Gibraltar and the Municipal of Tarifa.

Sunday 27-03-16.

We left Torreguardiaro and the comforts of the Villa on Monday and headed south.  I wanted to see Gibraltar so we found a 24 hour car park in La Linea (Sp) and walked through GB customs and across the Gibraltar airport runway onto the rock.  There is not too much to write about Gibraltar, but it is a strange sight seeing the likes of M+S and Peacocks on a sun filled palm tree lined high street.  We did succumb though to one of the traditional English pubs and we ate sausage and mash (me) and Sharon had a full beef roast dinner served by a Spanish looking gent speaking a strange ‘Englishinol’ dialect.  We were also dampened by the fact that we had to pay (18 euros) to stay overnight in the car park, but we are back on tour now and we will take the high with the lows.

The next morning we were Tarifa bound and this is the first place on the tour so far that I have been to before, be it around 10 years ago, and I was looking forward to see if it had changed.  A quick pass by the tourist information office meant that we had directions to the area in town where ‘autocaravanas’ are permitted to stay for 24 hours for free and this was about 3 km from the old town centre in the vicinity of the football stadium.  When we arrived at the area there were clear signs stating that motorhome overnight parking was not allowed in the whole Tarifa municipal and there was even a sign depicting a motorhome being towed off.  On the trip we have been struggling to understand the rules of ‘free parking’ and again in Tarifa it seemed confusing.  Strengthened by the 30 or so motorhomes that were dotted around this area and using lemming logic we pulled up at the far side of Playa de los Lances.  We took a walk down the beach side promenade into town centre and marvelled at the amount of kite surfers, there must have been in the region of 500 altogether!

The next morning, since were not towed away, we decided to check out the free parking area that is listed for Tarifa in our book ‘Camper Stop Europe’ which lies about 10km from the town.  Once we arrived there, down a sandy track, we were greeted by both a large muddy swamp due to the recent rains that blocked the entrance to the site and a group European Dreads with shovels.  They warned us that people have been unable to enter or leave the site for a week, however they did not look too worried as they wafted back to their small pack of converted horse boxes.  They did intrigue us though with the information that if did get stuck then somebody on the site has a 4×4 and for 30 euros they could tow us through – is this hippy capitalism?? 😉  The site is in a superb position, absolutely beach side and tranquil.  These are the sites we are searching for, however we followed our heads and not my heart and with glum faces we turned the bus around.

Filled with the confidence of the Tarifa town centre stop over we decided to try the next beach along, Playa Valdevaqueros to check if any opportunities for free stop overs lie there.  Upon arrival again we were greeted by the ‘Municipal de Tarfa’ sign stating ‘no overnight parking’ however 20+ motorhomes were parked up.  After a second lap around the car park, as there were not any spaces available, a Spanish kite surfer invited us to double park alongside his van – in for a penny, in for a pound!  Also, once we took a walk down to the beach, the car park where we ended up was at the other end of the bay from where we originally headed for, so this time, avoiding the mud was the right decision.

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The Suntor at the top of the dunes returning from Punta Paloma.  Valdevaqueros bay is below.

I want to note, before we turned off to the beach car park, we headed straight on to Punta Paloma.  It is here where I had my first motorhome driving fright on the tour.  On the way up the hill the two way road narrowed to single track and then tarmac gave way to hard sand and then sand morphed into light rubble.  It came to a point where I had old stone walls quite close to the sides of the van as the track narrowed.  It came to a point where I thought I would have to reverse all the way back down!!  So here is a question to any motorhomers that may have stumbled across this website – so when do you know when to give up and turn around? Just as the road narrowed, around the corner it could widen again? (I am predicting I may receive a few comments about the benefits of proper motorhome Sat Navs that consider the width of the vehicle and the route you are travelling!!??!)  For the philosophical, when in life does a path that narrows, widen?

Ummm, moving on.  Playa Valdevaqueros is quite stunning: – pale sands, clear sea and an unobstructed back drop of green mountains and massive sand dunes.  Oh, and about 100 kite surfers.  The weather is also quite hot, around 20 degrees meaning that the sea was warm enough to enter which I did for the first time on the trip.

