Scotland. We had a great time. They welcomed us and we all put on brave faces. Doctors had advised John that he maybe had six months..... Today we heard from Moira that John had taken a turn for the worse. When I write this blog I try and make it funny. Throw in a few crappy jokes and try and make you smile or giggle when you read it.  Tonight it would be good if you could spare a thought or offer up a prayer for John. Pat  

A week in Bolnuevo

Friday 21st October. We arrived here after a short drive from Vera and after checking in and doing the paperwork, leveling the van and hooking up to the electric thought it would be a good idea to stroll into the village to meet up with friends. First stop was Maria's tapas bar where we discovered that Maria and her husband Reyes had now rented the bar out to an Italian lass who had preserved the atmosphere and was offering an Italian menu. So we had a couple of drinks there and a bite to eat and then popped in to Caroline's bar next door where we received a lovely welcome and had another couple of drinks. Next stop The Blues House where Tracey, the owner, gave us another warm welcome and we had another couple of drinks. That was as much as we can remember about Friday.   Saturday 22nd October. We rented a storage facility here last year so we could leave all the stuff we don't need when we are traveling - awnings, tables and chairs, Christmas decorations (?) and other bits and pieces So today we emptied the boot before whizzing round to retrieve our belongings. This entails wandering around a poorly lit warren underneath an apartment block, finding the wobbly ladder and then risking life and limb as I pass things down to Phil whilst avoiding banging my head on the ceiling. Then we cart everything out to the van, load it up and drive back to the site. It's all a bit physical and we had agreed that we'd take a few days to set things up. There was no hurry, after all we're going to be here for a few months. But...... let's just put down the green matting, it won't take long. Well, we might as well erect the safari room.....and so it went on. Six hours later we had our winter home like we wanted it. We also had aching knees, hips and backs and several bruises. What we didn't have, surprisingly, was a cross word between us. After 47years we're working as a team! I even managed to get the waste water outlet fixed - what did we do without silicone?  
A twenty minute walk along the beach is the Oasis bar/restaurant which has live music on a Saturday night - we were too exhausted and settled for a couple of burgers at the Blues House before falling into bed thoroughly exhausted. (Arsenal 0 - 0 Middlesbrough)   Sunday 23rd October. A walk along the beach, up the hill and back again was good; eased the aches and pains. Lunch at (what was) Maria's and then along to the Blues Bar for the live Sunday afternoon music - a great Spanish band - and to meet up with more folk from last year. But no dancing today for us.   Monday 24th October. We didn't do too much today although I had protracted email communications between delfyNET (our WiFi suppliers) and SurfEasy (VPN supplier) - nothing resolved although I learnt a bit more techspeak.   Tuesday 25th October. Can't recall too much about today other than more email nonsense (see above) (Arsenal 2 - Reading 0)   Wednesday 26th October. The 9.50 bus took us in to Puerto de Mazarron for some shopping and a visit to Wimas (an alternative WiFi supplier). Engineer will call tomorrow to see how my system and their's will work together, he will call between 9am and noon. On the way back we stopped at the little local garden centre and bought a few plants to make our winter location a bit more homely. I went to the bar in the evening to watch a dreary Manchester derby game.  
Thursday 27th October. A quiet morning in the warm sunshine waiting for Wimas engineer. On arrival we greet each other with "Good Afternoon". He looks at my equipment and we entertain each other talking about 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz frequencies and my ariel and his antenna. A great chat about Routers and VPN IPSec pass-throughs. We kiss each other and decide we are semi-compatible. I have to go back to the office tomorrow to sign a contract.   Friday 28th October. Back on the bus to Puerto. Bus journeys here are great. In England on buses there are signs instructing you not to talk to the driver or distract him. In Spain it is obligatory to engage the driver in conversation at all times. These conversations are carried out at high volume in order to be heard above the driver's favorite radio station. Forget Duolingo, this is the way to learn Spanish.  The Wimas office manager is a cool guy. We negotiate a reduction in the installation fee as I don't need his router. And I get the first month's service free. And if I'm not happy he'll give me my money back. I check my VPN works with his servers. All is good. I ask when our friend the engineer can call back and do the instillation. Probably tomorrow or on Monday says the cool guy. "I'll leave you with my secretary and she will do the contract thing with you and give you a time for the engineer" We smile and shake hands and he leaves the building. Contracts signed, money paid - "Next Thursday" says his sec. Before I can complain that her boss said..... "Next Thursday morning" she repeats with a solemn shake of her head. Hey-Ho. In the evening we visited a Dutch couple we met last year. We called round at about 6pm to say Hi and left about 11pm after a beer or two.   Saturday 29th October. It was a bit chilly with a stiff wind when we set off for our walk along the paseo this morning but by mid morning the sun had burst through and its been a gorgeous day today. We've had good weather all week but I think today was the hottest day. We did a bit of shopping in the nearby Spar shop and then went for a coffee and looked at each other and wondered where the last week had gone. Tempus fugit when you're enjoying yourselves eh? Back to the van and after Phil cooked some delicious bacon and eggs it was time for the main event of the day. I strolled to Carolines Bar while Phil strolled for a beach day. Unfortunately I fell amongst bad company after watching the football and returned home a little later than expected.  The campsite here has a special area for the super large vans and this year there are about a dozen of them, mostly German. There is one English van amongst them and he is flying this flag:  
(Sunderland 1 - Arsenal 4)   Pat        

