Next Stop Los Madrille……

Time to move on. We had planned to spend half our trip in Pinar San Jose (a campsite in Zahora, near Barbate), ,on the Atlantic coast and the other half in Camping Los Madriles which is in a lovely village called Isla Plana, on the Mediterranean coast. However, the weather in Pinar was so good we thought me might as well spend the whole time there. Although the weather started well, the trees that provide a lovely shade during the height of summer worked against us in the beginning of the Spanish winter. We decided, as we knew the campsite in Isla Plana was more open, that it would be well worth the 2-day drive to get a little more sunshine around the caravan (or at least Jane did)!

The quieter roads disappear as soon as you get down level with Gibraltar and you are faced with the Spanish version of the M25 as you pass Algeciras, Marbella and Malaga, which is always fun when towing!

At least when you find a rest spot they come with great views!

Our overnight stop was in the small resort of Motril and the campsite was just over the road from the beach. The only problem with having the sea so close at hand is that the campsite was very tight to manoeuvre in with quite a lot of trees to watch out for, and the pitches were very small!

But after a long drive it was very handy to walk across the road for an evening stroll along the beach.

Los Madrilles……..borders of bougainvillaea and nice wide open pitches with a view of the sea……….

It’s a lot less windy here and in consequence a lot easier when riding your bike. A perfect opportunity to do a little more Geocaching……..Jane thinks I take a few too many risks whilst I’m climbing over the rocks in search of there caches, but in reality she knows that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to hurting myself so she doesn’t moan too much!

Sometimes the tracks are a little too rough for cycling……….

But the views are always worth it when you get to the top!

This part of Spain is more popular with the British, and consequently they are well catered for. I managed to get my hands on a couple of life’s basic necessities, which due to Brexit we can’t now bring over with us…..

Jane thought that my new sun hat was a little on the large size!

We took a trip in to Cartagena, and it was only when we got there that Jane told me she wanted to spend the day shopping……she took this picture of me by the statue of another man that didn’t want to go shopping!

The Ventura was in port whilst we were there so the shops were even busier than normal!

A great sunset on our way back from shopping, and as I was good Jane bought me a cake for behaving myself!

I’m not too sure of the story of this area which has been barred from all motorised traffic, but there is a lovely coastal walk past many deserted and crumbling buildings. It was once a community with houses, farms, barns and villas, and our only thoughts were that it must have been too expensive to maintain the crumbling infrastructure. It was a lovely walk, though, and with the added bonus of a few Geocaches along the way. (Mind you there were a few I couldn’t find, so next time I’ll have to bring along someone with a lot older and far wiser head on his shoulders ……….Kev Heard…..)

A Sunday morning cycle ride in to the nearby town of Mazarron to get the papers and have a full English……….lovely!

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Sherry Sherry Baby……

Jerez

The last time we were in this area we didn’t get chance to see a couple of their world renowned attractions. The first thing we booked up on our return this time was a trip to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to see the famous dancing horses.

We weren’t disappointed ……

The venue was stunning and such a beautiful place to showcase the skills of these horses and their trainers!

The arena was less than half full so we managed to get a seat with a good view………this photo reminds me of a children’s T.V series in the 60’s but I can’t quite remember the name…..I’m sure it had a very catchy theme tune though!

After the show we drove in to the centre of Jerez for a spot of lunch and to find where our tour of the Gonzalas Byass bodegas started……..

We found a convenient underground car park in the centre of the old town and when you emerged from the subterranean parking you were treated with some stunning buildings ………….

And luckily enough there was a sign on the wall which pointed us in the right direction…………..

Not far now………we walked through these gates only to be told that the visitors entrance is around the corner……….

Once inside we had a very knowledgeable English-speaking guide who took us through the many bodegas…………

And through what were once the streets of Jerez……….

But have now long since been taken over by the Gonzalez Byass company. The vines cover the streets keeping it nice and cool in the summer.

