Sunday, 29 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020. The Journey Home. Running from Covid 19.

Our holiday was finally over! We were so aware of the growing threat of corona virus. Not yet in Spain but certainly on it's way with each day. We had given ourselves 5 days to make the run to the tunnel. We would take 2 days to get to the French border giving ourselves three days to get up through France. We usually used the toll roads on the way home for an easy drive.

We were not so unhappy to say goodbye to Los Olivos and it was not a long drive to our first stop at Zaragoza. Originally we had planned to stay at the Winter Sun site in Zaragoza. However, the reviews were not great. We decided instead to make for the camper stop near the city centre. A good decision. 

The camper stop was really easy to find. Just on the out skirts of the city by the football club and university. We arrived in the early afternoon and there were loads of spaces. We were soon settled in. Tucked in between the French and Germans. The tram to the city centre was just by the auto stop but we decided to investigate the local area on foot. There were loads of bars and restaurants and a big Carrefore within walking distance. We had soon found a friendly local restaurant and had a very pleasant inexpensive meal. 20 euros for three courses including a bottle of very nice red wine. The camper stop was free, so no facilities, but you could empty waste water and your toilet. We had a very quiet night and in the morning wandered to a local cafe for coffee.

A short dash cam arriving at the auto stop.

From Zarragoza we decided to make for France and settled on another Winter Sun Site just south of Bordeaux Camping Beaux Soleil. Easily found off the Bordeaux rocade at Gradignan. A small site which was quite full, probably because it was in the Winter Sun book. We arrived early enough to get one of the last free pitches.

A short dash cam. From Zarragoza.

A strange site. The grounds were beautifully maintained. Showers were hot and the block was heated. Toilets were unisex and not pleasant unfortunately. A 10 minute walk took us to a very nice bar where we had a few drinks, watched the French kissing each other and then into the Brasserie next door, where we had a lovely expensive meal. Obviously social distancing was not on the horizon at this point. We had been following concerns about the corona virus on motor home forums during the journey. 24 hours later the world had changed.  It appeared we had made it into France just at the right time, with talk of Spain and France going into lock down, bars and restaurants were already closed. We were amazed that everything up to this point in France, had seemed much as normal.

Our next stop would be Les Acacias at Tours. We found the campsite with no trouble but it was early afternoon and the gates were locked. We could see people moving around inside and thought it was open as we had met a couple with a caravan on the last site who were also heading there. Obviously " no room at the inn". There was a notice on the gate telling us that due to the virus we could only book in online, then we would be given a code to enter. Try as we might we could not get the online system to work. A "helpful" camper told us we could try ringing but the office was locked up and they wouldn't answer the phone. A French camper more helpfully, gave us a gate code but that would not work either. We decided to move on as it was getting late. Camper Contact came up with an open site 7 k away and we were soon arriving at Camping Only Tours. Loire Valley. 

A very warm and friendly welcome here. By the river. Great facilities, loads of room and a pleasant spot on a hard standing.

A short dash cam. The journey to Tours.

We were soon fed, watered and snuggled in for the night with a bottle of wine. This is a site we would certainly return to for another visit and good value too. 

We were beginning to feel the stress of the virus around us. In a dramatic change from the day before, now the roads were really empty, all the bars and restaurants in the service stations were shut. We decided to make one last stop before the tunnel. We were lucky and able to bring our booking forward by 24 hours ( with no extra payment!) Well done Euro Tunnel for a prompt efficient service. One more stop to find in France. 

The next morning back on the road towards Calais. Empty roads sped us on our way,we were now anxious to get home. Calais for a night stop was out, so Camper Contact came up with a good alternative, an aire a few miles from the tunnel. Driving down a few windy and narrow country roads, we soon found Camping La Ferme de L'Horloge near Tardinghen.

Basically and literally a farmers field. Behind the barn was an electric hook up, water tap and a place to empty the loo. We spent a silent night only woken up by the noise of the tractor and all for 12 euros. We were the only ones there.

A short dash cam. Tours to a stop near Calais.

The last dash cam. Calais Tunnel and home.

Our last night in France and my birthday. The next morning we easily made it to the tunnel and home. No checks, no warnings about Covid 19 and we were so pleased to pull onto our drive. The only big hold up had been an accident on the M4 so all in all, we had got away lightly. A great "last supper" birthday meal at our local Indian and the holiday was over.

Once home we followed the news, we have come back to a different world. Two weeks later. a reality check. We had met quite a few people who intended to sit out the corona drama on the Costas. I pray fate has been good to them, we feel a lot safer at home. We hope!! Krystal is safely on the drive waiting for the next adventure,who knows when that will be? We will be ready!

