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

Monday, 30 March 2020

Spain 2020 - A sad farewell, a pretty awful journey and another "burglary"!

Monday 16th March

We spent the morning doing the final packing and then Richard had to pack the car.  I really don’t know how he does it but it doesn’t seem to matter how much stuff there is he always gets it in!  However, I did catch him walking to the bathroom with a pack of toilet rolls!  He said there just wasn’t any room for them, but I took them out of the plastic and shoved them in where I could!

Photo taken at a motorway services, but it shows the loo rolls!
We had lunch, a veritable feast of lasagne, peas and Magnums!  All taken out of the freezer.

It was then time to leave.  I felt quite depressed as we drove away, but that depression only got worse as we drove along the Paseo.  All bars and restaurants along were closed and everywhere looked so sad.  However, one of our worries had been that we would be stopped before we got as far as the motorway but there were no police anywhere. The traffic on motorway was light to start with but as we moved north it did get a bit heavier.


Further on the signs were telling us how many people had the virus and how many deaths there had been in each region.  Not nice.

Other than the usual lorries on the roads the amount of cars was minimal.  However, there were a number of motorhomes from lots of different countries.  Some of which were from Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Finland, France, Switzerland (this one was bright orange), Belgium, Czech Republic, Norway, Poland and even Columbia!!

We stopped at a service area for a cup of tea.  We were self sufficient on the food and drink side which was just as well as there was nothing open.  Of course, that meant that were no toilets open either!  We moved on to the next service area and that was just the same.  Richard got some fuel but had to pay using the outside night-time facility.  There was only one thing for it but to find a hedge or tree where I couldn’t be seen but with all the lorry drivers around that wasn’t easy!!!!

As we got further north the temperature got down to 5° - we had been used to it being in the 20s!

We crossed the French border just after 9pm.  We had expected police or border guards but not a soul!  However, we met thick fog in France which fortunately dissipated as we dropped down.

There was one good thing that happened today, I won £10 on the post code lottery.

Tuesday 17th March

We had been taking it in turns to drive but I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep on Sunday and was extremely tired.  At one stage I was out for the count and Richard felt tired so he pulled into an Aire so he could sleep too.  It was about 1am.  I woke up and thought that maybe we shouldn’t be stopping there as it was very quiet and I had heard of stories of people being gassed in their cars by thieves.  However, I just said to him to make sure the doors were locked.  I heard the clunk as they locked.  You are never going to believe what happened next, but we were “burgled”.  We were asleep when firstly Muffin woke us both up by growling, he often make noises in his sleep, so we weren’t worried.  Then we heard a noise and Richard leapt out of the car to see a bloke running off with his sponge bag and, we later discovered, my sleep machine. We know that Richard had locked the doors, but the boot lid obviously hadn’t locked. Richard checked round to make sure the chap hadn’t dropped anything but there was nothing. The annoying part is that the guy will just dump the stuff as it will be no use to him. My sleep machine belongs to the NHS so hopefully the hospital will give me a new one and all that was in the sponge bag was the usual stuff plus a razor and two electric toothbrushes that were going to be replaced when we got home.

After the “burglary” we moved on pretty quickly and drove on, swapping over, until it got light.

One of the things that we noticed were the amount of cars heading south.  There were very few cars going our way but the number going south was enormous. 

We stopped for some breakfast with a very welcome cup of tea.  Yesterday I had filled the two vacuum flasks with boiling water which had given us 2 drinks each yesterday but the water wasn’t hot enough to make tea this morning so I put what was left in each flask into the 12v kettle and boiled it up – magic a hot cuppa!

We made one more stop and I got two coffees out of a machine – it was surprisingly good!

We kept on heading north then suddenly we realised that there were no cars on the road.  It had gone midday and France had gone into lockdown and cars were only to be used for certain things. Travel to and from work, essential food shopping, medical appointments and vital family reasons such as providing care to children or the elderly (but not family visits). If you disobey these rules you can be fined.  These fines were set €38 when the lockdown started but have been raised to €135.  You also have to have a form each time you go out stating why you are out and what time you left home.  If you are travelling to work your employer needs to sign the form.

We arrived at Eurotunnel at 1pm.  First, we had to check Muffin in, so we drove to a compound where there were quite a few cars and motorhomes and lots of dogs!  We checked in and were give a shuttle two hours before our booked one.  Before we knew where we were we were on the shuttle and heading to Folkestone.  Muffin had been really bored and had been whining so I put him on my knee for the crossing,

The journey is so quick and we were soon back in Folkestone and on the M20.  We stopped for something to eat and found McDonalds.  Richard likes to eat in usually but we took the food back to the car.