The old tasting/quality control room has been left just as Jane left it 10 minutes before!

There is a room full of casks that have been signed by the rich and famous over the years…..Bobby Charlton, The Duke of Edinburgh and Orson Well just to name a diverse few!

Mice are aplenty down here, and this little ladder has been placed by the side of a sherry glass so that they can get a little taster before they go to bed! A selection of photos on the wall show where the mice have actually used this ladder, but unfortunately none came out to pose for me!

“Well that concludes the tour”, said the guide, “follow me to the bar and we will see about getting you a taste”, and what sounded like a stampede overtook me to get to their seats first!

So in the end we got to taste the product. I was driving so I only took a little sip out of each of the 4 varieties that they served for us. That left Jane had to finish off nearly 8 glasses………….. !!!

And she wouldn’t pose for a photo afterwards so I have reenacted one for you for dramatic effect!

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Another Busy Day or Two…..

These days when I wake up early I don’t have the hassle of having to drive in to Southampton and open up the shop….now I’m lucky enough to be able to do or go wherever the fancy takes me, and when you are this close to a beautiful long deserted beach you just have to make the most of it!

This particular morning it was my great pleasure to catch half a dozen horses going at full gallup along the surfs edge! In this photo the horses are just about visible, but by the time I got my phone ready all that was left were the hoof prints in the sand!

We have taken a few trips slightly further afield to explore some more of the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of Andalusia. The village above is Arcos de la Frontera which we visited on a bright but slightly chilly day

It’s amazing to think that the picture on the left shows one of the main roads of the village. Thank goodness we parked outside and walked up, even though it was quite hard work!

We visited Medina Sidonia on a grey rather chilly day so we didn’t see it at its best…..mind you the tapas was rather nice even if we did get a bit wet whilst eating it!

The starting point of one of our walks along the cliff tops of Barbate was the little village of Los Caños de Meca, and we walked along the beach watching the surfers preparing for their day’s enjoyment. I was going to try belly boarding but Jane didn’t seem to think there would be a board big enough for my belly!

The walk up to the cliffs was challenging but well worth the effort once you got there, I think the trees looked like big bunches of broccoli…just saying!

After a long walk and carrying a rucksack full of Jane’s food and her various layers of clothing……….

Its time for a little light refreshment……with a view…….

This guy was out fishing when we started our walk and was still hard at it some 3 hours later!

After all the previous day’s hard exertions, the next afternoon we decided to go down to the beach and read our books. Whilst we were there this chap came riding past on a white horse, he was having terrible problems making it continue with their journey as every time a wave came in the poor horse stopped!

So at the end of another hard day reading and sitting on the beach watching white horses, it was time to visit the local bar and watch the sun slip slowly into the sea…….

Catching a glimpse of the Trafalgar Lighthouse hard at work………….

…. before seeing what Netflix has to offer!

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Halloween at the Campsite

Every region and town in Spain has a local holiday on the day of it’s patron saint. November 1st is the day of all the Saints (Fiesta de Todos los Santos) and this is a public holiday for the whole country.

Halloween obviously falls the day before and so the Spanish make the most of this public holiday……and party……BIG TIME!!!!!

Our quiet campsite was probably only about 10% full before the weekend, but as we returned from a day out we were slightly concerned at the long queues of caravans and motorhomes waiting to get in………

Not only was every available pitch taken but even all the little bungalows had a car parked outside and as decorations were appearing on the outside walls………….the beers were being opened……

Likewise with the caravans…………Thank goodness I seem to be sleeping well down here, probably a combination of fresh air and large G&Ts ………… Jane tells me the partying went well on into the night…..about 3am she says…..but I was oblivious to it on all 3 nights, the only thing that did disturb me slightly was when Jane turned the light on at about 2.30 ish so she could read her book!

A grumpy sleep deprived Jane didn’t really appreciate how cute the little kids looked………

Or even how menacing some of the older ones were…….