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Some great views and a disappointment

Tuesday 18th October.   There's an expression - "You should never go back". Whilst it's not always true sometimes it is. We are parked up tonight at La Garrofa campsite just outside Almeria (36.82573 -2.51642) and we should never have come back! We've stopped here a couple of times before, in 2013 and 2014 and whilst the site has always been a little "tired" and needing a few euros spending on it there was always a certain charm here. The site is right on the beach and there are some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. When we stopped before there were a few folk that we got to know who stopped over the winter and there was a nice community feel about the place. We put up with the faults before because of the atmosphere and because Malcolm, from Scotland, who has worked here for years as a general handyman always made everybody welcome and was full of advice. When we arrived today I jokingly asked one of the two sisters who own the site if the WiFi was as bad as before. "Ah, no WiFi now" she replied. Phil went for a shower this evening - no hot water. We met Malcolm who said that none of the previous long-termers come here anymore, just people stopping off for a night or two on their way somewhere else. The restaurant used to offer good, traditional Spanish food; now it's hamburgers, chicken or pork with chips. The final straw was being charged €2.50 for a small beer. On arrival we said we would stop for a few days but we're off tomorrow. It's a shame, because with not a lot of money spent this could be a great site. It's close to Almeria and there are no other sites nearby and it's a while since we stopped anywhere where we could listen to the sea with the waves breaking on the rocky beach. The fact that most of the folk who stopped here previously for the winter have moved elsewhere should give the owners a clue but apparently not.   Last night we stayed on a campsite a bus ride from Granada, Beas de Granada (37.22468 -3.48865). Again, it's a site we've stopped on before but this time we were glad we went back. Its 1,100 meters in the foothills and we look up to the snow capped Sierra Nevada whilst basking in warm sunshine and the site is clean and everything works. The restaurant provided us with a delicious meal for not a lot of money and, although we didn't take advantage this time, there is a bus stop outside and the service takes you right into the centre of Granada. The bus ride itself is a great trip as it winds down the hills into the city with fantastic views and the owner of the site can arrange trips to the Alhambra (you have to book tickets). Yesterday we paid €15, today it's €17. We should have stayed there an extra day.   Thursday 20th October.     We arrived here (37.26455 -1.85723) yesterday. It's a tennis club with space for about 50 motorhomes with all facilities and excellent WiFi, there's a bar/cafe, swimming pool and gym. The only downsides are that it's a long way from anywhere and they are currently carrying out "improvements" to the site. When we arrived there was nobody in the office so another English couple here said to just park up and the lady from the office would be along shortly. Unfortunately we didn't realize that we were parking next to the concrete mixer! Better than an alarm clock at 8am! But the weather is ok and this is just a stopping off point on our way to Bolnuevo. We are booked in there on our usual pitch from tomorrow and then we'll get our stuff out of storage and set the van up for the winter months. We're looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones. And this year we are going to stick at the Duolingo and try and get a better grasp of Spanish. Phil is already two days in front of me and is apparently 1% fluent so I've got a bit of catching up to do. Just realised that I haven't mentioned our stop in Antequera last Sunday. It's a smashing town dating from Roman times with an astonishing number of churches, over 30 according to the guide book. The Alcazaba is worth a visit as is the Municipal Museum and the Iglesia del Carmen. Unfortunately we missed them all as they are only open for a limited time on Sundays and we got our timings all wrong. But we strolled around the town and up to the outside of the Alcazabar which afforded some great views. We stayed overnight at a free parking area for motorhomes next to the football stadium (37.02139 -4.57191) and yes there was a match on the Sunday evening which (I think) the home team lost 0-1 but don't quote me on that. I'm reaching that conclusion from the announcements and the level of applause. Some views of Antequera:
And a panoramic:
The view from the restaurant on the campsite at Beas Granada with the Sierra Nevada in the background:

