Last week we had crossed back into France and stayed at St Tropez, and we had had to make some decisions on where we would feel most comfortable and safe during these strange times. The sun had returned, and we took a two-day break and had a walk about ate in and relaxed.
Though Covid numbers are rising throughout Europe we wanted to be warm as well as safe, for the next few months. Our options were really Greece (Crete), or Italy (Sicily) or head back to Spain where we learnt about motorhome life back in 2016. We also would like to visit our family in the UK for Christmas, so with that in mind Spain / Portugal won out as they are closest to the UK in practical terms, so this week we sped off in that direction. It is Sunday and blog night I am writing this on a small camper stop at Altea south of Valencia, just over 1500 Kilometres from Mark in Lucca!
We have now clocked up over 10,000 miles so far on this trip, not bad when you consider we were stationary for over 3 months in Turkey with lockdown. Our beloved ‘Buster’ has performed masterfully but sometimes there are ‘Bumps’ in the road that will throw you a curveball and ruin your day, but more of that later.
We checked our usual information sources on the situation, the FCO site, and several Facebook motorhome groups and all seemed good. But things can change so we decided to use the Autoroute this would mean we could be in Spain very quickly. We do not like to drive for longer than a few hours so we had one more night in France, we chose a free French Passion site, near the town of Beziers, a free wine tasting is included! The location proved to be lovely and the owners very friendly and helpful, and the wine was particularly good and reasonably priced. Van slightly heavier as we added three more bottles to our collection.
Plus, there was an added bonus, Beziers turned out to be the sort of town you hope France is, but don’t find, warm, friendly, quaint, interesting great local wine and food. Though we did not eat out we saw many ‘Plat du Jour’ at less than €15 including wine.
On top of that it is on the Canal du Midi with a UNESCO listing for both the town and the amazing locks on the canal. I was in my element, an engineering marvel. Plus there was a disused boat lift beside it which was another marvel. There are cycle paths that take you along the canal into the town running over the river, a real oddity. The town itself is compact and cute, we would love to come back this way and do the run along the canal from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. But we needed to get on and set off to Spain.
We crossed the border without noticing there were no checks or in fact a border just a sign saying Spain.
We were in the mood to rekindle our love for Spain as the sun shone down on us. We headed to a campsite we had loved near Barcelona when we were here in 2016. Though we checked their website and it said it was open to 1st November, there was no sign of life. This was a real disappointment but that is the way things are with Covid. Using our trusty Park 4 Night app and we found a simple stopover a few miles down the road. All automatic but €15 all good clean and empty, we have plans to drop by some friends as we head south so up early to get back on the road, we emptied our waste and filled up with fresh water as we would be wild camping for the next few nights.
I drove the van out the gate turned right over a particularly large road hump, and our ‘Buster’ has quite a long rear end. We heard a ‘crack’ and suddenly we could hear metal dragging along the ground. Perhaps our spare wheels had undocked we thought, but no when we looked under we found that the strap that holds the fresh water tank in place had snapped, disaster, we could not move and had I broken our brand new tank only installed a week ago!
We drained all the water out, while our 100 litres was slowly pouring out we had visits from the local council, police and of course locals. Most were concerned about us and our situation, the police wanted us to move as we were in the middle of the road.
But once the tank was empty, I was able to jack it back into place use the chocks to hold it in place. Drill a hole in the strap and use cable ties to join it back together. Now we could move, but what to do to get a proper fix.
Park 4 Night has another app that lets you know where dealers are, and we made our way to the nearest one. What we needed was someone to make a new piece to hold the tank in place properly and do it there and then. Well we were in Spain, the owner Daniel and mechanic looked at it, and said he had a two-week waiting list for repairs, but they would have it ready by 6.30 that evening for us. We love Spain! Yes at 6.30 we arrived back at La Campa del Caravaning and there was ‘Buster’ ready to continue on the journey, tank firmly back in place. We moved on a bit further and spent a happy restful night.
We had picked out a number of stops but did not realise that it was a double bank holiday and everywhere was full. Yet again Park4Night showed the way, there was a camperstop near Valencia we had not noticed before, we made the call, do you have any room? They literally had just opened and had just added themselves to the app. We were their very first customers, and it is a lovely camperstop, by a small village. All for €15, with every facility you could ask for and helpful staff. The cycle paths in the area are amazing you can cycle all the way to central Valencia on the path all the way to the Apple store to get your broken screen replaced as I did!
We were not fans of Valencia on our last visit, but it was emptier this time and we really liked it, on top of that our hosts at the camperstop recommended a local restaurant. There was no menu but the owner Javier, and virtually all the clientele welcomed us as the first customers to the camperstop, we had a wonderful night and great food and lots of Cava.
After what ended up being a late night, we woke more than a little tired, and decided that we needed to eat in all this week, but before that, we were still off to El Palmar for a Paella lunch, and soon realised that bank holiday traffic is bad everywhere! The road into the village has a series of narrow bridges and we were grateful to get to the carpark. Luckily, there was a man on duty who moved cars around to get us a space in the throng of cars out for the day.
We walked through the village noticing virtually all the restaurants were full, we have been here three times before and have our favourite, but disappointment, no room in the inn ☹! Not to be beaten back we walked into the one opposite and they quickly found us a table, and magic was served.
The Spanish love their food and will pay for it, but never too much and we ended up having a fantastic lunch at an affordable price. Even on the biggest bank holiday of the year. El Palmar is in the Parque Natural de la Albufera and is the home of the rice fields, this IS paella country. All around the combines were gathering the magic grains, and here the temple to the national dish were thousands of people celebrating their national holiday eating it.
Covid be dammed, masks on, hands disinfected sort of socially distanced, they still must enjoy life, so be careful and enjoy seems to be the attitude. You have to love Spain.