On the second night, here we managed to do some socialising with two Dutch couples.  Dave and Matilda were in their mid 20s and had converted a Mercedes UniMog and were completing a 4 year around the world driving tour, they had just returned from 4 months in Morocco.  Bert and Astrid, also in an ex Merc military vehicle, albeit a 1960s version, who had also spent time travelling in North Africa coincidently.  Drinks ensued and many tails about touring were enjoyed (I have picked up a few tricks).  We actually all ended up in the Suntor, which was quite flattering, as our old Fiat was absolutely the least impressive, but has the all-important rear lounge!

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Our van looks like a conservative touring choice nestled in between a Dutch plated UniMog and a US School Bus that had travelled from Germany.  Playa Valdevaqueros car park.

On Friday (25 March) we returned to Tarifa as one of the objectives of the tour alongside food and drink is of course ‘culture’.  We wanted to witness the Semana Santa (Easter) parades and Tarifa has been hosting one every night.  We duly waited with a large crowd in the old town until 8pm when the procession started.  After absorbing 40 minutes of the 3 hour procession we hot footed away from the crowds in search of a cheap ‘plato combinado’ (ham, egg and chips!) and a glass of wine!

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Culture vultures: Semana Santa in Tarifa old town.

For completeness, I would like to note that I have been suffering from a bout of ‘holiday diarrhoea’ all week and this has meant that we have had to empty the chemical loo out on most days at a cost of 3 euros.  I have also made my first ‘out of budget’ purchase as I succumbed to the numerous cool Tarifan surf shops and bought a new pair of shorts (Hot Stick Kite Surf, Tarifa).  These two events are by no means related.

Whilst on the subject of purchases, the times are a changin’, as I now have my first ever man bag (5 euros, Chinese Bazaar, Tarifa) as I am determined to have my camera with me at all times as I keep missing photo opportunities.  The missed shot that prompted this unlikely purchase was a beach information sign at Playa de Los Lances that very clearly stated ‘no kite surfing’ complete with picture and red ring with a cross through it.  Whilst above the sign in the sky you could see 100s of kites attached to surfers jousting across the waves!

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Dusk, looking back at Playa de Los Lances, Tarifa town.

We have now left the Tarifa area and I am writing this in Zahara de los Atunes in the Cadiz region.  We plan to spend the next week plodding up/across this coast taking in Jerez and Cadiz and the coastal hippy hang outs.

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Villa Eterna Rocks….

So we have been here a week now in Torreg.  The days have slipped into fairly simple pattern, wake up and take coffee on the terrace whilst stealing glimpses of the view across the bay and then start work.  I have the task of painting the exterior and Sharon has been mixing between garden duties and painting window and door frames.  It is all very tranquillo, the only noise is the music from Kevin’s stereo (The Cure through to The Levellers and everything inbetween summarises the play list).  We all meet up for tapas at 2pm, which in fairness, since we have arrived has been slipping nearer to 1pm, where we eat bread and cheese with wine congratulating ourselves on our endeavours.  A bit surreal really since Kev and I are founder members of the ‘No Work Team’.

The afternoon is a little a bit more flexible for Sharon and I, as Kev continues with the electrics, we mix between siestas, book reading or completing some more work once the sun has died down a little.  It is quite hot up here on the hill, today reached 21 degrees with zero wind – I am quite brown already.  I also have terracotta blindness from the painted walls.  We join up again at 8pm, taking it in turns on the pans – tonight it is my turn and I going to start off with a pan fried paprika pork.  Should combine well with the 2009 Vespral Gran Reserva (2.49 euro) which we purchased this evening – well, it is Friday night and old habits die hard !!!  In short, we are both enjoying our time here with good friends.

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The view from the terrace with Gib rock in the distance. See Kev and Gio comments for more details on Villa Eterna.

St Jean (Fr) to Torreguadiaro (Sp). Exodus south…..

