On our last day in Denia we treated ourselves to lunch in a delightful restaurant called Basta (translation: Enough) in the Marina. The Menu del Dia was a four course series of delights – it was fabulous.
We sat outside in the sunshine and savoured every mouthful before strolling slowly back along the waterfront to recline quietly in our folding chairs, reading and giving the occasional contented groan.
The next morning we checked out, paid our incredibly good value £160 for 15 nights stay and rolled out of the site, causing a minimum of disruption – thank goodness. We’d been secretly dreading the thought of hitching up in the relatively tight space and driving out through the narrow meandering paths on the site. Our only problem was forcing the site gardener to move his wheelbarrow several times as we shuffled the van backwards and forwards to get it on the trailer tow hitch. He was clearly used to this inconvenience and shrugged, lit a fag and leant on his broom to watch the show. Once out of the gate there is half a mile of single track access road before a tight turn into the road out of town. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when we made it safely out onto the road. After filling up with diesel we got onto the motorway and headed south to Murcia.
That evening we stayed at the motorhome parking beside Ikea. We have never experienced anywhere like this before on our travels through Europe. A large section of the car park in the enormous Thader Shopping Centre has been set aside for motorhomes with free services, flat parking and 24 hour security. It was Saturday afternoon and the final 100 yards of the journey was quite terrifying, negotiating a 5 lane roundabout with hundreds of cars skipping between lanes while we attempted to safely manoeuvre our huge rig into the proper exit. Somehow we managed it and started driving up and down the rows of motorhomes looking for a space big enough for us. In the end we found a reasonably big space, hopped out, unhitched the trailer and pushed it into a tight corner then reversed the van in front of it. There was about six inches of space between the van and the trailer but later that day Shirley swears she saw a French motorhomer eyeing the space up to see if he could squeeze in. The entire parking was completely full by the time we returned from our bewildered tour of Ikea carrying the inevitable raspberry candles, a couple of small dishes for olives and nuts because we left ours at home, one wine glass to replace the one we smashed last week, a garlic press and a washing up brush. We know how to live!
Later we went to a huge Alcampo supermarket for a few items before returning to the van where we reminded ourselves that shopping is hugely overrated and tiring and the best bit of the day had been the frozen yogurt we’d enjoyed in the square of the shopping centre. Our neighbour across the path was keen to know what was in our trailer – he and almost everyone else we’ve met – and also to let us know that he loved a free stop over with services. We agreed with him, although to be honest, the total cost of our shopping and the frozen delight would have bought us three nights on a campsite. Another really excellent feature of this stopover is the tram service that runs from the parking to the centre of Murcia. For 1.45€ each way you can be transported quickly and efficiently into the city. We chose not to do it on this occasion because temperatures had risen to the high 20s and we didn’t want to leave the dogs in the van for several hours while we went into the city. We will definitely return for another visit. It’s a great facility and we were impressed. We slept well in that unusual environment and were off in good time the next morning to the seaside town of Aguilas, 65 miles away.
We chose Aguilas because Melanie and Biz had messaged us to say that you could park at the Marina and stroll the length of the promenade, stopping every 50 yards or so for beer and tapas. Very kindly they suggested that we park up near them and place the trailer between the two vans. The Marina has 24 hour security and barriers so it would be completely safe. As we approached our destination and started to think happy thoughts about putting the kettle on and eating our breakfast we met our first problem. The satnav instructed us to turn right in a place where there were two possible turns available and the image on the screen didn’t look like either of them. After jumping out and looking around we still had no clue so Shirley took the first turning only to discover that it was not only the wrong one but it was a dead end and turning around was almost impossible. For the second time in 24 hours we unhitched, swung the trailer round and then turned the van, hitched up again and found the right place in about thirty seconds. Melanie and Biz had messaged us to say that they were out running but to call them if we had a problem, which was just as well. We attempted the suggested manoeuvre of putting the trailer beside their van but found that the large number of bollards placed all over the car park made it impossible to reverse the trailer onto the pitch. Swinging the wheel in the right direction for reversing the trailer brought the front of the van perilously close to the bollards so – guess what – we had to unhitch the trailer ready to push it onto the pitch. Two things made what happened next alarming: 1) The ground was sloping causing the trailer to move at speed backwards 2) We hadn’t discussed our strategy for getting it into position.
