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

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Spain - 2020 - The Journey (part 1)

Saturday 18th January

A rather manic day.  We’ve been having a new bathroom fitted and it over ran by a number of days!  I thought they were finishing at the beginning of the week but then I was informed it would be Thursday and then Friday and they finally left at 6pm today (Saturday).  However, I am thrilled with the result – I will post some photos later in this post as I want to put something really nice as the first photo.

Anyway, we got packed up and, as usual, Richard managed to get everything in the car.  I thought I wasn’t taking as much as usual but all I can think is that the things I have left out are very small!!

We left home at 9pm and were at the ferry terminal by 9.30pm.  The usual wait then we were on the ferry and slipping and sliding all over the deck – on foot not the car thank goodness.  Straight to our cabin which was uncomfortably hot, Richard tried to change the blower, but nothing changed.  Richard was asleep before we set sail and I wasn’t far behind him.

Sunday 19th January

A very hot night which wasn’t helped by Muffin choosing my bed to sleep on and then proceeding to take over the bottom 2 feet of it!  I kept waking up and finding my feet hanging out! The ferry is the only place where he is allowed to sleep on our bed and when we got to the cabin last night he leapt up onto the bed as if to say I’m allowed tonight!

We were awake about an hour before docking, had a cup of tea and a porridge pot each before packing up and going to the car.

As we drove out of Le Havre everywhere was white with frost – such a pretty sight.  One of the things that amazed me were the number of trees which were full of mistletoe - I have never noticed it before so it must just be a good year for it.

We have toll tags for France and Spain which makes travelling on the peage so much easier.  As we approached the first toll station we waited for the green light and the barrier to lift but nothing, so I had to pay!!!!  I then looked on the internet for a fix but nothing except from the UK supplier who doesn’t work at weekends.  I pushed and pulled the tag and at the next toll station it worked!  Maybe it was just cold and needed a jump start!

We stopped for a coffee which I had made on the ferry, but it was only lukewarm, obviously hot liquid in insulated cups only has a limited shelf life.

Our next stop was for lunch.  I had bought rolls and sandwich fillers which worked really well though it was jolly cold standing at the back of the car making them up.  If we didn’t have Muffin, we would have eaten them in the car but he needed to stretch his little legs.

I took over the driving after lunch as I had had a nice sleep in the morning however Richard stayed awake – not sure if he was worried about my driving!

The roads have been so quiet today.  There are no lorries on the road on Sundays and it makes SUCH a difference.  It was fluke last year that we drove through France on a Sunday, but I chose it this year for that very reason.

We had a lovely sunny drive down through France though the temperature outside varied from 0 to 9 degrees.

We arrived at our hotel just south of Bordeaux about 4pm where we stayed last year.  After a cuppa and a rest, we walked under the motorway to the Aire on the northbound carriageway to a dog friendly restaurant where we got a 15% discount as we were staying in the hotel.

Back in our room we watched Call the Midwife but not the Christine Keeler programme as we were both so tired – it was 10pm CET.

Monday 20th January

A good night’s sleep on a very comfy bed.  We had the hotel breakfast, there wasn’t much choice but we both chose 2 croissants, orange juice and coffee, I’m not sure it was worth €7.  Last year we took porridge pots, but we thought we would try the hotel breakfasts this year.  Carrying porridge pots for both journeys works out as 12 and they take up space in the car!

We were on the road at 9am, our planned time but it was a coincidence really as we weren’t clock watching.

If you look at a map it doesn’t seem far to the Spanish border but in fact it is 125 miles.  The lorries were out in force, but they really aren’t a problem.  We stopped just before the border for a coffee and a leg stretch for Muffin.  The aires on the French roads come very frequently but we have noticed that it isn’t the same on the Spanish roads.  In the past we have had to go off the main road and find a gateway to stop in!

We crossed over the border where there is just a very uninteresting sign which just says Espana – I wanted some sort of recognition as next time I cross a border I won’t be an European citizen ☹️  We now bear a sticker which says “Don’t blame me I voted to remain”!

