Tuesday, 19 May 2015

On the road again

As usual I’m a bit behind with my blog so I’ll give an update on what I have as we’re moving on today and won’t have internet until we get back to the UK.

We left La Manga on Wednesday (29th April) with the view of heading up to Benicarlo to a small and friendly campsite that we had visited before.  The drive was to be some 280 miles. We’d done that much in a day before although I must admit that it does leave me very tired.  This was to be a drive of over 5 hours, plus any stops for fuel etc.  Just to fill up with gas takes the best part of 30 minutes and you have to lean on the button all that time.  Thankfully that’s an “outdoor” job, so it’s down to Iain.

Unfortunately though we didn’t get our ar**s in gear early enough and by the time we had bought some essentials and paid for the camping it was already 11.45am before we managed to leave.  Normally we plan to get the bulk of the driving done in the morning, stop for lunch and then leave less than 100 miles for the afternoon.  This is because I have a tendency to need a nap in the afternoon.

Sometimes I get my head down after lunch for 30 minutes which helps considerably. It’s great travelling with your bed that’s ready just to climb into and have a snooze.
So we were heading for Benicarlo, absolutely nothing to report about the journey, except that after lunch we decided that we had been a bit optimistic about reaching Benicarlo so we decided to stop about 40 miles south at Benicassim.  This was a place that we had not visited before and some people had told us that they really liked it there so we thought we’d give it a go. 

Ad there’s very little to report on the place itself. We’ve stayed in worse places but I wasn’t even enthused enough to remember to take my camera out when we went walking.   We stayed at Bonterra campsite.  This is a Category 1 campsite so it’s got all the facilities and is the highest price you will pay on ACSI.  However we did feel rather crammed in.  We were directly overlooked by neighbours in two directions and the other side were almost under our window when they sat outside.  Two lovely pools, with one being a covered indoor heated pool – it’s still too early in the season for me to like cold water.  I did use the pool a couple of times.  What really got us was that it was full of Brits.  So many that no one bothered to talk to you.  We find this, when there’s only a few Brits on a campsite then they do tend to make you welcome.  This site had a Camping and Caravanning Club rally going on with all the usual stuff of get-togethers that that entails.  We were eating on the bar terrace one night when they were having a fund raising event indoors and to be quite honest I’m so glad that we weren’t involved.  It was a bit like the Dutch parties back in Albir.
This site reminded me of Eden in Peniscola, too many people, too crammed together, too small pitches, if you remember, we booked into Eden for 14 days and left after 10.  We only stayed 6 nights here, basically because we didn’t see the point of moving just 40 miles to Benicarlo and as we were travelling north we wanted to keep as much of the hot weather for as long as possible. The internet was 4 Euros a day – I thought that was a bit steep.
It also felt very regimented, although the staff were friendly it took something like 20 minutes to get booked in because they had to go over the rules of the site and then we even had to sign a contract for bringing a dog onto the campsite.  This even included that you would not wash your dog in any place not designated a dog wash and that you could not leave your dog unattended in your van.  Now I know these are sensible rules, but why not just incorporate them into the general rules – rather than having to actually sign a separate contract.
The best bit about the campsite was that it had a Mercadona Supermarket right opposite the entrance and a Lidl with a big car park nearby. The beach was about a 5 minute walk away.
The actual town, beaches and seafront were not that exciting.  However if you like beaches then they were pretty good and sandy.  What really struck me was that the town was obviously a very fashionable resort for the wealthy Spanish in the past. Along the seafront there were a lot of old private villas, some in a bad state, that had obviously been used as holiday homes by the wealthy of Castillon and Valencia.  These were interspersed with ugly blocks of flats – some quite high, nothing on the scale of Benidorm, but still too high to be nice. I wasn’t inspired enough to take my camera out so sorry for the lack of photos.
So my summary for Benicassim – probably won’t go back there.

The next stop for us was in the Costa Blanca, northern Spain.  This is our last stop before going into France and a good area for stopping on your travels north or south. On our previous visits to this area we have stayed at Playa De Aro, just because it’s somewhere that I used to go to as a child; Lloret de Mar, just because it sounded ok but this time we have plumped for Pineda de Mar.  The reason for this choice is that it was the furthest up the coast before you lost the main roads and it would be easy to pick up the AP-7 again.

The campsite chosen was Enmar, the only ACSI one in the town that could take larger vans. The satnag took us a very strange direction to get here but on arriving the very nice man opened the “in” barrier instead of the “out” barrier as it would be easier for us to get in.  Without us even getting out of the van, he had hopped on his bike and was leading us to a suitable pitch.  He was very friendly and helpful, helping us to choose a good pitch and then casually said to sort ourselves out and then pop back to reception. 

