Friends, Flamingos and Tapas

Well, how much are we loving Spain!

When we arrived here in our Motorhome at the start of November, pretty much everything was new to us. Both of us have had short holidays in mainland Spain or the Canaries, but coming here to travel for four months with a Motorhome was way beyond any previous holiday experiences. The language was new, neither of us did Spanish at school, and all we had was our first two hours of the “Paul Noble Spanish Course” under our belt. The roads and road signs were new, the speed limits were new, and understanding the Spanish drivers was definitely new. The people and the customs were new, the food, the restaurants, the supermarkets were all new. In short, pretty much everything we came across was new to us.

But it’s fair to say, having been here six weeks now, that we’re absolutely loving it.

When we said goodbye to France, we arrived in the Spanish region of Catalonia bang in the middle of the Independence referendum. Catalonia was adorned with the yellow and red flags, and posters and banners of the province, and while the political unrest gave us no trouble whatsoever, the feeling within the region was very reminiscent of how the Brexit vote in the UK split the country down the middle.

On our last blog post, we’d just left Valencia and were heading down to Alicante to meet up with Brian and Karen, our real life next door neighbours, and very good friends, from back in England, who’ve rented out an apartment in Grand Alicant (near Alicante) for a couple of months. We parked up in a fabulous wild parking stop on the beach, and spent a fun packed four days with our fabulous neighbours; where we ate too much, definitely drank too much, and did some fabulous walking through the local nature reserve where “Obe Wan” Brian imparted much knowledge on the animals, birds, insects and reptiles we saw along the way.

(Click on pictures to see them full size)

Good things must come to an end and for the sake of our livers, we decided we needed to move on. We headed down to a fabulous camp site in El Portus, just South of Cartagena. The site was tucked away in the middle of nowhere, with its own private beach. We only intended staying a couple of nights and ended up staying there for ten. We had a sea front pitch with a date palm right outside our door. We walked, we swam, we lazed, we laid on the beach, we snorkelled, we biked, this was truly a fabulous stop.

We’re on a deadline to get down to Malaga for catch our flights home for Christmas, so we reluctantly left El Portus, and pointed Elton, our van, southwards. We made it as far as the South East corner of Spain, where we’re staying in one of the countries biggest National Parks, the Cabo de Gata, in the Andalucia region of Spain, 600 miles south of the French border. We’ve seen flamingos by the dozen; who wouldnt fall in love with seing beautiful birds basking in the sun in the salt flats !

We arrived down here five days ago, and after one nights wild camping, we realised quite by chance that we were just 20 minutes away from friends and fellow travellers, Phil and Hillary. We first met up with Phil and Hillary in England at the start of the year, when we were just about to leave our house behind and set out on our travels. They were just in the process of clearing out their house and setting off to travel in the same way we did. It’s been lovely meeting up with them this week to share our individual tales of our first nine months on the road. It’s was also good to realise we all share a passion for walking. In the three days we were with them, we had fabulous sunshine, more alcohol and again danger to our livers, and walked more than 26 miles up mountains, over deserts and along scary coastal paths. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon.

As we’re moving further Southwards, we’re seeing more and more Brits travelling the roads in search of the winter sun. The site we’ve just left had about ten – very social – British couples staying here. It’s been fun meeting up in the bar for the “2 for 1” happy hour every evening, to share our travel stories, swap advice and plan the next stages of our trip.

One of the things that we’ve cherished most on our travels, both abroad and while in the UK, has been the opportunity to meet up with so many family or friends who either live or are holidaying somewhere along our route. It’s been lovely to take a day or two catching up and sharing our lives for a couple of days, in ways we probably never would have done had we been living in our home. Anybody reading our blog who fancies a visit, just give us a shout. We’re always looking for places to go and people to see – and somewhere to do our washing !

We’ve also been making many new motor homing friends, from many nationalities along the way. Mostly we’re seeing German, Dutch and French and of course Spanish travellers. Everybody is just so friendly – maybe because we’re all pretty much stress free being away from the daily grind of work and homes to look after!!

Now I know right now the UK is suffering from some pretty severe weather, with a fair amount of snow covering the country, so the last thing people back home want to hear about is what wonderful weather we’re having here in Spain. Some of you may be pleased to hear that, as I write this blog, for the last 36 hours the weather has been woeful; we’ve had gale force winds and a fair amount of rain. We’ve pretty much been in lock down as we’re waiting for the bad weather to pass. I guess the difference between here and the UK is that we know we’re going to have sun again tomorrow ?

Having been in Spain a while now we’re really starting to appreciate the tapas, the small plates of food which are served in the bars either with a beer, or as small dishes you can buy.

It’s been a fun experience ordering items from the tapas menu that we haven’t a clue what we’re ordering. Strangest item that’s turned so far has been the “Morcilla”, a small blood sausage, with rice, onions and pigs blood – a thick spicy squidgy mix inside a thick skin which can be squeezed directly into your mouth or onto a piece of bread. Not for the feint hearted but definitely very tasty ?. Most novel was the “Christmas Dinner” tapas, everything you’d have on a British Christmas dinner but in miniature and served on a tea plate!singly with a drink as small snacks, or with a few plates making up a full meal. It took us a while to really get into the tapas culture, we weren’t sure what or how to order. But once we’d sorted out how the tapas menus worked we’ve really enjoyed trying out some delightful little plates of food.

Christmas dinner tapas on a tea plate!

We’re now about 100 miles from Malaga, which pretty much marks our half way point in Spain – half way for distance and half way for time. We’re flying from Malaga back to the UK to spend Christmas with the family. When we get back to Our van after Christmas we’re heading west to explore Portugal and the rest of Spain.

That’s it – have a great Christmas everybody. We’re looking forward to seeing all the family and friends over the holidays, but really really NOT looking forward to the cold British weather.

Phil & Carol x

****All this writing and we havent even mentioned how well we’re doing with our Spanish lessons, how successful it’s  been buying a local Spanish Sim card for our wifi data, and the wildlife and birds that we’ve seen – maybe in the next post Christmas Blog !

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