On thro Spain

Tuesday, 29 May
We went back into the city today to have a look at the Picassos Museum, my second dose of culture in three days, it was interesting to see that what Picasso became known for was only his work of his later years, he started out, in my opinion, as just an average painter, and it wasn't for his paintings, that possibly nobody understands, he would have been a nobody!  But then what do I know about art!

After this cultural experience, we wandered around the city until we felt it was time to head home, so we headed for the Metro, and got onto an extremely crowded train and there was a lot of shoving and pushing behind me with my money belt, (as I call it), (in which I carry a spare card for my camera and a battery in a small pack) seem to get caught up with the people behind me, we were due to get off at the next station, which we did, I checked the money belt and sure enough the small pack was missing, so I climbed back on the train and said to the people who were behind me, in a loud voice, you stole from my pack, they had or innocence over their face, a man and a woman, then the third man, who was obviously part of the scheme, said the person that stole it, is running and he pointed out the door, down the platform.
I stayed there and pointed to the big guy, you stole from me, then number three, picked the small pack off the ground and said, is this what you're looking for, he of course had obviously just dropped it, I took it and squeezed through the door or the train.  Comment, as professional pickpockets, they would be better to find another job. 

Wednesday, 30 May
We left Barcelona and about 9:30 a.m., took the main motorway around the city, or I should say underneath the city because a lot of the motorway was through a tunnel, which was obviously underground.  I don't know whether we chose a bad time but at one point the GPS told us that 30 km we had ahead of us would take us six hours to do, which I would believe with the traffic we had.

We headed towards a large Roman aqueduct called Pont del Diable, which we found in the Tom Tom as a point of interest, so yes we headed towards that, only it was not where we expected, it was of the correct vintage, with the correct name but about 200 km off route, so after photographing that, we programmed a physical location into the Tom Tom and back on the toll way we found a large signpost directing us to a car park and in the car park instructions on how to get to the number two (my numbers, they still called it the number one) so Lula went down to photograph this Roman aqueduct, walking across the top some 27 m above the ground with a 50 cm wall to keep you from eternity and of course she had to walk back!

Then we headed off to a Hanks parking spot on the Ocean front to find out that it had been converted into a pedestrian walkway, so we went to our backup location, which we had noted as we were looking for our primary location, two streets of unfinished houses, that look like construction and enthusiasm departed over five years ago.  A nice quiet spot surrounded by trees, just the spot for the night.

Thursday, 31 May
Well we left our campsite in the centre of unfinished housing development, they still had the sign up out the front, the layout of the houses looked rather nice, it was a company with the number 2000 In the name which makes it appear as if the development is seven years old.

So we got onto the motorway and headed in the direction of Valencia, we bypassed Valencia because I felt Team New Zealand were doing well enough without my help even though I felt tempted to call on them and advise them on sailing tactics!

Where as in Italy we passed hundreds of kilometres of roads with grapes planted on either side, often in terraces, and we saw some of the oldest olive trees and the world, here in Spain we again have seen thousands of olive trees, and of course now that we are in the Valencia region thousands of Orange trees.

The scenery, ie.  Houses and Villages are not as interesting as Italy, or perhaps were driving through the wrong part of the countryside, this part which is close to the Ocean has thousands upon thousands of apartments lining the sea shore as far as the eye can see, couple that to all the news and information we get in New Zealand about Spain, and it appears that the sunshine attracts the rest of Europe on a all-round basis, even if it is to lying side-by-side with the rest of Europe on the beach and once all the towels had been laid out the sand becomes not visible!

I have never liked lying on the beach, and I think perhaps in a previous life I lived in Europe!

We started looking for a spot to stay for the night, and the closest Hanks parking spots was 132 km away so we knew we were on our own, we looked and a few possibilities and finally settled on a roads that lead nowhere in a commercial area near Oliva.

