A few days ago I was ready to give up on Spain – not completely and not the whole country of course – but I’d had enough of it for this trip. I felt disappointed by the places we’d stopped, tired of the jaded nature of some of the resorts we’d visited and to be honest we felt we just didn’t fit in, except of course from the few people mentioned here that cheered us on our way. We were both frustrated by our lack of ability to communicate in Spanish, not that that’s anyone else’s problem but a fact just the same, and suddenly very appreciative of our certainly limited but undoubtedly useful ability to speak some French.
I wanted to go back to France – I mean I really wanted to go back to France – but I wasn’t going to say that out loud to Shirley because I didn’t want to spoil her trip and persuade her to do something she didn’t want to do. Then, perhaps as a last ditch attempt to make the visit worthwhile, we made a decision to come to Camping Marjal near Alicante and see if the positive reviews were justified.
When we first arrived I was a bit shocked. First of all because we were still on the motorway when the Satnav said we’d reached our destination and looking out of the window it looked like the site was literally next to it. (Actually it is behind some high land heaps that must have been created to keep the noise and dust out and it has worked). Then, pulling in to the reception area while Shirley went to book in I opened the driver’s window and realised that Spanish pop music was playing through loud speakers in the car park. My heart sank. I thought we’d landed in a re-run of Hi de Hi.
Shirley was cheery when she came out of reception, she said it was very professional and smart and the place looked fabulous.
We drove into the main camping area and my heart sank even further. There were thousands of outfits in neat rows in what appeared to be a very sophisticated car park. Everything was grey and very clean. The only green was a few small bushes and young trees delineating each pitch.
We drove onto our pitch and my mood began to lighten. It was huge, fully serviced, with water, electric, drainage all on the pitch. The neighbours waved cheerily as we stopped the engine and, big relief, it was perfectly flat so no need to get the levelling blocks out. Believe me, after five weeks on the road, these things are luxuries.
First things first, we got two hot and tired dogs out of the back and set off to walk around. We found a big open but fenced area where we could let them run and we met other friendly dog walkers. We strolled back and people said hello to us, each in their own language. We began to relax a little. Soon the awning was out, the BBQ connected to the outside gas point and dinner and wine was on the table -we relaxed a bit more.
A walk down to the centre of the resort cheered us immensely. There is a huge and beautiful swimming pool with sun loungers all around and Shirley began to get excited.
This place is extraordinary. It has every conceivable facility, including a dog bathing and grooming room. I wanted wifi and was told to pick up a phone in the tourist information and it would be arranged. What I didn’t expect was the arrival of two telecom vans, three engineers and the installation of a modem in the motorhome! Given that the cost of the Internet is just 10€ a week that seemed like a bargain. Many of the people seem to virtually live here and it has the atmosphere of a friendly village.
Our neighbours popped by on Saturday morning to ask if we knew that there was a market in the next town and to give us directions on our bikes. We were genuinely touched by their kindness.
The neighbours on the other side are Dutch and they came to tell us that the first time the Telecom men came and we were out, they had heard the dogs barking and came to make sure everything was ok. We were worried that the dogs were making a noise when we were away from the van but they reassured us that normally they are very quiet and were just raising the alarm.
It is absolutely not the kind of place we would have chosen if we’d had all this information before we came and yet we love it! So we’re staying for a break here, ten days perhaps, who knows? With our bikes we’re exploring the local towns and villages and the nearby nature reserve where we’re told you can see flamingos if you get there early enough. The dogs are getting back into their fitness regime of running beside the bikes with their special harnesses on and they’ve had another bath. The latter isn’t high on their popularity list but it is on ours – they’re not very smelly dogs and they don’t shed hair but they do get very dusty.
So I was thinking about the post I wrote the other day about what would make this trip meaningful and I’ve had another surprise. Sometimes we get what we need in the most unlikely places. Staying open isn’t always easy but it helps – I think if Shirley hadn’t bounced out of reception so cheerily when we got here I might have been tempted to say ‘Let’s try somewhere else’. I don’t know how many times I’ve been thankful for her cheery nature but there’s another one to add to the list.