The journey back home took 2½ hours but I don’t remember most of it!  I guess I must have been asleep!

We arrived home at 5pm.  28 hours of almost continuous driving.  We were greeted with a cup of tea but no hugs for my daughter!  We are now in 7 days of self isolation just in case we have picked anything up.

It is wonderful to be home. 

Wednesday 18th March

I thought I would sleep really well but with no sleep machine I didn’t.

We had unloaded the car yesterday and dumped everything in the hall so that lot needed to be addressed.

So, to sum up our trip to Spain in 2020.

Bad bits
Our journey down being delayed by a day because of Storm Gloria.
We got burgled.
I got an infection under my thumb nail which was very painful.
We were coming home a week early as we had forgotten that the car needed its first MOT!
Dealing with the insurance companies after the burglary.
The hassle of getting new passports.
Richard’s speeding fine!

Good bits
The villa was lovely with an amazing view.
We had wonderful weather.
We had two lovely visits from family.
Catching up with friends.
Views from Cabrera.
The sunrises and sunsets.
My lovely amaryllis.
Finding Casa Tina for next year.

Thursday 26th March – I am only just catching up with the blog with everything that has gone on since we got home.  We are now in lockdown and hoping and praying that we will all beat this awful virus.  I wonder when the world will be back to normal.

Thank you for reading my blog/diary.


Sunday, 29 March 2020

Spain 2020 - This is not what we were expecting

Saturday 14th March

We woke up this morning and Richard said why don’t we see if we can get a ferry for Tuesday.  This meant that we needed to get to the vet PDQ to get Muffin his exit check.  I rang the vet and she could fit us in at 11.15am.  Next was to ring Brittany Ferries along with half of the UK, I think!  For ages it was engaged and when I finally got a ring tone, I had to wait for 28 minutes before anyone answered.  By this time, we were on our way to the vets!  Anyway, someone finally answered, and she said that she doubted if we would get a dog friendly cabin then came back with either Sunday, Tuesday for Wednesday!  We chose Tuesday and she took my £20 to change the booking.  I then got an email to confirm.

There were two other Brits in the vets also waiting to get their exit checks done so that they could drive home.

It was at this stage that we realised that things were moving pretty fast here in Spain.

We went to Consum in Vera so I could get some gin!  A litre of Gordons for less than £10.  It was chaos in there with empty shelves and supermarket staff running around everywhere.  Fortunately, I just wanted the gin and something for a picnic as we don’t want to go into motorway services to eat. At the check out I wondered if the girl thought I was stockpiling gin!

We stopped to get fuel and found the people who work the pumps both had masks on.

It was then Thomas’s to get some bread for lunch – there was even a long queue in there.

As we left Thomas’s we saw that the Police were taping off the beach and both the foot and cycle paths along the Paseo.  This didn’t look good.

If I thought everything was kicking off this morning, I was kidding myself!  It really DID kick-off this afternoon. 

The Spanish Prime Minister had given a press conference declaring a state of emergency in Spain. 

Jet 2 had either turned a flight around or the Spanish wouldn’t let it land – I’m not sure. 

Then Brittany Ferries announced that they were cancelling their Santander to Portsmouth and Le Havre to Portsmouth sailings, of course our booking was on the Le Havre route   So now what. 

A loudspeaker van drove all round Mojacar Playa telling people, both in Spanish and in English, to stay inside their homes.

What on earth where we supposed to do now?!  We did bury our heads in the sand a bit at this stage but then I got an email from Stuart, the property manager, to say that as of Monday morning at 8am all non essential travel would be prohibited in Spain unless travelling to get food, or work or traveling home – the last one gave us hope so we looked on the Eurotunnel site and there seemed to be plenty of space.  We quickly looked at Google Maps and we chose our route which went to the east of Paris as neither of us relish the idea of the Peripherique and then booked our shuttle.  This was our only way of getting home with Muffin.  We don’t use the route normally as we only live a few miles from the ferry terminal in Portsmouth.

During the evening I got a phone call from Brittany Ferries to tell us our crossing was cancelled!  But at least they did ring.  They are giving us a full refund which works out about a bit less than the Eurotunnel.

Sunday 15th March

We had the sad job of packing up today.  I put it off for as long as possible but I could sense that Richard was getting edgy so I had to make the big effort.  Richard got the suitcase out from under the bed which brought back memories of the burglary as the case had been pulled out then and looked into. 

Once I had started packing it just seemed to flow.  We are away from home so often that packing has become quite easy really.  While I sorted and packed the bedroom Richard was in the garage packing other things.  We had gained a large paella pan (Mark’s) and various other things of Penny’s. 

Taken before lockdown

Phil popped round in the afternoon to take the contents of our freezer.  I had it all worked out that there was just about enough to keep us going until we left – well with a few meals out too.