Friday, 1 June
Another peaceful night, then on the Road again this time to Murcia it was a very old city that date back to the Moors, and has a beautiful cathedral, but the thing I overlooked was that was the fourth largest city in Spain.  Were heading towards Hanks camping spot, and of course with the size of the city it turned out to be a non-event, so then I was on into the centre of the city, for some reason, we did manage to see the cathedral, and then turned tail and headed for the boonies.

We got back onto the A7 easily, pulled over when we could, and reprogrammed the Tom Tom for the coast.  And about 19 km from the coast we started seeing about 30 cranes all set up for new apartments.  Whenever they are building anything anything in Europe they seem to establish a large crane of the sort we as associated with high's rise and this is just to build a single storey house.  However in this case is obvious that no getting ready to build a whole lot of apartments, real estate business here is really booming.

The countryside of Spain that we had been driving through today reminds me very much of Arizona and Nevada in America, and very hot dry climate with very little rainfall.  Whenever we pass through an area that is beside the sea, we always see lots of swimming pools for sale, these how the large fibreglass jobs, and I've reached the conclusion that they are there to remind the people that had a rotten day at the beach with crowds and without a space to put your feet, there is another way to enjoy the sun and the water and that is with your own pool.

Luda tells me that it is exactly the same on the Black Sea for people from the Soviets, but she says the attraction of 40° sea water overcomes all of the overcrowding and problems associated with that.

15 km from the sea we came across a housing development, and the centre of the development there was a large sign indicating you could buy a house there for €153, 000, probably not a bad price when you consider the prices in New Zealand cities.

We eventually reached the sea at Mazarrón, drove along the seashore and found a campsite that had its own beach, we had the choice of many sites amongst the 470 on this campsite, so we chose one close to the sea, and I guess it is a indication of just how hot it gets here because there was a large awning over all of the campsites, covering of course just the campsite, and a height of about 3 m.

Lula will enjoy one a half days on the beach in the sunshine in Spain by the Mediterranean Sea, and I will enjoy one half days of not driving, probably reading a book!

Sunday, 3 June
We had a restful day yesterday that was spoilt by the hot water boiler deciding to go on strike.  We had problems with this last year and very quickly found out that the Hymer agents we useless when it came to boilers.  So with this event we thought it would be wise to visit the Truma agents in Spain because they should know the boilers best.  The main agent was in Valencia, but there was a service centre and Murcia which was only 70 km away compared to over 300 for Valencia.

So we checked out of the campground and got on our way to Murcia, route courtesy of Tom Tom, the address for the agent was simply a street address followed by a comma followed by 1 km.  This did not inspire a lot of confidence so when the Tom Tom said we had reached our destination, and we were still in the centre of the city, more or less, and knowing that a motorhome and caravan dealer needed a reasonable amount of space which would not be where the destination was, I decided enough, and got back on the Road to Valencia.

It is obvious that I was supposed to go to Valencia on the first occasion, this time the agent was on the other side of the city from where we were, so Tom Tom, bless his little heart, let us right through the centre of the city, we saw several signs directing people to the America's Cup venue, but we resisted all temptation and eventually got to the warehouse that Truma operated out of, marked that is home location on the GPS, then went down to the waterfront and joined six other motorhomes and numerous large trucks all parked enjoying the hot afternoon sun, had a chat to some English that were there, found they were staying the night, so we decided to join them without giving it a great deal of thought, however around midnight with the noise from the motorway traffic showing no sign of diminishing we decided that was a bad mistake.  The noise carried on all night, in case you are interested, so there was no problem waking up to go to the Truma agent to be there when they opened.

Monday, 4 June
We were there at eight o'clock, told to wait till 8:30 a.m., then to told there was another motor home coming at nine o'clock that had a booking, 9:30 a.m. with no sign of the other motorhome they beckoned us in to the working area, of course nobody spoke English, except a girl in the office who was brought down to translate that the boiler we had was one that needed a modification, so they would do the modification and the repair at the same time.  About 11 a.m. this was all complete, and after photocopying the invoice for the purchase of the motorhome, we were free to go with everything being fixed under warranty.  In retrospect it was the correct choice going into the master agent, they have a warehouse full of everything they could require, where as the caravan dealer would probably have a limited supplies, but more important would have motor homes requiring repairs other than the boiler and they may or may not have been able to look at the problem quickly.