The only 2 things that did raise a smile were when this dog dressed up as a spider walked by, and on Tuesday morning when they had all gone home and a degree of normality had returned!

It’s probably just as well that when I was a kid Halloween only existed on Scooby Doo and other American T.V programmes, otherwise I’m sure I would have over-indulged on sweets…..much like I occasionally do now on Pork Pies!

Look out here they come again………..

At least the Bank Holiday Monday reminds us of home!

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Geocaching Out and About Zahora

As we are now staying at the same campsite for the best part of 5 weeks we are afforded the luxury of time. Time to really explore the local area and not just visit the main attractions. We could just cycle or walk from the campsite and see what’s just around the corner.

I have mentioned before that Geocaching has taken me to places I wouldn’t have necessarily visited just by looking at a map, and this has proved right for me again this trip. This view of Cape Trafalgar was taken a few feet away from a cache. I’m glad that I attempted this one on my own as the hill was very steep and I think Jane would have had something to say about it even with her electric bike!

The next cache we went searching for together was 2 miles down this lovely wooden boardwalk on a peninsula near the town of San Fernando……..Jane was interested in the shopping mall (she got a lovely denim jacket)……..

And I was more interested in visiting the deserted fort looking for the cache…….so it was a win win for both of us…….and I got a T-shirt!

The next chance to find a cache was whilst we were visiting Tarifa, but first things first, time for some more locally caught tuna for us both……and a glass of wine for Jane!

Tarifa is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. This is Spain’s closest point to Africa and on a clear day like we had you can see Morroco!

Tarifa is famed for it windy conditions and it was very entertaining to sit and watch all the kite surfers hard at play!

This monument was erected in 2019 to mark where 3 major European walking routes converge at the most southerly point in Europe………after further inspection I don’t think I will be starting any of them soon!

We drove through the sand dunes to get a better view of all the action out on the water…..this picture doesn’t really do it justice…..it was amazing to watch!

If you wondered where all the old anchors went when they retired….. its here, very close to another cache, one that we didn’t find……I’ll have to get Mr Heard to fly over and give me a hand!

At another searching spot Jane took the opportunity to catch a few rays whilst shouting to me to be careful as I clambered over the rocks………

And as per usual after a hard day out and about, it’s time for me to get on and prepare the evening meal…..yeah right says Jane!

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Pinar San Jose….So Good We Just Had to Come Back!

Our first trip to Pinar San Jose was in March 2017, and we loved it so much then that we stayed a week longer than we had planned.

That time we met up with a group of campers who regularly came back to this site year after year. We were hoping to meet up with them again this year but I guess Brexit and Covid have played their part in keeping people away.

I contacted a friend of mine who I bumped into by chance here on our last visit, and who has a house down here, and he thought that most of the gang would be down after Christmas………well there is another thought!

This is the first place that we pitched for a few days……………

And this is the second and final pitch. We had to change from our original site because we couldn’t get a satellite signal, and Jane (not me) wanted to watch TV and the recordings we’d made before we came away, so we moved. It took us longer to move 500 yards than it normally takes us to move 200 miles!

It doesn’t get light here until about 8.30am and that has thrown us a bit, my early morning walks don’t start until about 9am so our whole day starts a little bit later…….which is no real hardship, just a little longer in bed reading my book!

This is Cape Trafalgar on my first morning walk.

At that time of the day the beaches are deserted, you might happen upon a lone fisherman or a dog walker or as on one occasion 20 horses running by you at full gallup!

This is our occasional neighbour. Jane had heard a grunting noise from outside and thought I had fallen asleep on my lounger and was snoring, only to find it was a friendly pot-bellied pig…….not too much unlike me then!

We met up with another English couple, Simon and Caroline, with their dog and cat. Apparently the cat had caused a few problems by disappearing for a few nights on the tiles before finally coming back home for some food!!