After Bonterra Park this was just a so much more relaxed atmosphere, it gave me a good feeling as soon as we arrived.  Then we found it was FREE WIFI and it was just getting better and better. The swimming pool was great and the food in the bar was ok.  I would certainly stay here again and would recommend it. 

The town wasn’t much with a railway line between the promenade and the beach but there were several beach bars and there was a great cycle track to get you from Calella almost up to Blanes.  Generally a pleasant place and being not too far away from the main road, we would be happy to call in there again.

There was only one downside of the place, our Dutch neighbours didn’t appear to like dogs very much and of course we have the smelly one with us. We have some very nice Dutch friends but some of them can be quite “prissy”.  I always add that we appreciate that some people don’t like dogs very much and we are fastidious about clearing up after our dog so we go out of our way to prevent our beloved dog from annoying our neighbours.  However one morning  our dog decided to poo on OUR pitch.  Iain was ready with the necessary equipment before the dog had even finished and the man next door started to complain, saying it was disgusting and we should get the dog off the campsite.  Most campsites just say clean up after them and accept that even if you try to get off the campsite, the dog just thinks it’s a road and they think that is ok.  Iain explained in Didi’s (another of our nice Dutch friends) words that you can’t put a cork up it’s a**e, she’s just a dog and doesn’t understand.

Although that does cause some unpleasantness our neighbour then had the audacity to accuse our dog of peeing in his awning, twice.  Well I don’t know where his puddles came from but Iain assured him that it wasn’t our dog. 1.  She doesn’t pee indoors, 2.  She couldn’t get into his awning and 3.  She’d been tied up all the time she had been outside.  We don’t like to have an atmosphere with our neighbours but it does make you feel very uncomfortable.  Still we were only staying a few days so we didn’t let it bother us too much, otherwise we would have moved pitches.

Moi, I don't know what all the fuss is about
I hadn’t been inspired enough about the place to take any photos, so I’ll just add this one off the dog enjoying the sunshine, totally oblivious of the problem she had caused. She's an old girl now and likes here sleep.

I’m a bit behind and today we are moving on to Calais for an overnight stop before getting the ferry tomorrow. So this will be my last chance to post before we get back to the UK.  This is supposed to be a travel blog and the campsites we have been staying at in France are definitely worth a mention and a recommendation, so I will do a catch up when I get back to England.

Enjoy your day and I’ll be back soon, when we are in the cold weather again.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

I'm So Proud

Well, what can it be?

Today we have a General Election and we're not in the UK  to vote.  This is the first time in my adult life that I haven't voted.  I don't know what happened with our postal votes, but hey, I don't suppose two votes will make that much difference.

So what am I so proud about?

Well I remember 10 years and 2 days ago, 3 elections ago, I was in the proud position to vote for my own husband.

Personally you can call me a bit of a Philistine, I don't really get involved in politics and feel that it's something that you shouldn't discuss with friends - but then most people who say that, it's because they don't know anything - like me.  Many people vote one way because they always have and because that's what their fathers did.  However I have at least opened my eyes to listening to all the arguments put forward and can form a real opinion - well I think so.

But I can't tell you how proud I was 10 years ago when Iain stood for his party for a seat in Parliament.  He knew he didn't have a chance and could only campaign for 5 weeks, but he gave the party a candidate when they wouldn't otherwise have had one in our constituency.

It was a very frenzied and interesting 5 weeks anyway.  We went campaigning, being "warned off" by the Candidate who thought it was his right to win - it's my patch, go somewhere else - unfortunately he did win, but it came close and he was out in the next election - the secretary general. We went to the hustings where the same gentleman decided not to attend because the BNP were coming, who incidentally made a statement and left themselves.  Iain made me so proud listening to his views of what is going on. At least he had the courage of his convictions and stood up there in front of everyone and spoke coherently.

We went to vote together at our local poling station - now how could I vote for anyone else? It felt really strange ticking the box next to my husband's name.

The exciting thing was when we came to the count.  What a night - we've never stayed out so late, particularly without a drink, watching all those ballot boxes coming in and the counting happening. It must have been 4 am before we left.

Iain was quite overwhelmed, with only 5 weeks to campaign there were over 1,200 votes, but unfortunately he was behind the BNP (where are they now?).

Would it be a different story today?

Actually Iain said that apart from the kudos of being an MP and supporting his chosen party, he didn't really want to win - because he already had a full-time career and couldn't afford the pay-cut. I do know though that he would have liked the opportunity to have tried to make a difference.  Nowadays he's happy to just retire and enjoy his leisure.

So having been without TV for over 6 months, tonight, we have managed to get Sky News so that we can watch the election results - it's going to be a long night.

Personally, I don't care what politics a person chooses, I just like them if they are nice.

Hope you all get what you want, but of course some of us will be disappointed.

But I just remember that night, just over 10 years ago.

See you soon...................................