We decided to head back to the camp ground at Mazarron called Camping Playa de Mazarron, a spot we could recommend to anybody, very a reasonably priced with all the amenities you could possibly want, I'm not too sure of what it would be like in mid-July, but then what would anything be like near the sea?

Tom Tom in its wisdom, decided we had not seen enough of Valencia, so took us through downtown, with left-hand turns, right-hand turns, take the third exit on the roundabout and so forth, so is not surprising we took the wrong turning several times, and it is not surprising that I said to hell with this, turned off the Tom Tom, followed a large sign pointing towards Madrid, and once we were on the motorway turn the Tom Tom back on with almost no more problems, except where there were major new road construction roadworks, which of course to a GPS do not exist.

Eventually we got back to Mazarron, a fast check in thanks to the old invoice, and back to the spot we had vacated 36 hours earlier, Lula headed off for a swim, whilst I made all the connections for the motorhome.

Tuesday, 5 June
Luda managed to have almost have half a day on the beach before we had to depart for Granada.
It was an uneventful drive to Granada, we kept on seeing lots of houses built in what is called the Spanish-style, which is not surprising seeing it is Spain!

We saw quite a lot of houses built into the hillside so only the front of the house was visible and most of the living area was inside the hill, to me this is a pretty good indication that the weather here is pretty hot in the summer, and possibly the opposite in the winter.

As we drive through Spain and observe the names, one realises the influence that Spain has had on California in the southern states bordering Mexico with names of places, churches and other structures, for example we saw a three star hotel called Los Angeles, a restaurant called San Francisco, but then of course when I travel to England I see most of the English place names that we have used in New Zealand.

My observations of the South of Spain is that is extremely hot, extremely dry, there is potential could dust everywhere, and without abundant water nothing will grow.  I'm not sure what will happen to this part of Spain if what they tell us of global warming happens.

The Tom Tom would not accepted the address of 107 so of course we got lost when we were looking for the campsite and went through the centre of Granada before we managed to swing out into the area that we should have been, it was about 100 m from the runabout that we were directed to turn left when we should have turned right.

We found quite a lot of English people at this campsite as well as Dutch, Germans, Italians and of course Spanish.  It's interesting the number of motorhomes or caravans we see from Switzerland considering the size of the population.

Wednesday, 6 June
We caught a bus into town, went past the centre where we were supposed to get off and ended up on the edge of town, so we walked back a little bit, found the number two spot for the hop on hop off sightseeing bus, so we went right around the city, was not an inspiring sight apart from the Alhambra which of course is world famous, so first we went around the sites they had to offer us with the intention of getting off at spot number one, the central Cathedral, but when we got to spot number 10, the guy that came up and told everyone and Spanish that spot 11 would be followed by spot 4 because there was a parade happening in town and he would not be to get to spot number one.

A parade, and we missed it, I guess that is something to learn that one should always ask is there any special events happening today at reception, but we missed it so was onto a spot number 4 which was the Alhambra in once there, we had lunch and then a on to the Alhambra area where we bought a ticket to see the Palace, it was the 15 minutes time, reading about this we are told that there are only so many tickets sold each day and you may have to queue for them for several hours, we must really be in the off season because it took us five minutes!

So the next two hours was wandering through the Palace, and the three other buildings that paying the €10 entitled us to visit, and it is every bit as good as the stories written about it say, the amount of hours, and money that was pulled into this whole series of buildings, and we only saw a fraction of the whole site, today would probably bankrupt New Zealand.

So about four o'clock we left the site, went out the way we thought we came in, but of course it was a different direction wasn't it, so after walking around for a little bit we decided to take the next bus the came along, show him the Cathedral on the map, and see if he could take us there.  It of course was a success, were taken almost to the Cathedral, but then it was a matter of find the Cathedral, now most of us think about a Cathedral, a big one that occupies a lot of space on the map, as being easy to find, well believe me the one in Granada is not, you don't see any large spires you can use as a landmark, nothing.