Simon and Caroline’s lovely VW van was a subtle red colour with a union jack roof. You couldn’t miss it even if you tried! Simon and I liked G&Ts and Jane and Caroline liked wine so that sounded like a good recipe for an evening together under the stars putting the world to rights, and so it turned out….mind you we did come to some earth shattering solutions but none of us can remember them now!

This is Barbate Beach which is some 10 miles away from our campsite up and down a very steep, long hill about half way. Jane didn’t mind that too much as she has an electric bike, and the hill wasn’t too much of a struggle for her and also has the added bonus that it keeps me quiet as I don’t have an electric bike and I need all my puff to get up the hill!

We arrived in Barbate at lunchtime and settled down to a leisurely meal (local tuna) with a great view.

The cycle home was a bit of a disaster as Jane got a puncture half way up the hill! Those of you who know me know that I would struggle to fix one at home with all the tools I need around me, let alone at the side of a dusty road in the heat after a meal and a glass of wine!

My plan was to cycle back and get the car and put the bike in the back but Jane was worried about all the recent murders of lone women on this road on bikes with punctures so we had to come up with another plan! This was to push our bikes two miles uphill until we found a cafe where Jane could wait in safety whilst I got the car………my god, when we ordered those drinks and finally got them down our necks they tasted like nectar!

The nearest bike repair shop was in Vejer de la Frontera, and as I said I’m not particularly good at mending punctures, I thought we could kill two birds with one stone……. have a visit and also get the bike fixed at the same time.

Vejer is one of the 10 most famous of the Pueblos Blancos of Andalusia (White Villages) We had already visited here on the previous trip along with Ronda which is closer to Marbella.

These whitewashed Moorish towns have a certain laid back charm, windy lanes lead you to stunning views or to little bars where you can sit and while away a few hours people-watching whilst sipping a chilled drink and sampling the local tapas and waiting for your bike to get fixed!

That evening after all the walking around Vejer and getting the bike fixed, we decided to eat at the restaurant over the road from the campsite. Jane had pizza and I had squid and chips and they were both lovely, and as I wasn’t driving we had a couple of glasses of wine!

We can hook up our T.V to the campsite’s satellite network, which allows you to tune in to about 20 or so pre-selected channels, the only one we can find in English being ITV, and that is the Granada region, I wonder if this was a mistake by the person who selected the channels……maybe they were hoping for the major Spanish city 200 miles away to the east!

Russell and Jane were our neighbours on our first pitch. They had been staying on site for about a month and one evening they popped over to our caravan for a long boozy evening of G&Ts and wine.

Russell invited us over to their place a few nights later for a curry. Well let me tell you that this curry was fantastic! Russell even made his own curry paste by blending in his own special mix of herbs and spices, I definitely think he has missed his vocation in life, and that he should have moved to cheffing years ago!

It’s a shame that they have moved on to Denia as I could have eaten another one of those!

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AT LAST…….SPAIN AGAIN!

So, the last time we attempted this trip we only got as far as Santander. This was due to the Spanish Government announcing whilst we were on the ferry that Spain was going into lockdown and all campsites would be closed immediately. We had been regularly checking government websites and this was not what we were expecting! We had to spend two nights in a supermarket car park before returning back to the UK on the next available ferry!

At last, we are going abroad again in our caravan.

With car and caravan safely on board it was time to explore Brittany Ferries’ newest ship, the Galicia. The ship was modern and spacious and we had a very comfortable cabin. As we didn’t sail until 10.30 pm we thought that a quick explore and a nightcap or two was in order before bed.

The crossing was very smooth, the sun shone, the Bay of Biscay behaved itself and we got some nice views of the French coastline .

At last we are back in Spain!

This time we have a new van, a Bailey Cordoba, which is slightly longer than our previous one and has a  least a couple of advantages over our Cadiz. The first is that we now have a full size fridge freezer (ideal for storing up all the local chilled delicacies) and the second, and best advantage as far as I’m concerned, is that we now have long enough sofas so that I can fully lay out to watch T.V!

