I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 11 & 12

Thursday 12th January

Today we signed on the dotted line for an apartment for January and February 2018!  We have managed to get the very one we wanted though it is booked from March 1st but that’s fine with us.  It is in Oasis de Mar II and has a sea view, lots of outside space and TWO bathrooms!  I am really excited about it :-)

We then went caravan site exploring!  Friends and neighbours, Ingrid and Bob, are in their motorhome near Cadiz and are planning to come and visit us on their way back home.  There is a site in Mojacar but it doesn’t look brilliant and doesn’t take pets which rules it out straight away.  We looked at two south of Mojacar and at one came across a crowd of Brits who go there every year to get away from the British winters.  They were all sitting drinking wine under a fluorescent light which read BAR – this was attached to the back of a motorhome!

It was then north of Mojacar to look at three more.  The first one at Vera is split into two – textile and nudist!  We took the scenic route to the third one.  I was using Google Maps to direct us and I kept changing the route making it longer and longer – it is quite a clever system if you want to go the long way round.  However, one road petered out on us so we had to turn back!  The site at Los Gallardos was OK but it does appear at all these sites that everyone is very much on top of each other.  The last site was just out Mojacar Pueblo and the best of the five.  I have made my report so will now have to wait and see what Ingrid and Bob decide to do.

We passed through a huge vegetable/fruit growing area and were amazed at how the volcanic area has been cultivated.  This is a very big orange and lemon growing area and I had a real yearning to pick an orange off a bush but Richard wouldn’t let me – said he didn’t fancy visiting me in a Spanish jail!!

With leaves 
……. without leaves
We saw a large hill with a white building on top

On investigation, I found out that it was a volcano, the Cabezo Maria which emitted several lava flows through the Vera basin.  It would appear that this happened during the late Miocine period – in other words 23.03 to 5.333 million years ago.  Richard reckons we don’t have to worry about it erupting again!  The little building on the top is a shrine and local legend says that there’s been a shrine up there since the early 15th century, when the conquering Christians went about putting up crosses and churches on any high point. An ancient shrine was certainly there in the 19th century, and was partially rebuilt by locals in the 1930’s, but it then fell into disrepair.  Apparently, there is an audioguide which you can listen to on your phone as you walk up the hill and this says that Manuel, a local shepherd married to one Maria Toribia, used to graze his sheep up there, until on the 12th of August 1427 he saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. This started the tradition of the annual pilgrimage from the village to the hill and lead to the building of the first shrine in 1507.

We returned to Mojacar and then walked up to La Cabana to meet Sue, Andy, Wendie and Barry for tapas.  It was really quite hot and I felt overdressed in a blouse.  There were even people sunbathing on the beach.

 Friday 13th January

Friday is market day in Turre.  We took ourselves off and wandered up through the market and then I did my shopping on the way back.  Mainly fruit but also some paella seasoning and shoes for Richard.

We met up with the rest of the gang at an Indian Tapas bar.  Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t eat Indian food as it doesn’t agree with me.  I tried to ask for a rice tapas but the guy didn’t understand me.  However, he suggested that I have chicken masala which I did and enjoyed.  I did have a slightly odd tummy but that’s all – I will try again next week.  The gang is getting bigger especially as Paul has his brother and niece staying at present.  (Thank you Andy for the loan of your photo).

We returned to the apartment for the siesta before taking Muffin for his daily ball throwing expedition on the beach.  It was really lovely and I had a paddle - the water was rather cold at first but after a while it was quite warm.  

Friday, 13 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 8, 9 & 10

Monday 9th January

We are definitely coming back to Mojacar next year so have decided to find our apartment now.  The one we are in is OK but the balcony is very small and even though we have a lovely sea view the sun goes off us about midday and the apartment is very dark and can be chilly.  So today we started our search.  We would like 2 bedrooms, maybe 2 bathrooms but not necessary, large outdoor space which gets the sun most of the day (nowhere really gets it after 4pm here) and of course dog friendly. 

We went up to the Parque Commercial where we had lunch and then went across to visit Coastal Properties.  The girl in there suggested Oasis del Mar which we rather discounted straight away.  We then went to two more agents with the last one taking us to see two apartments.  The first one was lovely and we would have been more than happy to have stayed there but it didn’t have an oven – only a hob, which is crazy!  The second apartment wasn’t for us but it did get us interested in the development which was Oasis del Mar!  It was then back to the apartment to mull over what we had seen.

