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Published: September 13th 2016
So a week on the road . What are our thoughts ? France was hot, Spain is hotter. The campsites are all OK most with WiFi but it seems hellishly expensive this year. Washing is expensive. It has gone up this year from around 3 euros 50/4 euros to 5 in most places. We forgot our tyres. We changed Suzys front tyres last year and it seems the guy who did them changed the front to the backs to wear them more evenly. Fine in most vehicles but a motorhome stands in the same spot for months on end. They dont get enough wear to wear them out but the sun degrades them and it is advised to change them every five years whether they need changing or not. We should have changed Suzys before we left but we forgot and a quick check shows plenty of wear but a bit of degradion on the front left. A sign that the sun has been working on them. Hopefully it is not enough to be a problem before we get home but it is a bit of a worry.
Leaving France and Carcassonne our route took us towards the
Spanish border passing by Perpignan owned in the past by the KIns of Majorca , Salces le Chateau the fort guarding the border land and finally the border itself. The border post was unmanned . No sign of guards nor razor wire. Our Via box pinged into life at the first sign of a Spanish motorway. The roads look similar to any road in Europe apart from the fact that they all look new, are all relatively empty and there are miles and miles of Armco barriers. We thought paid for by EU money but in our words our money. Apparently BREXIT is still raising its ugly head with a protest at the Last night of the Proms by the young who still cannot get their heads round democracy and our ex prime minister has stood down as a back bencher.
The soil changes colour quickly from pinks to mauves, a hint of red ironstone , coppers and golds, mustards and all shades of brown . Oleanders pink and white line the middle of the road. Huge swathes of pampas grass line the roadside. The first place we reach is mighty Barcelona, we see Granollers where we stayed some
years ago when we watched Moto GP at the nearby circuit. We see the circuit itself in the distance. We travel through tunnel after tunnel . Sally Sat Nag loses her tunnel and I have to take over as a manual navigator. Shades of navigation in the past using maps comes to mind. Junction after junction pass by as we head for our overnight destination of Villanova Park. A huge complex much loved by Brits overwintering in the Spanish winter sun. Why on earth are we going there I hear you ask? You know us, we hate big organised sites. We prefer something a tad more quieter. This is sprawling. This is organised with your day mapped out for you from the moment you rise to the moment you retire. The problem is there is nothing else local. It is Villanova or nothing.
We are first greeted by security who direct us to park on the yellow line. Not any yellow line but this one. I go in to pay and have to hand over the passport which is scrutinised airport style. I am given a Villanova bag which is filled with a map of the area, bus time
tables and a list of activities that we can join. We are taken to our plot by another security guard in a golf buggy. We would never have found the plot without him. The place is an utter maze. I leave Glenn to plug us into the electric whilst I go in search of the swimming pool which is full of young kids screaming and shouting. There are a few things we hate and those who know us know that one is Baroque architecture and the second noisy campsites. Must be our age I reckon. The kids have grown up and we can do without starting again with other peoples kids. I found the supermercado which was a real delight and you could see why it was so as it catered for the English overwinterers. Heinz beans, ice cubes for the cool box, Worcestershire sauce, almost everything a self respecting Brit could want . By the time I got back and made some dinner to tied us over we managed to look at the activities. 9 am until 10 Zumba, 10 until 11 am Aquacise , a break to go and play mini golf. After lunch a session of Salsa
and in the evening flamenco until almost midnight when the staying alive disco started . Tomorrow we could play Golf on the full size course or go for an organised run or walk. Time to beat a hasty retreat we thought and we headed for the hills.
We took a circuitous route which took us higher and higher into the national park. We passed under the meridian line which designated 0 degrees of latitude. Africa that way. London the other . . The landscape scrubby with olive trees and apple orchards. Bluff overhangs and narrow roads . Some of which become single track in parts. We were quite literally in the middle of nowhere. We met the odd vehicle and one we met caught Suzys wing mirror,. Luckily we have mirror guards and the only damage was a crack to each of the corners of the guard. The mirror remained intact. Our destination Camping Pradas. Surely no-one at the end of the season would be at this campsite. The young lady on reception greeted us and told us to park anywhere and come back to tell her the plot. There was a small shop on site and free WiFi
for two hours. We have struggled with WiFi so far this trip. There was also a restaurant. On site was a swimming pool and bungalows used during the season. The plots were slightly scruffy in places with old caravans that had seen better days. But it had character and it was deathly quiet. Just what the doctor ordered.