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020. Los Olivos Spain

Finally we were on our way to our last site. a new Camping & Caravanning Club rally. We had met the stewards Gill and Chris at Castille de Banos last year so we were looking forward to a new experience. Sadly the weather had not been as good as last year, cooler overall but still worth the journey for the beautiful warm days we had, on and off. This site was further north in Valencia at a place called Alcala de Xivert. ( pronounce the "X" as a "ch") Just 17k from Peniscola and  7k from the beach at Alcossebre. In the foothills of the mountains amongst the orange groves. We were excited!

We left Kiko Park with a longish drive in front of us around 4.5 hours we thought ! Madam Satnag was dutifully programmed in with the co-ordinates, we thought it rather strange that we couldn't find the campsite name in our trusty Garmin. Several hours later in the mountains we went up and down the same pass at least three times. Something was wrong as Madam Satnag was not performing! In desperation I enlisted the help of Google, hurray he found the way! We had managed to mix up our Wests and Easts and consequentially were travelling in the wrong direction. A quick spurt down the motorway and we had arrived....finally! Just in time the main Reception was about to close. We were allocated a pitch but VERY STRONG winds and a German builder put us off. The Rally stewards helped us out and we were soon settled in.A large gravel pitch between two statics. We were out of the wind so we were happy. A meal in the campsite restaurant, a large wine and all was well in the world.

Los Olivos proved to be rather a strange campsite. Fairly described in the Winter Sun book. The pitches were huge and the roads really wide. The club house was an enormous villa type building. The story goes it was built to be a golf course but planning permission was refused, hence the facilities. Toilets and showers were housed behind the restaurant, more of that later!

The campsite roads built for trucks.

At the entrance to the site was a kind of aire. Smaller pitches for campers. A very long walk to the facilities. We were pleased not to be in this outside spot.

Reception. Everything here on a grand scale.

The White House home to the restaurant, bar, gym with loos and showers around the back. Shame the bar and restaurant closed at 8 pm. I thought the Spanish liked to party 'till late. Not here.

The swimming pool looked nice. It was closed.

The Rally was well organised with a pleasant programme of events much as expected. We decided to explore the town. Alcala de Xivert. A really typical small Spanish town. Miles from anywhere and slightly run down. It's claim to fame is the castle outside on the hill and it's large elaborate church. Sadly we never found the church open, or the tourist information. There was a market on a Friday morning packed with market mainly clothes and not much else. The town was pleasant enough to wander around but slightly depressing.

The church very grand with a tower that can be climbed when it's open. Everything was closed.

Xivert is not a tourist top spot destination. Perhaps this is where it's charm lies. We were looking for a pleasant bar or nice restaurant, sadly there are none. We did find a bit of entertainment one morning on our way back from the supermarket though. A large lorry had a slight disagreement with a narrow street.

With a bit of help from a passing English truck driver, a host of locals and the police he eventually escaped. It kept us entertained for a while.

Surrounding the town are orange and lemon groves. A good place for dog walking I would think. There was some kind of dog sanctuary just outside the campsite, I was always a bit wary walking past as they were very noisy. 


The rally stewards organised a walk to the castle, up the mountain and definitely not for the fainthearted. A little jaunt of only 9.5 miles. We set off feeling very fit and healthy! We were led by one of the ralliers who had done the climb before , a motley crew. It all started of so gently, along the track through the orange groves.

A little discussion as to if we were on the right track. We weren't, so back we went.


And up.... clambering over the stony path.

Each time we got to the top of one path there was another.

Eventually we made it!

Finally at the top and a tremendous view. All we had to do now was descend.

Our little wander took 5.5 hours. The walk home was calmer and down a road for most of the way. We really deserved the cold beer. Oh dear all the water holes were closed! We made our way back to the camp bar. Certainly covered our 10 000 steps that day. Would I do it again. NO!! Although it was enjoyable.

Our last day had finally come to an end. Tomorrow we would run in front of the corona virus to get home.

Homeward bound.

Would we use this site again? I don't think so. The site is a long way from anywhere. Good for walkers but it needs a lot of work. The toilets were very superficially cleaned and would be totally inadequate if the site was full. If we had been on the small pitches by reception we would have left. It was a very long walk to the facilities. After a couple of days we had seen all we wanted to in the town and after 9 nights were beginning to be a bit bored. Nice for a short stay maybe. Perhaps we would have looked at it differently if we had a car and caravan or if we were into golf. There was public transport but the trains stopped miles from the beach so not really useful for a seaside visit. It was really too far for a day trip to Valencia by train. Sadly not a part of Spain we really want to return to.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020. Kiko Park. Spain

Our next destination. Kiko Park, near Olivios. A large expensive site by the beach. Home for 9 nights in a part of Spain we had not been to before. We were amazed by the profile of Benidorm and the built up areas along the coast. 