Tuesday 10th January

We were up VERY early today – 7.30am.  Betty was flying home and Sue was accompanying her so 12 of us met for breakfast at Cafe Moca, which is run by Brits, so we had a good old English breakfast :-)  It also gave us a chance to say hello to Roly and Bev who had arrived yesterday.  If you are a regular blog reader you will know that we met them last year and did the River Wey with them and Sue & Andy.

The best part of our early morning was the sunrise – it was amazing.

We said goodbye to Betty and au revoir to Sue and then we started our apartment search again – bring on Escape to the Winter Sun!! There are lots of apartment agencies and each one has its own apartments – none are duplicated.  We had arranged with Roly and Bev to meet them at La Cabana for tapas along with “home alone” Andy!  We met up with Andy but Roly and Bev never made it!  Still the tapas was good.

We were both tired and on our return to the apartment Richard fell asleep whilst reading his book so I went and laid on the bed and before I knew where I was it was an hour later!

Wednesday 11th January

Muffin always comes up on our bed while we are having our “early” morning tea and he rather blends in with the sheets!

Spot the dog!
We had arranged with Coastal Properties to view a couple of apartments in Oasis del Mar II.  There are two Oasis developments – I and II, with II being slightly newer.  However, the apartments in both blocks are almost the same – seen one seen ‘em all!

I had done a lot of online research and found that Coastal Properties had number 32 on their books which looked absolutely perfect.  Sadly, it was occupied so we couldn’t view it but we had a look at the outside aspect and it looked perfect. 

We walked across to the Lemon Lounge where we had a coffee and mulled things over.  (I do love the café con leche in Spain.)
It’s a bit difficult to see but it was almost 40°in the sun today
I chased up a couple of the agents who hadn’t responded to us and then did a further online search and came up with another perfect apartment but this was an internet booking.  I emailed the owner immediately asking if the apartment was vacant for next year and how much it would be.  Finally, during the evening, I got a reply asking if I was muddled as I was asking for January 6th and it was already January 11th!  Daft chap didn’t look at the year and said that the cost would be 50% of the online price.  As the online price didn’t mention the winter and mid term lets I replied asking – it’s 3pm on the 13th and he still hasn’t replied!

In the evening 7 of us went to a very nice restaurant called Sensations.  They do a menu del dia (menu of the day) for €12. The food was excellent for the price and a good time was had by all.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 6 & 7

Saturday 7th January

We were back to lovely sunshine today.  I love lying in bed with the sun streaming in and the roar of the waves on the beach :-)

Richard and I popped up to the Mercadona as last time I had bought some really nice sparkling wine and we wanted to get some more.  I was shocked to find that it cost all of €1.85!  I think every square inch of room in the car on the way back with be packed with it!  I also bought some Spanish cheese which we had a lovely fresh baguette for lunch.

In the afternoon we drove towards Carboneras which is south of Mojacar.  I hadn’t ventured right out of the apartment – only left!  Our first stop was at Macenas Beach where there is a castle, a military construction built in the 18th century to watch over the coast.

We then drove on Carboneras.  We both imagined a small fishing village but in fact it is a big town with not much to see – or so we thought.  On doing some research for the blog I’ve discovered that there is a lot of history so we will be going back to do some proper exploring.  The name Carboneras, actually translates to coal bunkers, as the whole area was stripped of its forest and used for coal. The region is now dry and arid, but contrasts beautifully with the blue Mediterranean Sea. The town now thrives on both fishing and tourism.

We drove back the long way along the motorway which cuts through the mountains.  I really must make an effort to take more photos!  We passed Café Blu which serves ice-cream so decided to give it a try.  The ice-cream was very nice but there wasn’t much choice yet as they haven’t been open long after a winter break.  They are very dog friendly there.

In the evening we met up with Sue, Andy and Betty and went to Al Punto, an excellent steak restaurant.  We all had rib eye steaks but most people were on the “all you can eat” deal – we might have a go at this before we go home!  The food was excellent and service very good.  The restaurant is very close to the Emerald Isle so we just had to go in there for a nightcap.  I had two Baileys – I believe they pour the spirits out for 5 seconds and it’s amazing how much you get in that short time!