What we did eventually see was the tour bus parked outside a wrought iron fence, we went over to it and asked what stop his this?  Stop number one or the start of the tour was the answer, so we had found the Cathedral, not at all like any Cathedral with seen anywhere in the world, but I guess some of them have to be different.  So having found that, photographed it as well as we could, our bus number three we worked out left opposite the cathedral, so €2 later were on a bus winding its way back to the campsite.

Thursday, 7 June
Our next destination was Cordoba some 200 km from Granada, we fed the destination and to Tom Tom, and it was most uninteresting, and took us to the out of Granada and directly to the destination with no problems!  Perhaps it's beginning to understand my language when I talk to it!

Almost the full 200 kms we drove through land that was planted with olive trees, yes 200 km of it, and when we came to a hill as far as the eye could see in every direction there was olive trees, I guess Spain has to be one of the greatest olive producers in the world!

We tried to avoid the heat of the mid-day by leaving at 3:30 p.m. to go into the old quarter of Cordoba, it was still very hot and remained that way until our return.  The bus dropped us close to the centre, and we found our way into the old quarter after asking an old gentleman sitting outside a restaurant, he told us the way and claimed as a reward a kiss on each of Lula's cheeks, we guessed he must have been an Italian in disguise.

The old quarter was extremely photogenic with its narrow streets and white buildings and there was a new photograph every few metres.  Eventually we found was called the Córdoba Mosque, and a Mosque was originally but in the 16th century after a chequered career the centre of the building was gutted and a Christian Cathedral built in the centre.  Wandering around the building as it is today, with its hundreds pillars and arches you're overwhelmed by the amount space within this building, which of course appears larger because of all the empty space.

Again I wonder at the cost and extravagance of the people leading the various faiths that were responsible for building the original building and of course the modifications necessary for a different faith to occupy the original structure and all the idols which they filled the building with.  Of course by paying my admission fee, to view the building and to take photographs, I basically gave my approval for what had been done in the past!

Once everything had been seen and photographed, we were once again back on the outside and then had to find our way through the maze of streets to our bus location, and Lula with her practical approach achieved that with ease.

8:30 p.m. and is still 32° in the shade, roll on the Highlands of Scotland.

Friday, 8 June

This morning we drove from Córdoba to Seville a distance of about 150 km through a different sort of countryside than what we drove the previous day, the crop of choice had moved from olives to Sunflowers and wheat.

We were going from one ACSI campsite to another, the one just out of Seville had wireless Internet and we were looking forward to that so that I could update everyone with a copy of the newsletter, update the website, Luda could talk with friends in Russia via Google, it was all planned, what was not planned how ever that the simple directions for getting to this campsite were totally inadequate and with all the technology we had available to us this large campsite continued to evade us until after about two hours of going round in circles we gave up, set the Tom Tom to one at Hanks camping spots in Seville, which of course did not work, so we set the Tom Tom for Portugal and were on our way.

There's lots of Hanks parking spots in Portugal, however the first two that we tried this afternoon took us to nice locations for photographs and that was about all.  As we crossed over the border to Portugal we found a information office for the Algarve area that we are in, and to do everything that they suggest in this small province would probably take us the rest of our trip, but we will do our best, with what we think is the best.

Okay so we did not get wireless Internet, my Vodafone connection does not work in this remote part of Portugal but next to the large unformed parking area that we are resting for the night was an Internet cafe, so I managed to do a little but of web work and do the e-mails hopefully tomorrow will bring a better connection.

We are by the sea at a place called Monte Gordo, it looks like a holiday resort with hundreds of apartments for the British and others, (Luda did here some Russian being spoken), I saw many restaurants advertising the good old English food of steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and something with sardines!  Fortunately it is too early in the season to be swinging!

We did see a poster for the Portugal Communist Party, complete with the hammer & sickle promising everyone that was oppressed a better life if they were elected.