Category Archives: Camping

Warmer Winter: Spain & Portugal


Where has the time gone?

At the time of writing there is only one week until our ferry from Le Havre back to Blighty.

So, Autumn and Winter: We spent a long time at Camping Didota in Oropesa del Mar after the big drive back from Croatia, took up jogging, got in guitar practice every second day, and stood by as the temperature crept down from the high 20s to loitering between 16 and 20.

Eventually, it was time to move further south for nicer climes and we made our way over to Portugal, via a huge, beach-side camp at Mazarron, an Aire on the harbour wall at a marina, and a very run-down ‘tropical’ site between Malaga and Marbella – not such an aesthetically pleasing part of coastline.

South of Cadiz we found an ideal little site with lots of sun, high-speed internet, and farms around it, but there was absolutely nothing to do and nowhere you could get to without the rigmarole of rearranging the interior of the van and driving, so three nights proved enough.

mazarron beachchocolate salamispanish sunsetred squirrel

Mazarron’s seafront; Chocolate Salami in Portugal (no meat); A gorgeous sunset; A Red squirrel in Altea

We crossed into Portugal mid-December, time enough to meet with Chrys’s Aunt and Uncle who have a house in Lagos, near where we stayed in Alvor. It was hanging on to the low 20s, very well priced and very pretty, alas the quirky camp was quite full and we ended up in the furthest possible spot from everything, at the bottom of a steep hill, where the Wifi signal was dire.

Arriving at the decision to go back into Spain, we drove past Seville and found ourselves in the strange, half-built town of Humilladero, home to a swanky new camp which had approximately five guests in residence. While cold at night, the temperature ‘soared’ to the mid 20s by day, giving us the hottest weather we’d had since Slovenia.

altea spain crystal clear waterCrystal clear water of Altea

Christmas was imminent and, against our saner judgement, we decided to go back to Benidorm for a bit of life, only to find the camp had misled us about space, offering the equivalent of some adjoining waste ground if we wanted it. No.

Thankfully, just around the corner from Benidorm is Altea, an altogether different experience: Not a vulgar highrise or mobility scooter in sight, but a quaint promenade with restaurants, cafes, and its own castle. The camp had space, enabling us to avoid a Mary and Joseph tale of woe for Christmas.

altea spainaltea spain old townaltea spain old townaltea spain old town

Altea promenade by night; Around the Old Town

Come the day, we adorned the van with a tiny LED tree, roast turkey dinner with most of the trimmings, and space-savvy gifts. Though the camp hiked its ACSI price from €16 to €19 from January 1st, we decided to stay put, fearing less enticing accommodations if we left, and drove away on the 28th, back to Oropesa for a couple of nights before the mammoth drive to the border, and then up through France to Le Havre, where Neelix has an appointment with the local vet before we board the ferry back to Portsmouth on February 7th.

2picsFinal photo opps on the beach at Oropesa the day before leaving Spain.
(We’ve been cutting our own hair before you ask)

From Paris-ish to Berlin

Mont St Michel

After three nights sweltering in Cap d’Agde, our resolve was to reverse our planned route to escape the heat for the sake of Neelix (and ourselves), so we headed North West to the French outcrop of Brittany.

The first night of the mammoth 1000km trip brought us to a free Aire in the little town of Bourganeuf. It was still hot, but we found Scooby a space in the shade of some towering conifers. Beyond a gothic chateau opposite, there was little to see, so the following morning we drove another full day until we stopped at an Aire beside a lake in Nord-Sur-Erdre, where a strange thumping and shoals of migrating people caught our attention…

Turned out that the town was hosting a two-night music festival about 2km from the Aire, featuring a whole host of people we’d never heard of – and Sting.

Bourganeuf Aire France

Bourganeuf, France


Nord-Sur-Erdre, France

With the back doors wide open to the lake, the stars beginning to poke through the cloak of nightfall, we dozed to the sounds of Englishman in New York and If I Ever Lose My Faith.

The following day we finally made it to the cooler climes of Brittany, though the heat had stalked us and our hike to the awesome Mont St Michel a couple of days later brought with it sunburn. The next day it rained like hell.

Over the following three days, we made our way along the coast due north, stopping in free Aires and visiting the small harbour towns and Normandy beaches, finishing our second stint in France at Fecamp, an Aire so popular it had spilled over to a second car park and was rammed with wall-to-wall motorhomes.

Mont St MichelMont St MichelHorse drawn bus in Mont St MichelMont St MichelMont St Michel

Mont St Michel

July 11th saw us bid adieu to France and (whatever-it-is-in-Flemish) hello to Belgium. As we’d visited Ghent and Bruges before, it served only as a transitory overnight and, by the following afternoon, we’d made it to Rotterdam to look at some canals and windmills.

We finished out first night in The Netherlands in the cheese-themed town of Gouda, sampling the national dish of chips smothered in sauce, and taking a walk around the postcard-esque town. For the next three days we utilised the final ACSI discount period at a camp near Eindhoven. Where it rained. And rained. And rained. But there was a giant trampoline and no kids around so I didn’t care.


