Costing a packet in Costa Blanca

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March 13th 2008
Published: March 13th 2008
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Santa PolaSanta PolaSanta Pola

Beach at Santa Pola, where we would return
Travel blog 17 ‘ Nothing outstanding to report but this is what we have been up to...

Sunday, 24th February 2008
Awoke to heavy rain today and felt a bit stuck in the van with no internet, phone signal or TV (can usually pick up Sky news if not parked under trees or canopies, as we were here). A couple parked nearby knocked on door as they too were bit fed up and we decided to walk short distance to the village restaurant for lunch. Had a very enjoyable meal in the good company of John and Mandy from Norfolk. After leisurely meal rain had stopped so we went for a walk amongst the orange and lemon groves. In this tiny little mountain village found a lovely hotel with a beautiful infinity pool built into the rock face. Would be a lovely place to stay in summer. After funny old start, really enjoyed our day in the mountains.

Monday, 25th February
Weather brighter today but decided to head to Murcia as we needed to refill our gas bottles and there are limited places in Spain to do this. Several people had tried unsuccessfully to find the gas station. However,
Benidorm by dayBenidorm by dayBenidorm by day

View from van in Benidorm
armed with an address we gave the task over to Dora. Whether she had that Monday morning feeling will never know, but after taking a left 6 times and ending up driving around the block twice we decided to give up and head out of town. However as we went over a bridge saw below us the 'Gas oasis' and managed to get down to it via a convoluted route along a railway track. Topped up with lovely gas and gave Dora a verbal warning. When one thing goes right there is usually a price to pay and as we drove out of Murcia a big stone hit our massive windscreen. We both felt momentarily sick as we knew it would be a big expensive job to replace. However, if crack did not run we hope to wait to get it replaced in UK.

Had no real plans so headed along the coast until we came to a town called Santa Pola. There was a camp site open so pulled in to be told it was full. However, owner managed to find us a spot for the night on small terrace otherwise known as the road! Could not face
Benidorm by nightBenidorm by nightBenidorm by night

Benidorm by night from van window
looking elsewhere so said we would stay the night.

Tuesday, 26th February
Day dawned sunny and bright so set off to explore Santa Pola a tourist town with a working fishing port and without the usual trappings of a seaside resort. Camp site about 1km from the sea so enjoyed a walk to the beach and then a few miles along the water's edge to the other end of town. We really liked Santa Pola although there is nothing of real note or interest but a quaint old fashioned town with a very clean beach. Lots of empty apartments along the front, but nothing high rise. Sand looks so much like unmixed cement.Kept thinking if tide came in it would set and we would be immortalised on the beach! On our return phoned some neighbours from Colchester who have bought an apartment along the coast. Were shocked when they answered and said they were in the area until Friday before returning home. Arranged to meet up Wednesday, so told site owner were staying bit longer. Asked if he had a pitch not on the road as Andy had left his shoes outside van and someone had run over them

Calpe, lovely place to stay
leaving wheel tracks on both of them!

Wednesday, 27th February
Pat and Lyn arrived this morning so had another walk into town for lunch, enjoying their company and catching up with Colchester news.

Thursday, 28th February
Pat and Lyn kindly offered to collect us today and take us for a run into Torrevieja. I remembered this resort from the 1980's as the package holiday capital of Spain. Now sadly it looks its age. However there is a newly built walk around the marina and we joined the throng of people strolling and jogging along this popular route, stopping on the way back at one of the many restaurants vying for trade. We left here and drove along to Pilar to see their lovely home where they will soon be moving permanently.

Armed with knowledge that Pat and Lyn were flying back to Stansted I thought I too could do the same as Alicante airport only 10 minutes from camp site. Quick check on internet and next thing booked on a flight Friday morning! I knew my family were getting together Saturday and Andy's would be together Sunday, and it would be a good chance to see everyone
Penyal d´IfachPenyal d´IfachPenyal d´Ifach

Calpe, Famous rock on Costa Blanca
again especially as Mothering Sunday.

Friday, 29th February
Bit of a day today. Travelled 1200 miles (but not in camper van).Taxi to airport, 2-hour flight, 1 hour bus ride, 30 minute car trip (thanks to Chris) and am knocking on door at 48 East Street. What a shock for them!

