After about a week in Platja D'Aro I started to get itchy feet. As we drove South we saw people of all ages gathering along the sides of the road, wearing the red and yellow colours of Catalunya. They were organising themselves to form a human chain all the way to France, a distance in excess of 400km. At the border with Valencia Province there were Guardia Civil, police, camera crews, overhead helicopters, even riot police all ready for the off. The Valenciano Authorities must have been expecting emotions to run high later in the day. The Catalunians are passionate about securing a referendum for independence and this event had been staged in order to gain publicity for their cause.
Whenever we find ourselves in this neck of the woods we somehow always drive past Peñíscola . Deciding that this year would be different, our approach to the town proved very disappointing Oh dear, Mike had kept a magazine article since 2001, surely his dream wasn't going to be shattered? All we saw initially were the concrete block hotels that lined the beach and the depressing half completed urbanisations around the edge. Even if Peñíscola had been misrepresented in his article at least he could get the burgeoning pile of laundry out of the way. With this in mind we found a great campsite. Swimming pool, bar, restaurant, unlimited hot showers, all for 6 euro a night. Peñíscola turned out to be charming! What a change in fortunes. The Old Town is real, people actually live behind the ancient walls, and of course, as is so often the case in Spain, we stumbled over a festival. A very noisy fundraiser for cancer research in the port, griddled sardines on the menu there. And later a bull run. A Spanish pastime not just limited to Pamplona and as ever, we wanted to experience what appeals in the Spanish psyche. The odds were stacked against the poor bull from the start. He was released into a temporary bull ring with a metal grand stand around the edge. After being taunted by human males for several minutes the bull was scared further by a loud bang and a fanfare. He was liberated from the ring, ran down the street and onto another enclosed section on the beach. Mike ran ahead of the bull along the street between the grandstand and the beach. The bull was faster, so Mike jumped out of the way and I noted that most of the Spanish stayed behind the bull. So much for their machismo. I felt so sorry for the bull, it was a beautiful creature, with big brown eyes. He looked so sad and I couldn't help but wonder what the poor chap was thinking about us humans.
Last week we were given a new Spanish Website, called FurgoVW. It is stuffed full of overnight locations. Although intended for VW campers we found a suitable stop over at Cala de Sant Jordi, just south of Tarragona, where we stayed for one night after our departure from Platja D'Aro on our way to Peniscola.
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Got to the south of France, got a sniff of Espagne and thought 'what the hell?' Poor old France didn't stand a chance after we left Millau behind us.
I last wrote from Kirnbergsee in the Black Forest and the last blog entry was very perfunctory because I was sitting outside with the sun shining on the screen and couldn't see a thing. The source of the Danube is at Donaueschingen and it is very pretty, we saw it last year and didn't see the need to hang around as we were just waiting for Mike's stings to calm down. From there we took a scenic yellow road which looked like spaghetti on the map to Mulheim. It was single width most of the way but the villages had a bus service. Mulheim felt a bit weird for some reason and I didn't like it much.
We then headed to France and one of the first things we noticed after the hanging baskets was the lack of cycle paths compared to Germany, but nowhere could ever have that many, except the Netherlands of course. There are loads in France but they aren't as obviously by the side of the road as they are in Germany. Our first night was at Cousance. There was no lie- in in the morning as the church bells had it in for us. In fact, there were two sets of bells going, they started at 5 am but all hell let loose at 7am and I laughed to myself as it was easy to imagine I had woken up in the middle of St Peter's Square when a new pope had been announced.
Then to Puy en Velay. This has a small church on top of an extinct volcano. It has been a place of worship for thousands of years as people believed that they could get closer to their gods in pre christian times. It was an amazing sight and a good climb up to the top and we were fortunate to be able to park right beneath it for the night. There was a large cathedral and a statue of the Virgin Mary, on another hilltop across from our pinnacle. We didn't want to pay to go into the Cathedral but there was a door open at the side and no one noticed us wander in. The old buildings were all built out of volcano stone and were mainly buildings associated with the church which I thought looked rather dark and foreboding.
Then on to Millau and to Spain. Having chatted to French people (in French!) We have learnt that we're pronouncing Millau all wrong. Its not Millau to rhyme with the noise a cat makes but Mee-Oh.
There is a fabulous Argentinian steak restaurant in Empuriabrava, near Rosas on the Costa Brava. As I said earlier Mike gets a sniff of Spain in his nostrils, but this time we could hear the sizzle of the steak as well. We found somewhere to park near the Aero Club. The Dutchman parked next to us had been there one night already and gave us the heads up. Just as we were about to lock up and go out a local police tow truck turned up. The driver had the look of Franco's chief henchman as he gesticulated for us to get off. This we had to do and so we drove on to Platja, tastebuds unquenched by those juicy steaks. Optimistic side taken as ever though because we understand that the fine for a towaway now stands at 300 Euros. That would have been an extremely expensive steak.
As for roads we haven't paid to drive on any and stuck with A roads when going from A to B and then the yellow ones on the map for the scenic parts. We had intended spending a bit longer in France but the forecast was poor and the views wouldn't have been good in the rain. The A roads were all clear, hardly any traffic and we didn't get lost.
Those of you that know us or follow the blog may remember that we spend a considerable amount of time here on the Costa Brava. Last year the official Aire in Platja was closed and a height barrier put in place. Feeling cheated Mike went to the tourist office today to find out why. The council have closed our car park because the toilet dump is broken and they haven't got the budget to fix it and haven't decided what to do yet. We were all supposed to pay to park there but no one did because the pay machine had broken and they didn't send anyone round to collect money. I suppose they don't have a salary budget for that either. The businesses in the town love having 40 or so motorhomes parked here and the residents didn't mind either. I wonder what the business rates are for and if accountants are making too many decisions. Anyway, the short answer was that no one minds us parked on the grid which is also officially signed for motorhome parking and Mike has worked out how to use the toilet dump safely and unmessily even though it is broken. All being well we will be here for a few days yet. Its lovely to be here while it is still hot, summery and busy. It has been during the low season when we have stayed here in the past and pretty much everything shuts down during the week and few places are open at the weekend.
I love travel, any type. There is always a buzz in finding & exploring a place for the first time, meeting and making new friends and if you return things are never quite the same.
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