Spain Pt 2
After 22 days in Catalonia we finally said goodbye to our Spanish, Catalonian & Argentinian friends and started to move south. We were sad to leave our friends but happy that our troubles were behind us and to be off on our adventures once again.
Our first stop was Benicarló. We stopped at a great free motorhome car park next to a beach, thanks again to the park4night app. From there we cycled along the beach front to Peñiscola. Having our folding ebikes makes such a difference to what we can explore; they are certainly two of our favourite posessions . Parking our 7.5m motorhome near a town or city is often difficult so having the bikes means we can park further out and still find great places. After some (hilarious) photos in Peñiscola we explored one of the Via Verde. The Vias Verdes are cycle/walking/hiking tracks that can be found all over Spain. They are open to the public & free to use. A lot of the tracks are old train line routes that wind through mountains, valleys and the most beautiful parts of Spain. We’ve cycled a few now and we highly recommend them. You can download their very useful app too which tells you where the route starts and ends, how long it is and the level of difficulty.
We moved further south long the coast to El Grau de Castellon, finally had some long awaited churros in Castellon de la Plana and found ourselves at a street carnival. The park up here was another free motorhome stop with water & emptying facilities, the Spanish have got this vanlife thing sorted! The local carnival was so much fun; everyone singing and dancing, many dressed up in costumes on colourful, vividly decorated trucks and floats. We had a great time then went for delicious tapas and sangria at a local harbour restaurant. €16.50 for a night out for the two of us, this is the life!
After our disappointing time in Barcelona we nearly bypassed Valencia but we’re so glad we gave it a chance. We stayed onsite at Valencia Camper Park and took our bikes on the train into Valencia (another bonus of folding e-bikes is that they can squeeze into smaller places, like trains). What a great place it turned out to be! Cycling is so easy through the city. With cycle lanes everywhere we made our way down to Turia Park; approximately 7km of public parks and gardens in the city centre. We had heard that the parks were a favourite tourist attraction and really popular with the locals but we hadn’t expected just how huge and impressive they would be. The park itself is divided into smaller areas for sports, relaxing, art installations, fountains, children’s play areas, wild flower meadows etc. At the bottom of the park you can find the City of Arts and Science which looks like a futuristic sci-fi film set; all white and open with domed buildings and crystal clear water in every corner. Throughout the park are cycle tracks, criss crossing paths, bridges and tunnels making it the perfect place to explore on your bikes. We were sad to only have a day in Valencia. We’ll definitely go back again one day.
We’d been in Spain for a month by now and were desperately needing to swim and be near water. Growing up on an Island both of us have always loved water and as we travel more we are drawn back to it often. We headed inland towards the Banyeres de Mariola National Park and from there we checked out the breathtaking views from ‘Embalse de Tous’ and on to our first Spanish nature swim at ‘Pou Clar’. A stunning place with reasonably warm water that was lovely and quiet in February but apparently gets really busy in the summer months & we can see why. Our next park up and nature swim was at ‘Gorg de Salt’. The area is absolutely beautiful; a waterfall brings fresh mountain water into the pool, which would explain why the water here was not at all warm, in fact I think it may be the coldest water we’ve ever swum in! But it was definitely worth a visit, this was our favourite part of Spain so far. When visiting these places please remember to leave them spotless though. As usual, we did a litter pick when we parked up and this area gave us a full bag of rubbish to take away to a bin. For nature, animals and other visitors please take any litter away with you (Which is why we set up Parkup Pickup, to encourage other vanlifers, motorhomers & campers to keep areas litter free).
We next met up with a family friend, Andrea & her husband Martin, in Oliva, back on the coast, who showed us around the old town and invited us to dinner then a pub quiz (in English but about Spain). We used to go to a pub quiz every week back in Jersey and we hadn’t really thought about missing it but it was great to be using our brains & be part of a bigger team again. Meeting up with people is one of our favourite parts about travelling. You can become quite disillusioned by humanity when you have to do the same things every day, see the same people and deal with the same problems but through travelling we have met the most wonderful, kind and generous people from all over the world.
Andrea recommended that we visit Font Salada next, which is an open air public swimming area with a restaurant onsite. Learn this phrase – “xiringuito” pronounced “chiringuito” (an open air beach bar style restaurant or bar). We stayed there for the night and moved on to our next stop: Benidorm! Now, if you’ve been reading this blog you probably know that we prefer nature to cities and love to explore local culture and cuisine. Benidorm is none of this & we knew before we went but we were still shocked by how Anglicised it is. We did like the clean beaches and exploring the old town. We thoroughly enjoyed our huge cooked breakfasts, fish and chips and Callum took the opportunity to watch the football, but it was also the place we’ve felt the most unsafe in all our travels. Drunk ‘lads’ in muscle vests parading up and down the streets seemed much more of a threat than anything else we’ve come across throughout Europe. Anyway, we enjoyed our night out and moved on.
We spent the next couple of days with English speaking friends. We always try to learn some of the language of the country we visit but it’s great to have a conversation with someone in your native tongue; to swap stories and tell jokes. We met up for a cycle ride with some friends from Jersey (Lenny & Chantal) who had been in Spain with their motorhome for a few months & showed us around the area of La Marina. We made friends with John & Kate in Villajoyosa, explored Cartagena with them and spent a night watching the sun set at Sierra de la Muele. This was our first time experiencing any ‘Brexit backlash’ when we parked next to a Dutch motorhome and were greeted with a tirade of abuse about how we shouldn’t park there, if they were in Britain this free parking spot would costs €30 a night and how we had decided to leave the EU anyway whilst calling Callum ‘Brexit’! Firstly, as we’re from Jersey, we didn’t get to vote about Brexit & leaving the EU but we’ll probably be dragged along with it, making travelling full time more difficult. Secondly, we aren’t from England so we couldn’t tell you about camping restrictions there. Obviously this was a little upsetting but we just decided to park elsewhere, it’s just not worth getting into an argument and we ended up having a really nice night with John & Kate. We parted ways but planned to meet up again in a couple of days after seeing other friends from Jersey who were making their way north through Úbeda. Little did we know that this would be the last we saw them for months, thanks to coronavirus.
Úbeda turned out to be a lovely little old town with another great free parking area with water fill & emptying facilities. Thank you Spain. Those next few days in March were HOT! We were just going to stay one day then rejoin John & Kate down on the coast but we decided to take our time, spend a couple of days with our friends Harry & Ness then slowly make our way back towards the Costa del Sol via a nice little nature park up at another reservoir: ‘Embalse del Negratin’. A worldwide pandemic put a stop to those plans and this would be our home for the next two weeks!!
Read about our coronavirus lockdown here