It is, as I say, nearly a metre longer than our last van, and there is no problem towing along most roads, but it is a bit more tricky getting in to some of the tighter campsites!

We made good time, and after pitching up took a quick trip to the local supermarket to stock up. (Brexit means we can’t bring half the stuff we used to…. no milk and not even pork pies!) After that I still had time to cycle alongside the river into the old town.  

As soon as I was back from my cycle ride, and my bike was secured on top of the car again, it was time for my first G&T of the holiday!

The next day the weather looked a little bit iffy, but we still thought we would cycle back into the old town and explore, and also have some lunchtime tapas with a glass of wine. The weather was kind to us and we managed to dodge the showers and ended up in the Plaza Mayor just as the sun was making an appearance.

Salamanca is a lovely old city with plenty of little lanes and alleyways to explore. We were there on a Sunday and the place was very busy with people coming and going to church, socialising and meeting up for lunch.

When we returned to the van we found that we had an unannounced Spanish visitor!

Next stop Seville, even with the large aerial on top of the caravan we still couldn’t get radio 2!

The campsite just outside of Seville was lovely ………….but very tight and with very small pitches. It was quite nerve-wracking and tiring, especially after a 6 hour drive, to get set up for the night!

Next stop Pinar San Jose………The traffic leaving Seville was very busy, not so much a traffic jam but more of a marmalade…..boom boom!!

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Fortrose

From Skye on the west coast to Fortrose on the east coast. Our next campsite was less than a stone’s throw from the shores of the Moray Firth………….

The views were stunning, and yet again the weather was very kind to us………

When booking in to our campsite I noticed a chalkboard sign hanging next to the door. The owner mentioned that every day on the rising tide there was a chance that you might see dolphins at Chanonry Point which was only a short walk away. When we arrived there, I was amazed at how many other people had also come down to hopefully get a glimpse of a dolphin or two ……..

The first nights’ viewing was unsuccessful, all we got to see was a few fins swimming past, but the next evening our luck was in. It was just like they were putting on a show for us! I took so many failed photos on my phone, always a fraction too late, …… but I did manage to capture this shot which I’m very pleased with considering it was on an I-phone!

There was a German T.V film crew there making a documentary, and they had been there for weeks so they knew where to look as the tide was changing. We took our lead from them………although I did employ a couple of expert dolphin spotters myself !

A short walk from our campsite was Fortrose and Rosemarkie golf club and it was alongside here that we took our nightly stroll to Chanonry Point, I wish I had brought my clubs with me, it is one of the oldest clubs in the world and looked beautiful……still there is always next time!

Chanonry Lighthouse as the sun is setting.

A Highland cow……. a very hardy breed, well it would have to be up here as it gets bloody cold in the winter and some parts of the summer as well!

Just across the other side of Rosemarkie Bay was the site of the battle of Culloden.This was the final confrontation of the Jacobite uprising. This took place on 16 April 1746 and Culloden was the last pitched battle on British soil, in less than an hour, around 1,300 men were slain – about 1,250 of them Jacobites.

The further North we ventured the later it took to get dark, the sun is setting here at about 10.45 pm!

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Blue Skye Thinking

Dunvegan Castle was our first stop on our whislestop tour of the Isle of Skye. Dunvegan Castle has been the stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years and it remains the home of the Clan Chief. Not the most attractive of castles from the outside, it looks a bit like a block of flats with turrets!

The castle houses a collection of memorabilia, including a fairy flag. Legend has it that this sacred banner has miraculous powers and when unfurled in battle, the clan MacLeod would invariably defeat their enemies. There are also some items belonging to Flora MacDonald, who apparently is not the margarine burger heiress!

Jane took great delight when purchasing the tickets to the castle as this was the first time I was eligible for the seniors’ rate!