Richard took Muffin for two short, on the lead, walks.  The new rules were that you could only go out to go to the food shops, walk the dog and only one person in a car.  (Things have changed and more stringent since March 15th).

It was a sad evening, knowing that we were leaving the next day when we really shouldn’t have been leaving for another 20 days.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Spain 2020 - Farewell to lovely visitors

Wednesday 11th March

Penny and Jim’s last day ️ We drove up to the Parque Comerical and managed to get the disabled parking spot.  After coffee at Masko Penny and I went down to Consum to get Penny’s obligatory gin and a few bits for us.  We dropped the bags off with Richard who was on his second coffee and went to one of my favourite shops to get a few gifts.

It was then back down to our end of the Paseo and to La Cabaña where we had arranged to meet Dot, Gordon, Cathy, Martin, Sue and Andy.  We had a lovely lunch with the staff bringing us out lovely tapas each time we ordered a drink.

Back at the villa Penny went off to pack, or at least I thought she had!  I heard a rather distant call from her and realised that she was in the pool!  She persuaded me to join her and I eventually braved my shoulders under the water.  The temperature in the pool was 20⁰ – which wasn’t too bad really – certainly warmer than last year.

Thursday 12th March

The alarm went off at 7am this morning – much too early especially as I didn’t get to sleep until gone 1am.  However, we were awake for a lovely sunrise.

We wanted to leave for the airport about 8.15am and we were more or less spot on. We had a good drive down and arrived at 9.20am as instructed by the special assistance people.  We parked up and while the others got themselves organised, I went to call for a wheelchair for Jim.  A nice man appeared with the chair and got Jim organised and off we went into Departures.  The check-in wasn’t open, so we went off and had a coffee. Our cheerful chappy came back, helped Penny check in and then took them off through security.  We were able to watch them through a glass wall and realised that Penny had forgotten about her iPad and Jim’s tablet having to go separate and she had one in each carry-on! The cheerful chappy was so helpful – I think that without him Penny would have been super stressed!

We then drove to Cato de Gato to take Muffin for a walk on the beach.  The sea is very clear there and Muffin had a little paddle - I was tempted but didn’t.  We walked past a couple sunbathing and realised that they were naked!

Vera was our next port of call and Iceland.  We didn’t need much but it was just as easy to come off the motorway there.  Back in Mojacar we decided to have a proper lunch as I had forgotten to take the dinner out of the freezer before we left.  We finally chose Badgers – a place we have never been to before.  The menu looked really good and we weren’t disappointed with the food.

Back to the ranch for a well deserved rest for Richard while I caught up with the blog.

Friday 13th March

Things were now beginning to kick off a bit in Spain with the coronavirus.  Two local councils were stopping big gatherings and closing schools.

As it was Friday was Turre market going to be on or not?  We set off and were pleased to see that it was there, as it was probably going to be the last one for at least two weeks.  I wanted to get a new chain for the jewellery stall and to see if I could get some shoes for both Penny and Richard.  I got my chain, but the shoe stall wasn’t very well stocked.  I joined Richard at the café for a coffee and went to look for my chain – I couldn’t find it.  I got everything out of my bag which included two shopping bags which I gave to Richard to look in.  No sign at all.  I went back to jewellery stall and explained what had happened and bought a new one.  My next stop was Super Turre which was heaving as it was market day.  I did my shopping and at the check-out got out the shopping bags (and yes you have guessed) the chain in its little bag fell on the floor!  Honestly talk about a man look!  I walked back to the jewellery stall and they very kindly gave me my money back.

We went home via Thomas’s to get a few more bits.

We had a quiet afternoon and then I got a phone call from my son, Robert.  He has been very attentive this week worrying about us and the coronavirus.  He said that he felt that we should think about going home.  We then Facetimed with Victoria who agreed with him, so we decided to see if we could change our ferry to Wednesday next week and drive straight through taking it is turns to drive.  It was really a heart versus head decision.  Why would we want to go back to the cold UK and leave this idyllic place?

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Spain 2020 - A varied three days

Today is actually Thursday 26th March and I'm only just getting round to finishing the blog.  I will publish the last four posts over the next few days.  But we are home, safe and well.

Sunday 8th March

Today was a rest day!  It was also a very windy day.  We had a quiet morning then set the wheels in motion for an early afternoon barbecue.  Richard did the cooking, I prepared the salad and Penny did a fruit salad with strawberries bought on the market on Friday. Scrummy!