Sunday 8th January

Another glorious day.  On Sundays there is a market at Villaricos – a short way north of Mojacar so we followed Sue and Andy.  Sue and I left the men and Betty at a café and wandered to the market.  There were masses of stalls both edible and non edible!  Sue bought Betty a couple of scarves and I bought a bum bag and a purse.  In the edible section I bought fruit and some veg and then we both bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner.  We joined the men for a drink and then drove back to Mojacar.

We stopped at Puerto Madero for tapas and were joined by Wendie and Barry along with Max.  The tapas was only small but very nice.  It was then back to the apartment for a snooze before having our chicken with some roast potatoes.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 4 & 5

Thursday 5th January

Today was a glorious day – blue sky and sunshine all day.

We followed Sue and Andy to Turre where there was a market. It is usually on a Friday but tomorrow is a Bank Holiday.  Sue said that there weren’t as many stalls as usual but I came away with some lovely fruit and a baking tray!  We had a coffee in the courtyard of a café right off the beaten track – it’s obviously only for people in the know!  We contemplated having a second coffee but Andy suggested that we went to La Garrucha, so we followed them there.

Garrucha harbour is the central point of the town and is defended by an eighteenth-century castle. It is still a working fishing town and fishing accounts for a large part of the economy. The fishing boats set off just before dawn and return in the afternoon with their catch. Garrucha is famous all over Spain for its locally caught red prawns.  At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a considerable trade in lead, silver, copper, iron, esparto grass and fruit, but now the only export from the harbour is gypsum mined in Sorbas, with a million metric tonnes being exported annually.

We went to the Rincon del Puerto, a restaurant on the harbour side where we sat in glorious sunshine and had a couple of beers and a small amount of tapas.

 We returned to the apartment and relaxed for a while before taking Muffin onto the beach with his ball.  He loves chasing the ball and really wanted us to throw it into the sea but the waves were a little too big for him.

I’m ashamed to say that we had an “Eastenders Fest” in the evening catching up on the episodes we have missed – I think it was about 2½ hours in total!

Friday 6th January

Today was the Fiesta de los Reyes (Festival of the Three Kings).

There is quite a debate raging across Spain regarding whether Santa Claus is displacing the traditional Three Kings at Christmastime. The truth is that Santa Claus is becoming more and more common, but even families that sign up with “Papa Noel” usually keep their accounts with the Kings open.

And as for the Kings themselves, they continue to arrive on schedule every year in villages, towns and cities to make the annual parade (cabalgata), which usually starts at dusk on the 5th.  Melchor, Gazpar and Baltasar (the African king) are magically able to appear simultaneously throughout the whole of Spain as evening falls, and they don’t come empty handed as they dutifully toss out handfuls of sweets to the children waiting in the streets.

That same night of January 5th children are supposed to leave their shoes out to receive the gifts. However, nowadays some families are actually turning to the Christmas tree as the place to pile gifts as the Kings’ spending power grows and shoes can no longer support the weight or volume of the delivery.

Some families set up their nativity scene in such a way as to be able to move the images of the wise men closer and closer to Bethlehem over the Christmas season. The idea is to have them arrive at the stable right on the 6th.

January 6th is a very special day throughout the region as it is a day for family to come together for a special meal, exchange gift and spend time together. Nowadays, Both Christmas Day and January 6th are getting about equal celebration with the children’s gifts often divided between the two days.

These are just a couple of photos borrowed from Google.

Sadly it was a really miserable day, with grey clouds and even a drop of two of rain.  The waves were quite big too (we hear the waves crashing onto the shore all the time – even when they are small.)

I’m afraid I didn’t get up until very late – but to be honest there wasn’t much to get up for and we are on “holiday” after all. 

In the afternoon we went up the mountain to see Paul with his dogs Bombo and Sammie.  As a thank you we had brought some beer over for him as I know he likes his British beer.  Paul is renting a very nice villa which clings to the mountain side – silly me didn’t take any photos but maybe I will get to take some before we leave.  We had a cuppa and a chat while Sammie and Muffin played – Bombo doesn’t play! I’ve pinched this photo off Paul’s blog.