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Third attempt!!!

Third attempt at posting this photo!  

Missing Photo

Last day in Portugal

Friday 14th October. Tonight we are parked up alongside the river Guadiana in Vila Real de Santo Antonio looking across to Spain.(37.19791 -7.41455) This is a dedicated Motorhome parking spot with all services, a gate entry system and electric points. The gate entry system is broken, there is no water and the electric points are locked up. Oh yes, we have a fairground 100m away which will keep us awake for a good while as well. It's supposed to be €4.50 per night but as nothing is working the authorities have kindly taped over the cash payment machine. We've spent the last few days on a semi-campsite just outside Albufeira, I say "semi" because although it is laid out like a campsite with all the usual facilities, including electricity, washing machines, WiFi, a small swimming pool and a games room there were no toilets. But the owners were charming and helpful and it's only a ten minute drive to Albufeira. Parque da Gale - (37.09265 -8.31190). A 2km walk takes you down to the beautiful sandy beach and from there we walked along the boardwalk to the wetlands at Salgados. But we didn't come to the Algarve to see exotic wading birds. We came to see Tony and his lovely wife, Jackie. Despite the fact that they both work hard in the property rental and management business in Portugal ( they found time to entertain us and we've decided that the reunion will become an annual event! Here we are, together with Hughie, another old school pal who flew out from the UK to join us:
We were smiling when this photo was taken because we still expected England to get 3 points last Tuesday.    Saturday 15th October.   We're parked up tonight a little east of Seville, just off the A92 - Autovia de Andelucia (37.32936 -5.80555). It's a Motorhome sales and service centre which also offers overnight parking and whilst we begrudge the €10 per night charge it is secure and we have electricity and decent WiFi although, oddly, they charge us 50c for fresh water. Unfortunately there's absolutely nothing to do here as we're in the middle of nowhere. I was quite looking forward to perusing the showroom and the shop but they were both closed by the time we arrived so, after lunch, Phil has read a book whilst I watched Michelle Obama's speech in New Hampshire which was inspiring and worth seeking out. So, with decent WiFi I'm going to try and upload a few photos. I mentioned the roundabouts in Europe in a previous blog and we've seen some great ones in Portugal the last few days. Unfortunately it's a bit tricky taking a photo whilst negotiating them but here are a couple we saw whilst walking in Belmonte - these are actual statues/figures on the first one:
Here's Phil in Leon, having a sit down with Antoni Gaudi:
The Castle at Braganca:
Finally, why can't all supermarkets be so welcoming?
Tomorrow we set off for Antequera, which our guide book says is worth a visit. We could do with a bit of culture.   Pat