When you are out and about exploring there’s alway ample opportunity to do a little geocaching and, as on this occasion, you get to go to places you might have missed.

This is the Coral Beach in Claigan, just north of Dunvegan. The beach is made from crushed white coral like seaweed that makes the water look tropical blue when the sun comes out. A truly magical place!

We were very lucky to see this place on such a lovely day, although when the wind blew it was still a bit chilly! Just a random fact, the name of this bit of water is the “Little Minch”…….I just liked the name!

The next stop on our tour took us to Neist Point and this is where one of the most famous lighthouses in Scotland is situated. It is on the most westerly tip of Skye near the township of Glendale, where we stopped for our fish and chips lunch and an ice cream……..lovely!

We were still holding on to the beautiful blue sky but it was getting chillier, and we were running out of energy so we didn’t walk down to the light house……..which I regret now that I’m sat here in my study writing this!

After about 12 hours of touring around Skye it was time to head back to our caravan, which was pitched at Reraig Camping and Caravan site on the shores of Lock Alsh, to have some tea!

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How I Conquered Ben Nevis

It has been a long-held ambition of mine to climb the 3 highest peaks of the U.K. Jane and I were close to starting the ascent of Snowdon but the bad weather had other ideas, and it didn’t seem like a wise idea for us novices to attempt the summit in the rain and fog! I think Jane was secretly pleased but I was disappointed and have kept that one for another day.

As luck would have it the weather was great for my climb of Ben Nevis.

This time I was to be accompanied by mountain man Kev Heard. Although I thought I was fairly fit, I wasn’t sure that I could do it, but Kev had climbed the mountain several times before and convinced me that I could!

You can’t actually see the summit when you start off as it’s hidden by the hills you have to climb early on in the journey, and with every corner you turn you hope to get a better view!

On the lower slopes the pathway is well defined with large flat-ish rocks for you to climb over…………

And the further you ascend there are some handy boulders at the side of the path where you can take a breather, sit down and admire the view……………..

The further you climb, obviously the views get better, and when you look back the broad, wide path that you were walking on an hour ago now looks like a piece of string hanging on to the side of the mountain!

When we passed it on the way up I didn’t realise how important this stream would be on our return journey. It is recommended that you take at least 1.5 litres of water when you start your climb and that’s what I did. I also took the advice that the weather can change very quickly, and that you should take warm waterproof clothing with you and enough food to see you safely up and down. However, we were lucky enough to time our climb for the hottest day of year which meant that we got through our water so much quicker than we anticipated, and so we eagerly filled our empty bottles on our return!

As we climbed and talked to other climbers along the way, we were told how lucky we were to be on the mountain today as they only average 15 days a year when it is as clear as it is today!

It’s now getting a bit more serious; the boulders are getting bigger, and with larger gaps which are filled with loose easily moved shingle!

But the views are certainly getting better!

This was certainly the most difficult part of the climb, and you really had to concentrate on every step so that you didn’t twist your ankle

The loch that we passed a couple of hours ago now looks like a small puddle!

Mountain Man Kev takes a well deserved break!
Loch Linnhe in the distance
Nearly at the snow level!

By the time I had reached this point in our journey I had just about enough energy to take a photo, let alone build a stack of stones!

As you can see, not everybody can easily cope with the changing conditions underfoot…………

Even Mountain Men can slip……………and on the way back down Kev’s slip, and consequent descent on his bum, made everyone else think that this was certainly the easiest and most fun way to get down!

We made It!

One more photograph and now it time for my SANDWICHES!!!!

Well worth the effort!

A well deserved pint!
But just an orange juice and lemonade for me!

Back at ground level it doesn’t seem that bad.

It took us 4 hours up, we had an hours rest at the top and then another 4 hours down. It was probably one of the hardest, most demanding things I have ever done and I’m pleased that I accepted the challenge .

Now that we have reached its summit we are now entitled to just call it “The Ben”!

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