Juno Beach TankFecamp


<<< Normandy towns and beaches: Hermanville, a tank at Juno Beach, and Fecamp


Three nights at Camp Rainyskies was enough and it was time to venture into Germany. Andy had never visited Deutschland other than a flight connection at Frankfurt, and I’d only been through it on the way to Poland in 1994, so neither of us had any set expectations, and our first task was the possibly daunting one of obtaining an Umweltplakette – a windscreen sticker that states your vehicle isn’t spitting out toxic death fumes, thus allowing you into inner city areas. Without it there’s a hefty fine.

So we crossed the border and went straight to a small industrial town where we’d located a TUV branch, consulted my mild-German knowledge and miraculously managed a good 90% of the conversation in German! €5 later, we have the green badge!

Windmill near RotterdamGouda, NLGouda, NLCheese shop in Gouda

The Netherlands: One of many windmills southeast of Rotterdam, the cheesy town of Gouda, its fairytale-like centrepiece, and a shop of their eponymous queso


We made the most of the Germany’s über-efficient roadways to get to Kassel and eventually Göttingen, where we spent the night in a small Aire outside of the town. In the morning we drove north to Wolfsburg, found a near-central motorhome parking lot and walked through the 35 degree afternoon into town centre to explore.

In the morning we walked around the local Schloss, and paid a visit to the Volkswagen Automuseum. As VW’s ancestral home is Wolfsburg, it’s a game of spot-the-non-VW. The museum was replete with VW Beetles of yore (including Herbie!), vans, and a precious few T25’s similar to our very own Suzanne-the-Van. The drawback of this trip was having to go individually so the other could dogsit in the car park.

Convertible Beetle, Basket Beetle & Wooden Beetle, and my childhood hero

Classic Convertible Beetle, Basket-Weaved Beetle & Wooden Beetle, and my childhood hero

After Wolfsburg, we rocketed down the autobahn to Berlin, where we’d found a strange Aire-cum-campsite on the outskirts, charging just €20 a night (good, for high-season). On the Monday, the three of us hopped on a U-train from nearby Tegel and, twenty minutes later, surfaced in the centre of Germany’s capital city. Neelix was perplexed by the train, seemingly unsure how to sit without keeling over every time it braked or gained speed.

A tiring foot tour followed: The river to Brandenburg Gate (big), the Holocaust Memorial (people taking selfies inside seemed odd), a preserved section of the Berlin Wall (touching), Checkpoint Charlie (tiny!), plus Gendarmenmarkt Square, Bebelplatz, Berlin Cathedral, Mitte, Alexanderplatz, and a trip out to a suburb that seemed to be streetwalker central, even in the middle of the day! Berlin also gave us the chance for Andy to buy a replacement camera for the one stolen, and both of us some replacement clothes for the ones threadbare and/or impervious to being cleaned, thanks to the giant Primark store. We finished off with haloumi wraps back in Tegel and a long, much-needed sleep.

Out n’ about in Berlin:

Wolfsburg SchlossBrandenburg Gate, BerlinHolocaust Memorial, BerlinmemorialBerlin WallCheckpoint Charlie, BerlinDog on the subwayBerlin

Days away: 147
Trip Miles: 5,991
Trip Kilometers: 9,663


¡Viva España!


Leaving behind the wasteland Aire at Port Bacares, we were up and off early to tackle the border crossing to Spain. Though only about 65km away, the closer to the border we got, the more windy the roads became, a dizzy echo of the day stuck on the mountain passes.

As Scooby chugged his way to the peak where the border lay, passports, dog documents, and expressions-of-innocence were all ready… and then nothing. The border office was an abandoned building and that was it – we were in Spain.

Of course, the flip side of driving up all those windy roads is that you have to come down the other side. Unlike France, we didn’t have an Aires guide for Spain, only a few pushpins on our GPS, so along the windy roads we went in search of an overnight stop.

The first one turned out to be a supermarket carpark where camper parking is permitted – for €22 a night! Onward then.

Empuria fishattorredembarra Eventually, we pulled up at a Lidl in Empuriabrava and found a small local car park a couple of streets over with a nice view of the marina and no apparent restrictions, and so it became our first night in Spain.

The following day we drove down to Pineda du Mar and stayed at a campsite a stone’s throw from the sea. Alas, the rain in Spain fell mainly everywhere whilst there, but hot showers, wifi, and a climate creeping towards not-cold compensated and, on the second morning, combats went back into the overhead and the shorts came out.

After two nights at the camp, we continued down to Sitges, familiar to us from last August’s sun-n-sea holiday. We knew just where we could park up in advance and enjoyed the nice 2.5km walk along the seafront into town and back. Neelix found a whole host of new things to pee on, doubtlessly the highlight of his day.

sitges-wild sitges

Alas, our planned X-weeks-free camping in Sitges was brought to a halt by rapping on the side of the van at 0830 on Saturday morning by a policeman who told us – and the two other campers – that such vehicles were not allowed in Sitges, despite no signs indicating this.

Route through Barcelona to Sitges and beyond

Peeved, we drove down a few miles to Torredembarra and set up in a beachfront campsite, where we’ve remained for the past week in the hope of getting a book delivery from the UK (the Aires!) in our paws before moving further south.

The last week has been relaxing, sunny – 18-25 °C  – and we’ve taken a few walks up and down the beachfront, visited the marina (where we spotted the Mick Jagger fish (top)), and got our teeth into writing, guitar, and various other need-to-do’s.


Days away: 27
Trip Miles: 1741
Trip Kilometers: 2801.87