Preparing for a long chill in the sun

We broke our journey to Crevillente near Alicante with a one night stop at Valencia Camper Park. This is a purpose built stop over for motorhomes with good pitches, electric hook up if you want it, showers, toilets, a café and a swimming pool in high season. Many people go there to visit Valencia as it is 300 metres to a tram stop that will take you right into the city. We’ve visited Valencia three times before so we gave the city a miss this time, choosing instead to chill out and relax ready for the next part of our journey. All we wanted was a shady spot to sit down with our books and escape the heat. Who would have thought two girls from Scotland would ever say that? The dogs hid under the van while we found a tree and we all sat and panted the afternoon away.

We woke up excited and a little bit nervous the next morning. We were about to do something we have never done before – join a Camping and Caravan Club Rally for a whole month.

Poppy and Boo return to Marjal
Poppy and Boo return to Marjal where they have a huge area to run around off the lead.

I’m going to be really honest here and confess our motives. The rally was at one of our favourite sites, Marjal Costa Blanca Resort near Crevillente. We were there last year for ten days and realised as soon as we drove away that we should have stayed longer. The CC Club offers amazingly good value rates for a stay here and includes some nice little extras such as free entry to the gym and indoor pool. These things were higher on our list of priorities than the Rally itself but that might be because we didn’t know what to expect. The site itself is not appealing at first glance as there are hundreds of pitches all in rows with only small bushes and trees between them. Last year, when I first saw it, I was convinced we would hate it. That was before we discovered the incredibly good facilities, the laid back and friendly atmosphere and the huge outdoor lagoon pool. It is also a place with an excellent record for ecological principles. It makes us feel good to know that they use mostly renewable energy and still have the hottest, fastest showers on any site we’ve ever stayed on. So we arrived with slightly mixed feelings and the feelings got more mixed as the afternoon went on. We were allocated our pitch on the big rally area at the top of the site where we discovered to our surprise that there were only a handful of vans and no obvious sign of a Rally Steward. After we’d set up camp, walked the dogs and had a very welcome shower in the fabulous showers we had another look around and found nothing to indicate a rally. Off went Shirley to reception to ask where the Stewards could be found. A few minutes later she came back trying not to laugh. It turns out that the Rally doesn’t start until November 20th. Hearing this I heard a distinct whizzing noise – it was my reputation as tour planner extraordinaire flying right out of the window.

We've got the sides on the awning and Poppy is confused. She can see out but can't escape.
We’ve got the sides on the awning and Poppy is confused. She can see out but can’t escape.

It took a few minutes to absorb the news but we soon recovered. We still got the good rate and the free access to the gym and indoor pool. We have some friendly neighbours a few pitches away, a lot of space around us and we still love this place. The lack of Boules matches, games, outings and shared meals with our fellow CCC members wasn’t going to spoil a thing for us. We were soon swimming in the outdoor pool (32c on November 1st!), booking our first session in the state of the art gym for the next morning and setting up the BBQ for dinner. The beer was cold, the sun was hot and we hadn’t a care in the world.

Spot Shirley in the pool.
Spot Shirley in the pool.

Three days in and we’re completely content. This is the only campsite we’ve ever been on that sends out a telecoms engineer if you want high speed internet. He comes along in his little red and white van, brings a modem and sets up your own little network in the van. The cost to us for a full month of high speed broadband? – 25€. Several sites we’ve been on have charged as much as 5€ a day for mediocre speed.

Telecoms engineer arrives to set up our own network.
Telecoms engineer arrives to set up our own network.

Here I am wallowing in wifi and looking up all kinds of stuff that I wanted to know. Of course we’re in Spain so Mr Google goes to the Spanish sites first and then helpfully translates them. I was looking up something about Internet TV when I read the following comment:

“Only he’ll put a snag very fat the remote control is not worth to throw bad noses, but who is rinsed with this command, eye, is not it complicated is that it is not practical for nothing has a button that passes command mode way mouse and worse, my mother, replaced it with a wireless mouse and solving all wonderful.” 

So much for gathering information.

This morning we cycled to the local town of Catral. It’s less than two miles and the only challenging bit of the ride involves going over a steep bridge over the motorway. Shirley had her cycle shopping trolley attached so that we could go into our favourite Chinese Market where you can buy all kinds of things you never knew you needed. Today we really did need something – a fan. The heat here has surprised us with the afternoon temperature getting up to 35c. We have a thermometer in the van that reads the inside and outside temperatures. At bed time last night it was still reading 28c inside the van and 24c outside so sleeping is a problem for those of us used to turning the central heating off at night at home. We got our fan and a few other small plastic items then went off to the pharmacy to replenish our supplies of insect repellent. Spanish pharmacies are wonderful places. It seems that you can buy almost any medication if you can pronounce it. We haven’t tested this theory out yet but we’re told on good authority that it’s true. After collecting the strongest stuff to keep mozzies at bay that the pharmacist had to offer we ended our little outing with coffee and toasted tea cakes at the local British owned coffee shop. Here we were the unwilling witnesses to someone else’s family angst. 

A young couple turned up and sat down at one of the outside tables next to ours. We heard the young man suggesting that they would “tell them we walked”. A few minutes later a young teenage girl rocked up and said “How did you get here so fast?” in a tone of such outrage that you could have believed they had stolen her year’s supply of chocolate. And so it began,

“We walked”

“No you didn’t”

“Yes we did.”

“Well I’m not sitting with you then!” and she flounced herself into a chair at yet another table.

Just when we thought it had all gone quiet the mother appeared.

“How did you get here so quickly?”

“We walked”

“No you bloody didn’t. How did you do it?”

And she flounced over and joined her sulky teenager at the other table.

The atmosphere in that café was appalling. It was clear that all the other customers, like us, were wondering what was so awful about getting to the café by some means other than walking. The young man was obviously the sulky teenager’s brother and the young girl with him his girlfriend. She looked like she would rather be anywhere else but in that café. Fortunately we’d finished our coffee because we felt exactly the same way. We paid up and left and as we cycled back over the motorway bridge I thought about the whole thing but try as I might, I couldn’t work out why someone else’s dreadful family dynamics can cast a shadow over complete strangers who happen to be sharing the same space. 

The heavy mood was soon forgotten as we returned to the van and set about linking up to the provided TV connection on the pitch. We thought it might be amusing to watch a little Spanish TV one evening so we were absolutely astonished and pretty chuffed to discover that we can also get UK terrestrial channels. Saturday night can be Strictly night even here. How marvellous is that?

Sunset at Marjal
Sunset at Marjal

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