Olivios is a small lesser known Spanish resort more geared up to the Spanish I would think. Saying that, the site was full of huge German campers. Our little Krystal was dwarfed! However, small is beautiful and perfectly formed! There are bars and restaurants in  the town and a big Lidl and Mercadona all in walking distance. On Friday mornings there is a big market, one of the best I thought for fresh fruit and vegetables.

We did have a laugh when our German neighbour opened his rear garage.

Slightly extreme we thought!!

Kiko Park was very busy with a late leaving time of 3 pm. We arrived at 2.50 pm to be greeted with a "we are not moving till 3!" Eventually they left and we moved in. A friendly start!

The campsite was clean and tidy the pitches were big enough once you got on them. Showers were usually hot and washing up sinks were plentiful, hot and indoors. Electric was metered and we got 4 kw  free, more than that and you pay at the end. 

The beach was beautiful with very fine clean sand with miles to walk.

A big clean up was going on from the previous storms.

Olivios town was a short bike ride or a 20 minute flat stroll away.

Very Spanish. We watched a local Lent procession. Walkers carried a heavy frame and passers by put food onto it. Accompanied by the local band.

We climbed up the hill following The Stations of the Cross, up the Calvary Hill to the castle. A big climb not one the Health & Safety Elves would approve of I'm sure!

Once up at the top of the hill, the castle is a bit under whelming. Fabulous views though.

We took a quick route down and found a local winery for some sustenance. 

Fame at last for Olivia. Apartments for under 60 k and a mention in "A Place in the Sun".

Would we go back to Kiko? Possibly! We liked the fact it was not a very commercialised area living on tourism. On the other hand, it did need a bit of sprucing up and parts of it were a bit dead. The little campsite restaurant/cafe was friendly enough and the food was OK but lacked atmosphere. However, a much, much nicer venue than Bella Vista so we wouldn't rule out another visit out. An easy 9 nights but ready to move on. We could have done without the wind from storm Jorge. Two awnings nearby suffered.

A short dash cam. La Canada to Kiko Park.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Winter Sun 2020 Castille de Banos and La Canada Spain

We were somewhat relieved to be escaping from Bella Vista and onto our next short stay destination at Castille de Banus near Motril. A nice little site by the sea, we had stayed there last year and were looking forward to the change. An interesting drive through the plastic of Almeria and we arrived in time for lunch. This site is a rally site but the rally section was great deal quieter than the last year, so plenty of choice for pitches. As we were only staying 2 nights we opted for the seaside option. Backing onto the sea we were soon settled in.

A really nice pitch. We woke to the sounds of the sea!

The beach had suffered in the winds earlier in the season but was making a good recovery

Sadly the weather was not as bright and sunny as last year but at least it was dry. We really wanted to do the walk over the mountain but it was very overcast and unsettled. We did a beach stroll instead to La Mamola. 

Again much the same as last year but so much quieter. There were a lot fewer people on the Camping & Caravanning Rally and we did wonder if that had effected the bars on the front. Far fewer were open! Even the two Pedros bars were shut. The village this year was slightly depressing.

The campsite restaurant and bar was open so we had a very nice meal and shared a bottle with Jack ( Daniels. ) Very generous measures too, so we were happy. 

Would we stay again. Maybe for a couple of nights if we went that way. A very quiet relaxing campsite with a few rally options for those interested. We did note this year that the second open part of the campsite was much fuller with customers mainly German and French. Possibly due to the clamp down on wild camping in the area.

Our next stop was La Canada, described as "like a CL site." Basic toilets and showers, lovely views but no water ( take your own.) We were only stopping one night so we were not too bothered.

La Canada was easily found by Madam SatNag. On a main road not too far from Mojacar. A short walk to the village of Turre. 

We were given a warm welcome and a massive pitch. The views of the mountains were lovely and the sun was coming out.

Plenty of room!!

There were quite a few long stayers on this site. Apart from a bit of farm yard noise it was silent at night. Probably a bit too quiet for more than a 2 night stay for us.

We decided to wander into nearby Turre. A 20 minute stroll along the rambla and we were surprised at the town. Loads of bars and restaurants we had a very nice meal.

The walk along the rambla was flat and easy, very isolated until you reached the town.

An easy stroll to town.

The following morning we admired the views and took advantage of the sunshine before moving on. Definitely worth another stay!

A short dash cam. Castillo de Banos to La Canada.