Seven weeks after we left home, we said goodbye to Bonterra Park and all the wonderful people we’ve met.
After taking memory photographs of the Fab 4, we made our way out of Benicassim and on towards Valencia on the N340. We picked up the signs to Zaragoza where we were due to stay overnight at an aire which had been recommended to us by Roger Roger (don’t ask cos we didn’t understand the reasoning either, but his real name is George… lol ).
This meant that we were not travelling on any toll roads or auto pistas and we would be driving through the countryside and through towns and villages along the route through Spain.
We left Benicassim, past miles and miles of orange groves, the trees of which are festooned with glorious clementine’s. We have brought 5 kilos with us, just so we have that wonderful fruit at home.
After a few hours the orange groves gave way to vineyards again and we knew we were in the wine growing region again. The day was overcast as if it knew we were on our way home. We drove through tiny villages and noted that each one had their own Bodega (wine cellar) for people to buy direct. We didn’t stop as we didn’t really have any time but maybe next time.
One village we got lost as the satnav told us to take a left turn which we did but we ended up outside a bullring which was in use. ooh err… better get out of there….. !
At about 3pm we arrived at Arguedas near Zaragoza and located the aire (N42° 10.358′ W001° 35.473′)where we were staying for the night. It was at the back of the village/town and it was quite quiet with only one other motorhome in residence. Rather than nestling up to him we thought we would be brave and leave a space in between!! Behind us were the troglodyte dwellings in the sandstone rocks. We settled down and after the proverbial cup of tea we went out to explore.
There’s a proper walkway up to the caves and they have all been whitewashed but you can see that they are quite dangerous as some of them have collapsed. The rock is sandstone and quite crumbly. There are notices stating that they are dangerous and not to enter but you can see that people have ignored the signs. We adhered to the signs and just looked in through the windows. You can still see where the residents would have cooked and sat and eat. They looked quite large really, stretching out way in the background. I would think they were probably about 3 rooms deep. The chimneys on top were cute and the whole place looked like it should have come out of Star Wars.
After exploring the cave dwellings we wandered into town to see if we could get something to eat or if the supermarket was open. We had been told that there was a lovely bakery here, and although we knew it wouldn’t be open Saturday afternoon at least we would know where it was for the morning.
The place was empty, now when I say empty, I mean empty…. it was like tumbleweed city meets the desert….. there was no one around, no shops were open, no bars, nothing…. of course, we forgot that it was rural Spain and therefore on the weekends after lunch nothing opens until Monday morning again. So bang goes the bread for the morning and the chance of a beer or meal.
We made our way back through the deserted streets only jumping when a lone cat jumped off a bin making it clatter. This was really spooky. Then as we rounded a corner we noticed two small children on bikes, perhaps the place was inhabited after all. By the time we were on the road back to the aire we counted another three people…. wow ….
We settled down and then heard an engine starting up, oh no…. our only neighbour was leaving …. argh… were we going to get out of here alive…. Mike decided to put on the locks he had devised for security (front and back doors) …. heaven help us if there was a fire but no one was getting in.
We had a lovely dinner of home made lasagne and a couple of beers and settled down once more, planning tomorrows route. It must have been around 9pm, when we suddenly heard noises…. engines revving ….. people talking and slamming doors. We were very brave and just huddled together and told ourselves that it was fine, that the troglodytes hadn’t woken up and we weren’t actually in Salom’s Lot and that we would be able to laugh about this in years to come after therapy….
We peeked out of the 1″ slot we had made in the blind, to find that there was a whole load of other vans which had arrived to stay on the aire and that the people had come to see the troglodyte caves which are all lit up each evening. Of course I knew it all along and told Mike that I had never thought for one moment that we were in any danger…
That night, I had awful pains in my back and side. But that is another story which I will explain another time. Needless to say that the rest of the journey home was a bit of a blur as I was in pain most of the way and couldn’t wait to get home.
We woke up early next morning and got on our way long before the rest of the visitors and started out for Biarritz where we knew that there was a site. We finished driving through Spain and I was surprised to find we were in France. There wasn’t any kind of sign to say “You are now entering France” or “You are now leaving Spain”, we only realised because the signs were now in French…
As we travelled through the mountains we encountered lots of tunnels. The views were amazing and the houses were reminiscence of Switzerland or Austria. Hugging tightly against the sides of the mountains with deep sloping roofs.
We got to Biarritz and tried to find the campsite but there was a lot of roadwork’s going on with one way boards everywhere. We rang the site but no answer, finally we found the site and discovered that it was closed although the website said that it was open until 12th December. We looked at the maps and found that there was limited campsites and aires open in France at this time of year. We were a bit anxious that even if they stated they were open, if we went off piste would they be open? So we decided to make a mad dash for Poitiers where we had stayed before and we knew it was open and we knew that it was manned until about 8pm. By this time I was in such pain I was now on 2 hourly pain killers. I was unable to drive so Mike had to drive the whole way.
We motored up through France, I was of absolute no use at all, except to keep stopping and making a cup of tea every couple of hours to take pain killers.
We finally arrived at Poitiers around 8pm on the Sunday evening after leaving Zaragoza at 9am. We booked in and actually pitched up on the very same pitch we had had on the way down. That night was awful, I don’t think either of us slept at all, Mike had to administer muscle/joint rub to my back every couple of hours, there was no respite from the pain.
We never moved the next day, I couldn’t face the thought of the movement in the van. So it was good that we had a day in hand and it was perfect to have a day of peace and quiet.
We left on Monday morning for another long journey, this time about 40mins from Calais at an aire (again recommended by Roger Roger) Montreuil sur Mer (N50°23.798′ E001°33.823). The aire is opposite some houses and is pleasantly landscaped with grasses between the designated pitches. When we arrived at around 4pm we managed to bag the last space. This was a good sign for us as it is obviously very popular with others. There were a lot of English vans there, another good note. We are not quite the bravest of tourers yet. There is another car park adjacent to the pitches which is used by the local school bus and which also serves as an overflow if the designated pitches are full. There is a bakery in town just a few minutes walk from the aire and a petrol station so we were able to fill up again before leaving France. The little town sounds quite charming as it is a cobbled historic town within fortified walls. Next time we might venture out and explore a little more. But for this trip, please I just want to get home….
Wednesday duly arrived and we left the aire after speaking to a couple from England who like us were new to the aire parking and who also felt like us. The aire also has services for emptying grey waste and filling up with water, although we were told by our fellow English travellers that the water didn’t work even though he had put in his €2. There is a public toilet to use but we didn’t need to use this facility.
Arriving at Calais some 40 mins later, we were asked if we would like to get on an earlier train? If so, we were to ask at the reception desk inside the terminal. We did just that and a lovely lady who had just started the job managed to get us on the 11:20am train instead of the 13:50pm we were booked onto. Great, we would be back a lot earlier than anticipated.
We had a quick bite to eat and drink and then made our way to the train. 35 mins later we were in Folkestone and on the way home. However, 10 mins later, Sally Traffic informed us that there was an hour’s delay at least on the Dartford Toll. We had a make another decision, do we trust Sally Traffic and go the long way round and hope that there wasn’t any holdups clockwise or do we just head up to the tolls? Nope, we would trust the report and we went the long way round. We actually got home an hour before we would have done in the end. So all was well. But we laughed because we had just driven over 2000 miles with no hold ups and within 10mins of returning to UK we hit a traffic jam, crazy…..
Finally home, and we hit the front room, the comfy chairs and the thought of our nice cozy bed made us leave the unpacking until tomorrow. …