Saturday, 1st March
Trip to Hockley to surprise Karen, Peter and Em and also Alexia and Stuart who arrived a bit later. They had been to a baby exhibition! They arrived armed with leaflets on new style nappies etc. Goodness whatever happened to good old Terry towelling? 5 of us spent next half hour trying to assembly a baby carry holdall and all agreed Alexia and Stuart will have to get up early to assemble said piece in order to go out! - not that getting up early will be a problem!!!

Sunday, 2nd March
Knocked on Win's door at 8.00 and giving her a surprise. Lucy arrived after night at work expecting to collect a parcel, finding me instead. What an ear-piercing yell she has! Lovely too to see Margaret, Judy, Michael and Lynden and reassuring to see Win looking well.

Monday, 3rd March
Alison eating out Alison eating out Alison eating out

Alison got fed up with Spanish cuisine
flight back tomorrow as Andy getting concerned I would not return! Lovely to bump into Dianne and Sylvia in Tollesbury.

Tuesday, 4th March
Flight from Stansted back to Alicante at 11.30. Could not believe I was back having cup of tea with Andy at 3.10 having added on an hour! Amazing. Bless him, he was in middle of mashing potatoes for fish pie he had made for dinner.
As weather good hopped on our bikes and cycled down to the harbour where the fishermen were bringing in their catches. We were allowed into the fish market and here we spent an interesting hour watching the sale of fish. The fish is off loaded from boats in trays which are placed on a conveyor belt. The belt runs past the buyers who sit in tiered seating so they can see the contents of every tray. There is a computerised screen which calculates weight of fish and names the type of fish. There is a starting price for the weight and type of fish. Each buyer has a handset from which they bid when the price drops to a price they want to pay. The name of the buyer comes up on the screen and a label is automatically printed and drops into the tray. Outside the market the vans and lorries sit waiting to transport the fish up and down the country. In my absence Andy said he had enjoyed 12 sardines for 5 euros so he was shocked to see sardines selling for 50 centimes for 5 kg - 35pence for 11 lbs, Unbelieveable!

After the delicious fish pie was introduced to Andy's new friends, Elizabeth and Peter from Kent and enjoyed a drink with them. Slept well after hectic day.

Wednesday, 5th March
Forecast really bad today and only 10 degrees after 26 degrees at weekend! All very changeable. Spent morning working on van and managed a walk in the afternoon although the wind was chilly.

Thursday, 6th March
Brighter day but with a cool wind. Got on bikes again and enjoyed a wonderful ride along the immense promenade of Santa Pola. On reaching the end we rode on the coastal road cycling along the waters edge for miles. A rocky edge replaced the sand and it really was lovely with no houses at all and the beach scattered with pine trees. Trouble is when you keep cycling just to see whats round the next corner, you have to return and what a difference cycling into a head wind! Needless to say a lot of puffing and blowing ensued from me of course, with Andy effortlessly whizzing along on his motor. Am seriously considering some sort of revenge in the form of disconnecting some of his wires (fish pie soon forgotten!)

Friday, 7th March
Walked into town to stock up on some groceries as we had invited Elizabeth to dinner, Peter having returned to UK to work. Cooked pineapple upside down pudding in Remoska - out in the road (our pitch) which attracted many oohs and aahs and resulted in us sharing it with several passers by! Might start a stall in effort to raise some extra cash.

Saturday, 8th March
Headed off early to local market which had been recommended to us. It really was massive and we spent a few hours wandering around trying not to be tempted. Had no will power today and gave in to a little pair of leather sandals who seemed to be crying "buy me". Nice that stallholders were 95% Spanish and the whole atmosphere of the market was friendly and unintimidating. All that shopping had made us hungry so we headed down to seafront with Elizabeth and enjoyed sardines and a beer on the beach. Went down to bar in evening as Andy needed consolation after Man U were knocked out of FA cup. However, it was so noisy and smokey we had to give up on that one.

Sunday, 9th March
Walked down to the salt museum at the end of the road. Before tourism the town's source of income was sea salt. The salt works are the most productive in Europe and the second most imporant in the world. Town busy today as it was election day and Spanish out in their numbers casting their votes. Had a walk along beach as it was lovely day. On return to van saw a good idea for children's cycling proficiency. There was an area laid out for children to practically learn road rules. Mini roads laid out complete with roundabouts, traffic lights, zebra crossings and signs all laid out in miniature for the children. Despite this good asset for the town we seldom saw Spanish children on bicycles. Further on Andy was attracted to the local football ground where Santa Pola were playing a match with plenty of supporters. Joined the throng and watched 1st half. Think Andy is looking to support new team? Elizabeth kindly cooked us a BBQ which we ate late afternoon in very hot sun.