Monday 9th March

Back up to Bedar today to go to the Miramar to partake of their wonderful lamb, or rather Jim and I had lamb while Penny and Richard had something with chips! 
The higher house is Casa Tina – our villa for 2021

Tuesday 10th March

Our first stop this morning was to go up to Casa Tina again, our home for next year.  I wanted to check on kitchen equipment and a few other things and to show it to Penny and Jim.  Richard and I still love it though it is going to be a different way of life being so high up – no popping down to the supermarket for milk!

I wanted to take Penny and Jim up to Cabrera, so we set off towards Turre and then up to Cabrera which is situated in the Sierra Cabrera mountain range. 
A few years ago, an Englishman bought a piece of the mountain and built a few Moorish style houses on it.  He then put them and some building plots up for sale – on the condition that any houses built there must also be built in the Moorish style and all kept the same brown colour of the mountain. Some of the houses are extraordinary with Moorish domes, filigree arches and turrets.  Apparently, most of the inhabitants are English and Germans who live here during the winter and return home in the summer, which means the community can be very quiet at that time.

We stopped and had a picnic with a wonderful view inland.  We continued up and stopped to take another look at the view.  When we turned round, we could see Garrucha and the sea – it really was a wow moment.

We continued as I knew we would come out, eventually, in Sopalmo.  Just when we thought we couldn’t go any higher we found that we could!  Suddenly the lovely tarmac road gave way to an unmade surface which, in places, was extremely rough.  There were parts of the road where the drop was almost sheer, but I tried not to look!  Muffin got quite upset so was allowed to come and sit on my knee.  We passed through a small community and thought that the road must improve from there on but no, it remained the same!  Gradually we descended until we finally came back to civilisation – Sopalmo.  I think Richard quite enjoyed the drive though it was quite stressful, and he did wish we had had better tyres on the car!

When we got home, Richard took Muffin for a walk on the beach and to take the poor car for a wash – I have never seen so much dust on the back of our car!

In the evening we went to Al Punto for a last supper.  The restaurant is a Brazilian Rodízio - an all-you-can-eat style of restaurant. The meat is served right off the cooking spit and sliced at the table. It was accompanied by chips, fried bananas, black beans and rice.  We were given a card - green, on one side, to indicate to the server to bring more meat and red on the other side, to indicate that we were stuffed sufficiently full!

Jim's steak

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Spain 2020 - From afternoon tea to hairy bikers!

Thursday 5th March

Today’s outing was to go to La Bohemia for tapas.  However, when we arrived there was no room at the inn.  There are only four tables outside and two of those are high with high stools – not Jim friendly at all!  However, we did see all our boating friends who were sitting inside.  Martin and Cathy and Dot and Gordon had only just arrived, so it was nice to say hello to them.

We moved next door to La Cabaña where we had lovely beer and tapas.

We had a lovely sunset this evening.

Friday 6th March

Today was Turre market.  We left Jim at home as he was tired – we had had 3 busy days.  Once in Turre we left Richard in a café and Penny and I went off mooching with strict instructions not to be too long!  I had seen some nice tops on my last visit and managed to get two at €10 each.  Penny bought one and a pair of shoes.  We thought we had been very good and not been too long, but Richard thought otherwise!

In the afternoon we went up to Bedar for afternoon tea at No 1 La Meseta a lovely guest house where we partook of a very English tea on a balcony in the sunshine with a magnificent view.  I had seen a post on Facebook before Penny and Jim arrived and had provisionally booked the tea.  No one else was that keen but I decided to confirm it.  Fortunately, everyone decided that it had been a great and very different idea.

On our way back we stopped to look at a tunnel called the Cargadero Tres Amigos.  It was built to load material, mainly iron, which was sent to the tunnel by a cable system from the surrounding mines.

Saturday 7th March

We were now on a roll doing the things we had planned – I had even put everything on the calendar!

Firstly, it was a visit up to the Pueblo.  We were able to drive right up into the town centre and park with Jim’s disabled badge.  We went onto the observation platform for a coffee then suddenly the square was inundated with high end motorbikes.  The noise of them coming up the hill was tremendous.  The bikes surrounded the car and we wondered if we would get out!  We did some gift shop shopping and went back to our coffee table where one person was always left with the dog.  Fortunately, most of the bikes left just before we were ready to go and as we left the square there were more motorbikes waiting to come up.

Some of the bikers were obviously delegated as stewards and they had “Angeles Guardianes” on their backs.  As far as can suss out they are an “Association of Motorcycle Policemen, seventeen years old, spread throughout Spain and with delegations Andorra and France”.  Their mission is to “foster friendship and solidarity between the different biker clubs, groups and associations that share our principles and hobbies.”

From the Pueblo we went down to the Chinese restaurant on the Paseo.  We sat outside, mainly as we had Muffin, but also as it was such a lovely day. We had a great meal.