So to dinner. Are you comfortable? Are you coming with me? Meet Raphael our host for the night. A young man in his mid 30’s who spoke impeccable English. He told us he was Catalan first and Spanish second. He spoke Catalan . Spanish English and a little French. His French was poorer as he felt the French did not want to talk to him. Glenn ordered Soup Broth a rather oddly named concoction. Raphael brings it and it’s a thin runny soup with pasta in which Glenn informs me is absolutely delicious. I choose the salad lightly dressed. Pine nuts , macadamia nuts and some kind of meat . Wow what can you say about a salad ? 10/10 at the moment . So what about wine? You choose one for us Raphael. He brings over a local wine, a
young vintage, red to compliment the meal and 13 % volume. We suggest that Raphael picks us a main course and he suggests the veal., Cooked for two days and the longer it is kept the tenderer it becomes. He explained the process and brought the dish out. We were again into the wow country. Soft it melted in our mouths. It was delicious. To finish off he suggested a Catalan Crema made from eggs and cream and with burnt sugar on the top. Two coffees finished off the meal . Brought over by the chef we had to congradulate him on his cooking. We asked Raphael about the EU and how he felt . It seemed he like many young were in favour of it and Catalunya had fared well from the EU budget.
We left him with a heartfelt thanks and headed back to Suzy. We smiled to ourselves peace and quiet . But …………..there is always a but . Behind us was a car. All the campsite empty and behind us they were putting up a tent . Bang Bang Bang the tent pegs went in whilst all the time the dog barked and the children
ran riot. After this banging the dog tent went up more banging . And then to top it all off the tent went up for the kids toys. By this time we had had enough and moved to a quieter spot. Why is it people arrive long after 10 and then spend three hours putting up their tents noisily. Bah humbug I want bed.
The next morning we headed back down the mountain for Albarracin. On the way we spotted cafes with men outside . Not a woman in sight . I christened them man sheds. That was the only life we saw before we arrived at our destination.
So what of Albarracin. A world heritage site with a castle and an old heart to the city. We parked up at Camping Cuidad Albarracin a little way out of town. Not a bad site with a few amenities. Free WiFi I couldn’t get to work , a small café bar and reasonable plots. We parked up near to some Dutch who had taken over a couple of plots. Later their friends turned up and took over another two plots. They placed their caravan close to our van
and I almost fell over their tow bar as it poked over. They had planted a garden outside their caravan full of sunflowers by the end of the night. Our other neighbours were a couple of Brits and what we thought were French but who turned out to be English but they lived in Normandy.
We left the site and walked into the town. The two tiny supermercadoes were closed and the only shop open was a hairdresser who was colouring the hair of a client . I imagined the conversation - where did you go on holiday? And what about the latest news in town? I guess hairdressers have the same conversations with their customers the world over. The walls to the castle were impressive and looked like those at Ston in Croatia and the mellow stone towers of the castle looked pretty fine. It was too hot to climb to see them. The temperatures even at 9 are well into the 30’s. We are just not used to it on a regular basis. Apparently you can only visit the castle on a guided tour. So we skipped that one.
The town has a mill which
has been turned into a restaurant . It was firmly shut. We crossed the river and headed up town. Narrow thin streets with cobblestones that sounded noisy as cars passed over them. Tiny pavements and box hedges. There is not a soul about. Talk about a ghost town . This one was quieter than St Antoine L’Abbaye and we thought that one was quiet . The tall houses kept out the sun and kept the street cool. As we climbed at each corner we hoped we would reach civilisation. The main square , the playa major with people, cafes , shops. Nothing just more streets going ever upward. Eventually we did come to the main square, a tiny affair with a small town hall pretty insignificant . A Santander branch on the corner which looked less like a bank and more like a house with its metal lettering above the windows. Large targets were on the buildings with red centres. A little like a dartboard without the numbers or an archery target without its circles. And doors – great big study wooden ones. On one side seating. Rough planks to sit on and scaffolding made of wood. At first I though it was ideal for an outdoor production of a Shakespeare play. Then realisation – it’s a bullring . Right smack bang in the main square . No room for cafes then amongst the bulls.
At the next corner we found the church. Or at least the side of it with its diocesan museum – yes you guessed it closed tight fast and shut. It looked a baroque church from the outside . On its walls were hundreds of swifts or swallows. We had to avoid their droppings which looked as if they had fallen like rain. Glenn took photos the town below and the castle above whilst I went in search of the front door to the church. Locked just like the back door. I wouldn’t be talking to the saints or God today in that house.We then decided to walk home . There seemed little point in staying longer. It was a nice town but there was just nothing to keep you there . WE had other fish we could fry. On the way home we called in to buy more leche and pane from the now opened supermarket. That done we were on our way.
Another hot and dusty day in Spain. Another saying from my thoughts of the day “You are the sky. Everything else is the just the weather “
Most villages in Spain have a legend, and Albarracín is no exception. It is said that the young princess Doña Blanca was banished from her home by her jealous sister-in-law, the Queen of Aragón. These royal families were always jealous of someone or other . Think Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary , think Bloody Mary and her half sister Elizabeth I. The Azagra family, the wealthy lords of Albarracín, took her in on her way to Castile and gave her comfort during her exile. One day, while taking a walk, she disappeared and was never seen alive again. Most believe she was taken prisoner and died many years later in La Torre de Doña Blanca (The Tower of Lady Blanca). It is said that her spirit still remains inside, and she only leaves on a full moon in August to take a dip in the Guadalaviar River below.
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