Socialists won election today, conservatives having lost 2nd election campaign. Economic situation in Spain not great. Housing market is in a turmoil with no sales at the moment and too many properties on market. 1 in 5 estate agents have gone bankrupt and unemployment high with big fears of recession and new prime minister promising to put it all right. Hmm heard that one before....

Monday, 10th March
Said our goodbyes and sadly left Santa Pola and headed back towards Elche or Elx. It was a pretty journey and restored my faith that there are pretty areas on the Costa Blanca. Elche is completely surrounded by palm trees and home to the imperial palm tree, the largest in Europe. An area here of 13,000 square metres is home to 700 palms and 500 other species of plants and flowers. Right up my street and a joy to see.

Saw a rare camping shop so spent a few hours looking around the 2009 model vans and accessories.

Joined the busy N332 once again and headed north to Benidorm where we parked van at an horrendously expensive campsite in Playa Levante and by 4 were heading into town in search of the promised sex, sun and English pubs. Despite only finding one of the aforementioned (will leave that one for you to guess) were glad to see this very different aspect of Spain filled with forests of skyscrapers overshadowing the lovely beach of golden sand, yes golden sand - how and when had colour changed from grey to yellow? Parallel to the sea is a long promenade busy with tourists and locals promenading and battling against strong winds. Visitors to the town seem to be mainly English with some Dutch and very few Spanish, hence everywhere is geared up for the Brits, offering English breakfasts, steak pies etc with not much in the way of Spanish cuisine. Once we had purchased our "kiss me quick" hats and had had taken in the atmosphere of the town left to cook dinner back in the van. On our return we could have stopped at numerous venues offering line dancing sequences or stayed to see "The Beagles", "The Neverly Brothers" or "Not quite Status Quo"!!

Tuesday, 11th March
Having experienced Benidorm left early morning again on the busy N332 towards Calpe. Planned to have a look at the rock and then move on but really liked it here. Weather was lovely and hot and the whole area had a really nice feel. There were still the large apartment blocks, but not so high or so many. Walked along the waters edge to see Penyal d'Ifach, a dramatic rocky outcrop that rises vertically from the sea. It is one of Costa Blanca's most dramatic sights; a tall 332m block of limestone. Apparently you can access the rock and climb to the exposed summit from where you can see Ibiza. However, we walked around to it and then saw a lovely beach on the other side of Calpe, so walked the length of this too as it was a prettier area. Prices bit steeper here than we are used to. Andy asked for a magnum ice cream, usually charged at 1.40 and was asked for 3 euros. He refused the price and went without!

After a lot of walking decided to stay night in the van where it was parked in a wide, unused back street. Andy never keen on wild-camping but it was a good spot, close to an archeological dig and right next to the beach. Had planned to cook chicken but there was an Indian restaurant 100m away so decided to take up the offer of the Meal del Dia - a good-priced 3 course meal. To walk this off we spent the evening with the locals promenading along the esplanade. Despite reservations, both slept quite well.

Wednesday, 12th March
Lovely day so after breakfast had a paddle in the sea as the Med looked quite inviting; mind by 10.00a.m. temperature 20 degrees. Set off about noon north along the pretty coastal road avoiding the awful N332. However, can never avoid this road for too long and eventually found ourselves hustled along again. Shocked to see that every 100m along the road there were young teenage girls prostituting themselves. Felt upset and saddened to think of these young girls resorting to this sad and dangerous method of earning a few euros.

Weather really hot so found campsite by the sea at Oliva. Parked up and then took chairs over sea wall to beach where we relaxed for couple of hours before setting off to explore Oliva on foot. There really is so little to report here; no history, no culture, no architecture - just sand and sea, the reason most people are here. We are feeling desperate for something a bit more now - but know we will not find it in Costa Blanca. Site fees here even worse ‘ 30 euros a night! Plan to stay 2 nights only.

Thursday, 13th March
Very hot again today and lovely to enjoy breakfast outside in morning sun. Caught up on washing and had a walk into Oliva, half an hour away. Bit of a grim town and quite run down. Surprising really when there is such a beautiful beach. Big plus of campsite is that there is a Michelin starred restaurant so think will treat Andy )on his money, being unemployed...!!

Bit concerned as to where we will head next as Easter is looming and it is big event in Spain. Towns already filling up and camp sites full.

Still, today´s history and tomorrow a mystery.....


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