To get British TV most people have a box of tricks which works off the wi-fi but I had been trying to connect the laptop up to the TV and managed to lose FilmOn which is what we were using to get the British TV.  The instructions didn’t work so we gave in.  However Paul had said that we could watch FilmOn through the internet using a laptop, so that is what we did.

In the evening I was able to Facetime with Tobyn as he had his bath.  I felt as though I was in the bathroom with him – it was really lovely.  The only problem is that as soon as he sees a camera/phone/ipad he puts on a sombre face and won’t smile!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Spain 2017 - Days 1, 2 and 3

Monday 2nd January

We woke up to the sun rising, 8.22am today with sunset at 6.01pm.  It was a Bank Holiday here and here the big supermarkets were closed as was most things.  We walked along the beach and up to see Sue and Andy’s apartment – it’s really lovely and I got apartment envy!  We sat on their terrace and had a coffee then decided to go and find somewhere to have some tapas.  We went to the Lemon Lounge which is run by Brits and we sat in the sunshine and had a drink or three and some lovely tapas.  In the photo Andy has his arm around Betty, his mother-in-law.

From the Lemon Lounge we walked up to the local Supermarket, Thomas’s, and then to the Euro Market which is an amazing shop that sells just about everything except food.  It was then back to the apartment and we were so full after the tapas we didn’t eat again but we did go the local pub, The Emerald Isle, where we caught up with Sue and Andy, Paul (who started the whole over-wintering in Mojacar thing!), Martin from NB Moriarty and a Canadian friend, Barry. 

These two photos were taken on the beach on our way to Sue and Andy’s in the morning.

Tuesday 3rd January

The shops were open today – yeay – so the first stop was the Mercadona with Sue and Betty where we were able to stock up on the Spanish essentials – wine was top of the list!  We dropped S & B and our shopping off and then walked back to La Cabana for another tapas lunch!  We walked back to the apartment along the beach where Muffin found a lump of wood which he wanted throwing into the sea over and over again – I really don’t know where he gets the energy from!

Most of the showers on the beach are switched off for the winter but we found one which we used to shower Muffin off.  The sand here seems to really cling to him.

These are a few of the photos that I took on the beach of Mojacar Playa.


We had bought a baguette at the supermarket so had that with cheese for supper as, once again, we were full after the tapas.

Wednesday 4th January

We had an exciting morning!  We went to Iceland!  That’s the shop and not the country!  Iceland is in Vera which is about a 30 minute drive away.  I stocked up on a few things that I hadn’t been able to get at the Mercadona but it was really strange to see Waitrose products on the shelves! In fact everything (I think) is British including the lady at the check out!  It was then back to the apartment for lunch and a very lazy afternoon.

I took these photos yesterday of our apartment from the beach. We are just behind the raised barrier in the top one and the middle right in the bottom one.

In the evening we had a lovely paella as it was Paul’s niece, Hayley’s last night in Mojacar.  There were seven of us and we had two large paellas – one seafood and one mixed.  They were really nice.  We called in to the Emerald Isle on our way back and I think it was almost midnight by the time we got to bed!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

SPAIN 2017 - the journey down

Thursday 29th December 2016

Let me start by explaining things!  Richard and I “don’t do” January.  We usually go to the Canary Islands for a week but last summer, after talking to Sue and Andy from NB Festina Lente, we decided to head to Mojacar in the south of Spain for a month.  Sue and Andy went out last January for a month and ended up staying for three!  I did a bit of soul searching about leaving my new grandson as I usually see him at least once a week and find that each time he has changed so much, so not seeing him for a month was a difficult decision to make.  But I will be Skyping with Tobyn and I’m going to get a new photo everyday and then our first stop when we get back will be for a “granny fix”!

We had had a busy Christmas with 6 people staying for the majority of the time (us included of course), 8 people + my grandson, Tobyn (3 months) on Christmas Eve and a ninth on Christmas Day. That made 9 for Christmas dinner.  By midday on Tuesday everyone had departed and it was time to say goodbye to Christmas and switch into Spanish mode!  I had spent November planning the Spanish trip so that in December I could concentrate on Christmas.  All the boxes that I had packed back in November were dug out of next door’s garage and I had a quick look through (not thoroughly enough as I found out later when we had too much of one thing and not enough of another!)  The car was packed – literally there was no room for another thing.  We only live 20 minutes away from the ferry terminal so didn’t have to leave home until 9.30pm which felt very odd but gradually the time came round and we set off. 

