… we sang as we hurtled (trundled) across the border into Spain. Our last new country! Joining the retired masses for some winter sun.
First stop the Dali museum. Top tip from Matt’s work mate, and it really is worth a visit. There are giant eggs on the roof, enough said!
We were in need of a good campsite for showers and to get our bearings – hello Aquarius! Not the type of site we would normally go for but a) lots of campsites were now closed and b) it was in the right place, on the huge sandy beach at the Bay of Roses. We surprised ourselves by how excited we all felt when we turned up and there was some life – kids, entertainment, people everywhere. It was in full swing and a nice change from the end of season blues we had been experiencing. We got our monies worth but quickly realised it wasn’t somewhere we wanted to stay so the next day we left to see some more of the Costa Brava and get back to a bit of free camping. A bit of zooming in on Google maps (yup, that involved!) we realised that only a short drive away we could find coves, roman ruins, woods and some parking etc (not that we are looking for car parks as a tourist attraction you understand… but it is kind of necessary with a 7m bus!).
We parked in a car park where campers are allowed overnight and this turned out to be one of our favourite stops so far. In the pine trees right by the beach, no roads, a bike path and lots of Spanish people enjoying their weekend. We were still soaking up those warm (but short) days and bright blue skies! Anna enjoyed cycling her 1st bike path – 2km to the playground and restaurant at the end! Oh, another thing that made it easy was having a Lidl a 5 min bike ride away so I went out on a solo mission for essentials. I’ve missed a Lidl since Germany… haha… this trip may have even cured my supermarket snobbery! I did what is known in our family as “A Matt Shop” because when Matt pops to the shops with his backpack for food he comes back hobbling in pain due to the amount of things stuffed in the bag, under each arm, up his jumper – you get the idea! Anyway I had a very wobbly bike ride back with a stuffed bag and food strapped to my bike rack. But I did get sewing machine thread that was on special buy, which was obviously necessary! 🙂
Sad to leave our little spot but after two nights we spent the day at Tamariu, another gem of a beach. Lots of Spanish and French people enjoying tapas out on the pavements and enjoying the sea. Bright blue skies, bliss! I wish there was somewhere we could have stayed overnight here but there didn’t seem to be anything so we pressed on to a campsite further south near Palamos.
We were a bit worried that we might be leaving behind this rugged and peaceful part of the coast for bigger resorts, and as we got to our new stop it was certainly getting more built up. But when we ventured down to the beach we discovered another stunning bay that joined up with other small coves via the coast path up and over the rocks. All OK there then! There was now a definite chill in the air, especially in the shade and evenings but it was still so warm in that sunshine and we could eat our dinner outside – even if it was dark! The kids loved the campsite here. It was pretty empty and we had loads of space where they just occupied themselves for hours with some ropes and bits they had collected from the beach.
We had about three weeks to spend in Spain (it could have been four if I wasn’t such a chicken about sailing from Bilbao across the Bay of Biscay!) and it was tricky to know how best to spend our time. Matt has work friends in Valencia so we definitely wanted to make it that far, and then leave a week to drive across the country to Atlantic coast. We wanted to savour the last of these warm beach days! The Costa Brava was a lovely treat and I guess I’d just put it in the category of a cheap Brits holiday destination. Very happy to be corrected! It is beautiful. Also the driving and getting around feels really easy. The roads are smooth and spacious and not too busy, and the Spanish people are so friendly!
We pressed on further South and did a good bit of driving in order to get past Barcelona. This was just after the Catalonia independence referendum and since we’d been to Barcelona before we decided to skip it and come back again when the kids are older. Instead we explored the historic Spanish town of Tarragona and picked a campsite just south of it at Cambrils. This campsite was awful and I wished we had found a decent free stop but we needed some electricity for our dodgy fridge. We definitely made the best of it though thanks to Matt being in “positive action mode” and quickly getting our bikes off and going out on the awesome cycle path along the prom into town. We stopped for a yummy veggie paella and stayed out late – oooooh!
A good day was had in Tarragona seeing the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and taking the land train ride around town – the highlight being the driver going round and round a small roundabout with some crazy pop music playing 🙂 We also met Nick and Julie who came over to our van to say hello to some fellow Brits. They were en route to Alicante but were asking if we knew a good free stop in the area. They headed off to find something and later we took their advice and parked up next to them that evening in a free car park by the beach. They even invited us in for drinks when the kids had gone to sleep – Cheers!
We left here not wanting to drive much and we found a free stop in the car park of an old castle, right on the edge of the sea. It was a bumpy, windy road up but was worth it. Kinda felt like being in on a secret as there were a good few other campers in all types of van here from all over the place . We had a beach afternoon and all went swimming laughing at the fact it was November! But that afternoon the clouds gathered and we could see a lot of lightening over the mountains in the distance. Oh my goodness… the mother of all storms was about to hit. I was making a cheese sauce at the time and trying to concentrate as the lightning was flashing in every direction. The wind blew and the rain lashed and then massive hailstones hammered down on us. It was deafening. The kids were a bit shocked at this point and I put them up on their bed to hide in the duvet. There was a banging on our door and 3 Spanish girls rushed in soaking wet and a bit shell shocked after being caught outside. They had to use my phone to call their dad! We all survived the storm and the girls got rescued by their dad! I continued with my cheese sauce and dished up a pretty decent potato and leek bake! Winner!
It was blowing a gale all night so we didn’t really get much sleep as the van was being blown about. The drive the next morning was pretty hairy too with the wind blowing us all over the place on the autopista. Luckily we didn’t have to go far to where we’d spotted a little campsite in a coastal national park near Alcossebre. This turned out to be a great choice and we loved spending a good few days here. We’d made sure that we were fully stocked up with food before hand, and it’s always fun to explore a new supermarket. I think this one was a Mercadona! They had good hummus so that was awesome!
We were really noticing the change in the landscape. Even the rocks at the beaches were different to what we’d seen before, and the plants were all spiky and the ground very dry and almost red in places. It was great to still be feeling that sense of adventure, seeing new things and driving into the unknown (OK it’s Spain… but still!)
Washing clothes, arts and crafts with the kids, reading and visiting the deserted little coves that were a short walk away. There wasn’t anything else to do here without going on big adult sized walks so the enforced sitting still was really nice! Oh and for the first time on our trip we had arrived at a campsite with a large proportion of British people. Very weird! I’m glad we found space on our own though – well, near some Austrians and a lone biker from Finland! Bizarrely he chose to camp by us when it was clear we had children – I bet he regretted that!
We left the Ribamar camping relaxed and ready for some big city action. Valencia here we come!