Friday 31st March
We had an early start as our check-out time was 10am. I don’t do mornings, but this view made me feel a whole lot better!
We had planned out how we would work it with me getting up first, unheard of, but Richard had forgotten this. We didn’t have breakfast as that was coming later. I seemed to be filling more and more shopping bags, and each time Richard came up from the car I could hear a humph as he saw another one waiting to go. Finally, he came in and said he could not ram anything more into the car! We sat and waited for Dee and Chris to arrive and in the end I had to message Dee to ask her what time they would be with us, 10.45am came the answer. That’s no good, I thought, if we are supposed to leave at 10am. Never mind we could leave the keys in the key safe and go.
We drove to PJ’s café for breakfast which was just what we needed. As we sat there I looked online and saw that the check out time for the villa was 11am, how stupid could I be???
We then went back along the Paseo to have a look at Castle Renwick, the castle enclave that Robert and the boys had made. It had changed a bit and what’s with the cross??
Then the time had finally come for us to leave. There were lots of people on the beach and even a couple of brave souls swimming, we just did NOT want to go but go we had to. I played on my phone so that I didn’t have to look around me, it seemed the best ideas.
I wanted to visit the Cabezo María which was only a five minute drive from the motorway. I had seen it before on a previous visit and thought that we might get up to see it, but when we got to as near as we could get we could see a fairly long, winding, uphill track so thought better of it. I did some research on it and discovered that the hill it stands on is actually the remains of the central lava column of an ancient volcano. The rest of the volcano has eroded away, leaving only the central lava spike, on top of which a shrine was erected. The hill is called the Cabezo Maria (Mary’s Butte) and the shrine is called the Ermita de la Virgin de la Cabeza. 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. The story goes 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.
I took this photo from a photo at the bottom of the hill.
And this one on our way out.
Now we really had to go!! There seemed to be quite a lot of traffic around, but then again it was Friday. When I was a child and we were going on long journeys (probably only a couple of hours) we used to play Red. The consisted of shouting red whenever you saw a red post box. Richard and I have our own version of the game which is Propeller Lorry. This started a few years years ago when we realised that there are so many of them around. Why propeller lorry? Well, I reckoned the logo on the back looks like a propeller. PrimoFrio’s main depot is in Murcia so the nearer we got the more lorries we saw. They have 2,700 lorries so that’s probably why we see so many of them, we have even seen a few in the UK.
We turned off our usual road north at Murcia and started to head north west. We weren’t heading to northern France this year as we were heading to Santander to get the ferry back to Portsmouth.
We were booked into the Paradore Albachete in, oddly enough, Albachete! At about 2.30pm we found it easily as it is only a mile or so off the main road. We checked in with a receptionist who spoke very little English. She wanted Muffin’s passport. Since Brexit UK dogs don’t have passports so I wasn’t too sure what to do, but as I had his old one with us I gave it to her and she was happy! Our room was big and the bathroom enormous! The hotel is very dog friendly and Muffin was given a bed, dish, food and his own ‘do not disturb’ sign!
We had to have the lights on as the room was rather dark as it looked over a garden with some lovely trees in it.
After an afternoon nap we set off into Albacete to find dinner, McDonalds! We found it easily, ate our dinner and returned to the hotel. I tried to get the TV to work with the Amazon Firestick but it wasn’t having any of it. In the end I realised that I needed to sign in on a web page and I’m not sure I could have done that. We read/listened to our books until it was sleep time.
As someone who loves researching things, I can find no history on the Paradore at all, so I guess it was built as a hotel and has continued to be one since 1928. It is a wonderful building.
These are a few photos taken around the hotel.
We were up early, well Muffin was and asking very nicely if he could come up on the bed. Breakfast was good. Lots of fruit, meats and pastries. Richard even had bacon and eggs. We both had a little glass containing a scoop of cream cheese and smoked salmon, it was really lovely. The cooked breakfast menu was in Spanish with an English translation. We were up intrigued to know what fried breadcrumbs and garnish might be!
I have always wanted to stop at a Paradore and wasn’t disappointed at all. The only problem was that no one spoke English but maybe we are at fault by not speaking Spanish ☹️. The hotel is built round a courtyard and it reminded me of monasteries I’ve seen in films - I quite expected to see a monk walking towards us chanting!
We were all packed and away by 9.15am, 45 minutes earlier than scheduled.
We hit the road and took a wrong turning. As navigator I have to take the blame, but the junction was one of the very confusing Spanish ones. It cost us an extra 20 kilometres. I reckon it was psychological as we were heading back towards Mojacar!
Yesterday the landscape was like a dessert but today it is much more agricultural. No rocky hills (you can’t really call them mountains) just rolling hills and everywhere is very green.