All went smoothly with check in – I had to scan Muffin’s chip which, thankfully, tied up with his passport then we sat in line waiting to board.  All the cars with dogs in were in the same queue but we didn’t realise that until the car doors opened on the ship and an assortment of dogs appeared all with muzzles on.  Poor Muffin hated his - well all the dogs did really.  We weren’t allowed to use the stairs so we all had to go up two decks in the lift which was supervised by a member of the crew.  The ship was due to sail at 11.30pm but we were tucked up in bed by then.  Thank you Brittany Ferries for Muffin’s present.

Friday 30th December

We arrived in Le Havre at 8.30am French time and set off on our way south.  The sat nav seemed to take us a strange way until we discovered that it had reset itself to “avoid motorways”!!  It quite often has a mad few minutes and resets to the map of the USA!!  I changed it and we hit the motorway.  One of new gadgets in the car is a Toll Tag which means we can go straight through the Peage without having to stop and pay.  Another new gadget is a dashcam – we learnt our lesson in the summer with our mishap on the ferry.  If we had had a dashcam there would have been no argument. 

It was very foggy and there had been a heavy frost – the temperature was about -3° most of the way.  We did have a lovely sunrise though.  We stopped for a coffee and ended up having a light breakfast – we had already had a breakfast bar on the ship.  I walked Muffin round a field and nearly froze – I don’t think I have walked in that sort of temperature for a long time.  The fog stayed with us for the whole journey though the temperature did rise a bit.

We only stopped once after that for Muffin to stretch his legs and arrived at our first hotel at Cestas (south of Bordeaux) about 4.30pm having driven 467 miles – probably about 50 miles further than we should have done thanks to the sat nav.  The hotel, or maybe I should call it a motel, was very dated and our room small with the oddest shower I have ever seen.  I thought it was for Muffin then realised it was for us!  We drove into Cestas and found a small pizza place and had, strangely enough, pizzas!

Saturday 31st December

I had packed breakfasts for our journey so we had cornflakes in our room and set off at 9.30am.  We were back to the freezing fog again but once we had crossed the border into Spain the fog went and we travelled in sunshine after that.  We bought sandwiches for lunch whilst filling up with fuel and stopped in the Spanish sunshine and ate them – it was still cold though.  We arrived at our second hotel at Monreal del Campo at 3.30pm – this one was called a Hostel and is basically 12 rooms above a motorway service station.  There is nothing around it as you can see from the photos.  We had travelled 378 miles.  If you are interested the Spanish border is somewhere around 595 miles from Le Havre (remember we had done some non-motorway driving).

Our room was large though a little chilly until we got the heating working.  Sadly the café had stopped serving hot food about 4pm so our New Year’s Eve dinner was a baguette, crisps and a chocolate bar washed down with cheap champagne!  We were both fast asleep by midnight.

We had a very nice sunset though.

Sunday 1st January

We had a breakfast bar in our room and were back on the road by 8.45am.  The motorway was empty – a Sunday and New Year’s Day when most sane people would still be tucked up in bed.  We drove a short way and stopped and finished our breakfast.

We then drove back into fog which cleared as we made our decent from 1100 metres to sea level near Valencia.  It was then a lovely drive south to Mojacar.

We arrived at our apartment at 3.30pm – a drive of 367 miles.  We were met by Alan and Mary who work for Blue Sea Villas who we had booked through.  They showed us round, answered a few questions and then left us to it.  The apartment look over the sea though if you stand at the balcony balustrade you will see the roof of the shops below!  But if you are sitting at the table you can only see the beach.

No sooner had Alan and Mary gone when Sue and Andy (Festina Lente) arrived with some essentials for us.  We sat and had a cup of tea, unpacked and went to find some food.  Hm New Year’s Day evening in Mojacar and nowhere was open.  Thankfully Sue had brought us bread and I had brought beans – so beans on toast it was :-)