It was a quick change of toll tag and then up onto a plain which I am sure has a name, but I can’t find it.  There are lots and lots of wind farms with quite a lot on top of mountains, solar farms are beginning to come in now too.  

We could see snow on the mountain tops, it looked so pretty.


The Spanish toll tag works so much better than the French one.  In France you have to get right up to the barrier and then wait for the barrier to go up but in Spain the barrier lifts as you approach.  I brilliant system.

It was a lovely sunny day but suddenly the sky turned black and we encountered snow!  The lorries were all directed off the autopista, but cars were allowed to continue then like magic, about 10 miles down the road, the lorries all appeared again and we ended up in a convoy!  We were at about 3500 feet and driving at 15mph with an outside temperature of -3º.  Gradually the snow turned to rain.

We went from this

 To this in just a few miles

Our stop for today was at a small hotel in Jerica.  We arrived at the Casa del Lago about 4pm and were met at the gate by a rather wet Alla, who was standing waiting for us.  The WhatsApp communication between Alla and myself had been excellent.  We were taken to our room, on the ground floor and were then given a guided tour.  The “mini hotel” is on the banks of a man-made lake and I’m sure the view would be lovely on a dry and sunny day!  We were taken down to, what obviously is their pride and joy, a sauna, Turkish bath and a large cold plunge pool.  I’m afraid that as lovely as it all looked, it just isn’t our cup of tea!  We discovered that the family are originally from Russia but moved to Valencia 5 years ago, and only come out to Jerica when they have guests.  Mama and Papa do not speak Spanish let alone English!  It was then that we realised that our dinner was probably going to be Russian!  It turns out that the Papa (who had been a builder in Russia) had built the hotel and they had only been open for 3 months.  We were the only guests.

Our dinner was Russian and very nice indeed.  Our starter was, what looked rather like a roll, with meat and onions in it.  It wasn’t a roll as we know it but more a sweet dough – it was excellent though filling.   There was a lovely mixed salad for each of us and also a wonderful Russian salad, nothing like the ones we see in our supermarkets.  The main course was a dish of meat, potatoes and vegetables.  I know that sounds very boring, but it was really tasty and all we needed after the starter.  This was accompanied by a Spanish Sauvignon Blanc which was so like a New Zealand wine – I will be scouring the supermarkets for it!  (They only charged us €10 for the wine).  There was no pudding but we both felt that we couldn’t have done one justice anyway!  Mama does all the cooking and was very nervous that we might not like it.

Tuesday 21st January

We both slept really well, the bed was very comfy.  I think it was a memory foam mattress as it felt very hard to start with but then it seems to mould itself around me and was lovely.

Before we got up, I checked the weather forecast and it didn’t look good.  I found a Facebook page called Murcia Weather Watch and put a post on it about the road conditions around Valencia and Murcia.  The replies were all pretty much the same – DON’T DRIVE!  We went for breakfast, a lovely spread but far too much for us.  We asked Alla if she knew about the road conditions and she said not really but they weren’t going to go back to Valencia because of the weather.  That was all we needed and asked if we could stay another night!  It appeared that Storm Gloria did a lot of damage around the Valencia and Murcia areas.

There was very little for us to do, it would have been nice to see around the area and take Muffin for a walk round the lake, but we were NOT going to venture out!  Alla managed to connect the TV in our room to the internet and we found Netflix, signed in and watched the last three episode of The Crown and some random American programme on cold cases.

Before it got dark, I went out to the car and the sky was yellow – the soil is very sandy so whether or not the gale had whipped the sand into the sky I don’t know.

Dinner was another Russian meal.  To start there was a very tasty meat and rice dish which was followed by a clear broth with meat filled dumplings and mushrooms.  The salad on the table was a tuna one and sadly I don’t like tuna so had to give it a miss though it looked lovely.  We were offered dessert which turned out to be a deconstructed cheesecake and was excellent. 

At each meal we were served tea in this beautiful tea pot.

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