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Snow in the mountains behind San Sebastian

From St Jean we headed to the capital of the Basque Country, Vitoria.  The road was slow due to the snow (see photo), so care had to be taken over the mountain range.  Vitoria was like I had imagined, winding lanes full of bars selling pintxos and cheap wine.  Memories of an alcohol fuelled couple of days in San Sebastian came to mind.  Rebellious, anti-establishment, and full of energy – it made for a pleasant Sunday afternoon mixing with the locals who were indulging in pre Sunday lunch drinks.

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Happy Birthday to me! Wine and bread in the van.

My 40th Birthday was celebrated in Palencia, Castilla y Leon.  A quiet traditional town with a stuck in time feel.  Again, wine and tapas seemed to be the way forward – 80 cents per glass of wine with a tapa.  Sharon tried the local delicacy of pigs ear stew and we both concluded that it was pretty bad!  However, the weather is getting slightly better as we head south, in fact there was some sun shine in Palencia which glinted in the dated shop fronts of the main Calle Major.

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Broiled pig’s ear anyone?

The next stop was Caceres which has a classic walled historical centre and then Zafra.  At Zafra we arranged with Kevin to arrive at Torreguadiaro 24 hours early.  The weather is considerably better now, in fact it is a pleasant 18 degrees and very sunny.  Kev’s villa is in an amazing location overlooking the bay of Gibraltar.  Katherine from the Beautiful Days crew and Kev’s Gio are also out here so we look forward to doing some socialising – we have had very little company outside of the two of us.  Please see the links of Kev’s villa, it is available for holiday rents and comes recommended!!!

Just to keep tabs on the spending, we still have not exceeded 3 euros for a bottle of wine.  In fact tonight I am going dabble in the sub 1 euro end of the market, I have a Spanish Tempranillo 2014 which cost a grand total of 89 cents!!!  Also, it is worth noting that all the Aires so far have been free apart from the first night in Le Crotoy and St Jean.  We have also just finished our first bottle of LPG which cost a grand total of 4.50 euros to fill up. Life on the road is proving to be quite inexpensive so far.

The first couple of days

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It is now Thursday night and so far we have spent our first days in our new home.  I think this was my first stumbling block, not thinking that the van is actually our home now.  It is something that we are getting more used to.

Our first mistake on aires life was not being able to get water.  The first night at Le Crotoy had a service area but was not activated until later on in the year.  At Amboise we choose the free aire that was without a water supply over the 12 euro campsite, so it was not until today that we stumbled across a free aire in Loches with water where we filled up the tank.  We can now have a shower tomorrow and stop washing up with mineral water.

We are now at Roullet St. Estephe, another free aire, which is about 100 Km north of Bordeaux.   Surprisingly we plan to fly (exaggeration as we struggle to top 65 mph!!) past there and miss all the wine caves as we are trying to head down south relatively quickly.  So far we have not spent more than 3 euros on a bottle on wine or used any toll roads.

Highlights for me so far have been the marina/estuary view from the van on our first night in Le Crotoy (see photo) and of course the baguettes.  Sharon enjoyed Amboise due to the impressive river side Chateaux that dominates the town and the fact that she has not forgot all her French – she managed to sweet talk a local grocer in to giving her a free beetroot!

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It is now Saturday morning and I am making these notes from St. Jean de Luz which is a historic coastal town south of Biarritz.  We arrived last night in the pouring rain, in fact it is still pouring down.  To sum up last night I am using an extract from Sharon’s written notes below.  We popped out into the town to buy some food for the night and I was contemplating the merits of purchasing a 1.5 litre of very cheap red wine in a plastic bottle:

“the grumpy Basque shopkeeper turned out to be really friendly and helpful to the point of advising M not to buy the v.v cheap red wine (shopkeeper actually took it out of his basket and put it back on the shelf shouting Non! Non! Non!)  He suggested another bottle, which to be fair, was still only 1.79 euros.  At the check-out he gave us a free baguette – ah bless”.

The extra baguette did not manage to soak up the recommended wine though, I have a bad head today!  However, on the up side, Basque pate with their regional chili is very tasty.