The traffic coming towards us reminded us of the cars pouring out of Paris when Covid came in in 2020 and we did our 24 hours’ drive up to Calais. We guessed it was probably people pouring out of Madrid for the weekend or for a longer break as the Spanish schools broke up for Easter yesterday.
We stopped for a coffee, homemade and then continued on.
This is Lerma which I thought looked very attractive.
The lady on Google kept telling us that we were being rerouted and were now on the best route. I had visions of someone sitting up on a cloud looking down and thinking “oh hold on, that route looks clogged I had better reroute the Gifford-Hulls”!
Rounding Madrid was better than I expected. Once passed Madrid we started to climb and got almost to 5000 feet before we came to a tunnel and then started our descent. We stopped in a village called Boceguillas to make our sandwiches. This was our third attempt at trying to stop somewhere. The first signposted area didn’t exist, the second was just a petrol station so it was third time lucky. This place was an emergency car park and was strewn with litter but it was OKish! We were in an area where it must get a lot of snow as there were three emergency car parks and some emergency apartments (with sun loungers outside), oh and rows of gritting lorries.
There are a lot of bulls along this part of the road.
I know I have said this before, but I do wish that the Spanish would put picnic areas along their roads. There is nothing for people who want to self-cater which is a great shame.
We were then back in more dessert like terrrain (with some cultivated areas, mainly down to vines which seemed to be planted in a very sandy soil.
As we got nearer the coast, so the rain started, not nice but at least it hadn’t rained all the way. We had started off in shorts, then moved to jeans and ended up in rain jackets!
We found the hotel which was in the middle of nowhere. A lovely old house with just 5 rooms, so I guess I should call it a guest house rather than an hotel. There was a large wooden gate and a smaller pedestrian gate, but both were locked. We tried ringing the bell, but nothing. I checked back on emails and found out that check in was between 5pm and 6pm, it was only 4.40pm. We got back in the car and waited. At the allotted time we rang the bell again and Senor arrived and opened the gate and took us into the house which was very old. Another house with very little history on the internet but I did find that the house was first documented in 1689 when it was built as a wedding present for a couple from very important families in the area. Our room was fine but nothing special though the bathroom was very modern and the shower excellent.
I had booked us into a restaurant in a neighbouring village but had no idea what we would find. When we found it, it looked to be all shut up, but a waitress suddenly appeared and opened the door for us. It was tiny with just three tables. We were given menus, all in Spanish of course so good old Google Translate came out. Richard chose chilli prawns, and I had the langoustine. As you can see, they were huge and plenty of them. We shared them in the end. For mains we both had the entrecôte and asked for it to be medium. However, when I cut into it, it was rare bordering on blue! I would hate to have seen a rare one! We both asked for it to go back on the grill, when it came back it was much better. However, the majority of the steak was fat, but the meat was tender. We didn’t have a pudding as we were really full up!
We took Muffin to see the river that ran through the village, but he wasn’t very impressed. We saw a few cows and I wondered if our rather large steaks had come from one of them, but they wouldn’t turn round for me to see if they had a scar on the other side! However, Muffin did find a stick which he was not going to give up and it even had to go in his crate.
Sunday 2nd April
I didn’t sleep very well as the bed creaked each time one of us turned over and there was a dog barking somewhere for most of the night. Breakfast was OK and enough after the large diner the night before.
In the village of San Martin, where we were staying, there is about 15 houses and a lovely old church, Ermita Barrio San Martín, but, guess what? There is nothing on the internet about it.
We set off to Santanader to see the Palais de Magdalena, but in the end we didn’t have enough time so just took Muffin on the beach which he thoroughly enjoyed, just running for the sheer hell of it. He hadn’t had a good run since Thursday. The beach was lovely and even had Neptune watching over us.
We found a cafe for a coffee then drove to the port which wasn’t the easiest place to find. Santander looks to be a lovely town and I would certainly like to spend a couple of days there.
We checked in and had to wait in the doggie queue. I’m convinced that there were more caravans and motorhomes than cars there. Eventually we were called onto the ship and then took our belongings to our cabin, but not Muffin. He had to wait until the ship was all loaded and then dog owners were called back to get their dogs. We were so close the car next to us that Richard really struggled getting Muffin out. The dog walking area is a good size, so Richard and I stood out on deck and watched as we set sail. There had been a couple of gales that had blown in over the past few days and the sea was a bit lumpy which caused hilarity as people tried to walk about! We had a free dinner, so I went to get it and a very nice waiter, with good sea legs (!), carried the tray back to the cabin for me! We had a TV in the cabin and at long last I was able to connect up my laptop and we watched some programmes that I had recorded.