As the trailer moved swiftly downhill I was at one side trying to push it to turn away from M & B’s van and Shirley, who couldn’t see me, was bravely trying to stop it rolling and wasn’t pushing it anywhere. After a few tense moments in which we fought against one another I saw that disaster was about to happen and yelled at Shirley to put the handbrake on. The handbrake is mercifully fast to put on and very strong so the trailer stopped in an instant, just a whisker away from the side of our friend’s van. Quick as a flash I was on the phone sending a text “Help! Manpower needed!” If I’d been less stressed I would have remembered to ask for person power but this was no time for political correctness. In between the moment we asked for help and the arrival of the cavalry in running gear, the security guard for the marina appeared on a bike and told us we couldn’t park the trailer in the middle of the road. He cycled off before we could suggest that he might like to help us. Come to think of it, the extent of my Spanish could only have asked him for a beer, thanked him politely, pointed out that he was a man and I am a woman or told him my name. All other communication is beyond me. Duolingo language learning beginners level serves no useful purpose – just so you know.
At that moment two lycra clad pals came skidding round the corner and managed not to whimper when they saw how close their van was to having a trailer shaped dent in its side. Taking in the scene in an instant, Biz moved their van out of harm’s way and the trailer was pushed quickly into place and the kettle was on at last. This being the third time in 24 hours that we had failed to get the damned thing into place and had to resort to unhitching it, we began to secretly dream of the simple life when we only had the van to worry about.
Before long we were strolling along the seafront watching the dogs galloping about on the sand in ecstatic excitement before stopping for beer in one bar and then fresh seafood tapas in another. The sun was shining, the Mediterranean sparkling and the sound of friendly laughter all around us.
The next morning Melanie and Biz went on their way to pastures new and we decided to stay another day or two. It’s a very pretty sea front, it’s quiet in the marina and anyway we were fed up with hitching up the trailer. What we didn’t expect was the arrival of a ferocious storm. It started quietly with a few dark clouds, a few splashes of rain and a drop in temperature. Within a couple of hours we were being bombarded with high winds, heavy rain and skies that stayed dark all day. This is not good news when you’re not on electric hook up. Without the sunshine to keep the leisure batteries topped up you soon find that the systems start to drain the battery. We could run the heating and the lights but we couldn’t charge up the laptop or our ipads. We sat for a number of hours playing cards until numb bums forced us out into the storm and we walked to Mercadona for some supplies. It wasn’t fun. We were fed up but we were stuck – the entire coast was getting a battering and anyway it was too dangerous to drive. Given this dilemma we were left with no choice, we had to talk to one another. I’m not looking for sympathy here but we have been together for eighteen years – finding new conversational topics to last 4 hours is a real challenge. Thank goodness for good books.
The next day was no better and I had serious withdrawal symptoms from not having the laptop, so we hit on the idea of going to the marina hotel for lunch and to ask them to charge it for us while we were there. Lunch at the Hotel Puerto Juan Montiel is an eat all you can buffet. Dangerous and delightful in equal measure. Food is served from 1.30 to 4.00 p.m. and no-one cares if you stay all afternoon. We did our best but we gave in at about 3.00 p.m. and returned to the van with laptop and stomachs fully charged. Just for interest, lunch costs 18€ per person and consists of a huge salad bar with all kinds of bread, fish, cheese, cold meat, salads and dressings. The main course was an array of meat and fish with vegetables and potatoes, paella and one or two other things that bore no resemblance to anything we know. The dessert table had about twenty different types of cakes, three trays of different ice creams, piles of whipped cream and a fruit bowl. Our fellow diners appeared to be a large coach party and boy could they eat! Some of them were eating their desserts on the way back to the table, not bothering to sit down and going back for another plateful. Just to be clear, it was the coach that was large, the numerous Spanish occupants were irritatingly petite, given their penchant for pudding.
Finally, after three nights we paid our parking fee and left the marina, only just in time as both our toilet cassettes were full and we needed to find services urgently. In case you were wondering, we only have one toilet in the van but we carry a spare cassette for times when we’re not in a place with services. We take the full one out, wrap it in a huge bin liner and put it in the trailer, where it waits until we can empty it. In the meantime we place the spare empty one in the cassette drawer and start again. It’s at the moment when the second cassette approaches full that motorhomers begin to dread the onset of intestinal hurry and avoid any unnecessary drinking. Fortunately we only had a few miles to go to our next stop. Vera is not a person but a place in the Almeria region. We were very glad to see her when we rolled into the Carpe Diem motorhome parking and emptied all our tanks. Pedro, the owner of the motorhome parking, keeps the place immaculately clean and tidy and keeps an eagle eye on all comings and goings from his office doorway. We felt understandably embarrassed when we emptied two cassettes, the black emergency pee box, numerous litres of grey water and finally filled the fresh tank to the brim. He was ready with his marigolds and air freshener before we’d even driven off the service point. If you thought motorhoming was a romantic idea, think again.
Tune in again in a few days for tales of a wandering dog that disgusted Boo by attaching its nose to his bum and our adventures when we missed a turning up a mountain. Hasta la vista, Amigos!