Week 30: Storm Gloria met us with a bang!

A Lull in the Storm

Having been into Valencia on a gloriously sunny day (we do have to remind ourselves its January), we were hit full on by Storm Gloria. We asked each day if we could stay as the weather was so bad. Each time we asked we were met with a little smile (as if we were going anywhere!)

The storm continued into Monday and whilst it started to look a little better, it came back with avengence. We settled down in the Motorhome downloading programmes to watch and waiting out the storm. On Tuesday, there were more weather warnings, high waves (8 metres), wind and snow above 300m. A thunderstorm raged for over two hours complete with hail and heavy rain. Spain was on alert – the port of Valencia and the airport at Alicante were closed, three people were known to have died. We and others we knew were safe and sound, but just staying put in various places. Mid-afternoon, there was a lull and we took advantage to have a wander, walking down to the beach for some fresh air and the scene that met us was unbelievable. The roads were flooded, as were the vegetable fields and the cycle path we had used on Saturday. The sea was a murky grey and the horizon was hard to distinguish. There was even a shipping lane buoy washed up on the beach. We were nearly caught out by a wave but managed to stay dry.

Wednesday, the storm had relented, despite being woken by giant hailstones and more thunder, followed by some sunshine. We headed off up the coast, through Valencia to Benicassim. The full effect of the storm was evident all around. We had made the right decision to stay put. We arrived at a campsite, pitched for the night and had a walk to the sea.

On Thursday, we continued our trip along the coast to Peniscola. We saw even more damage caused by Storm Gloria, and the seafront road to the campsite was closed to general traffic, as it was being cleared of sand by JCBs, Bulldozers and Bobcats. There is an underground car park on the beach, which is being pumped out of water (it was still being pumped out when we left on Monday).

We went out on the bikes, up to the castle and the port, before trying to get to the Ermita de Sant Antoni, a mere 5 kilometres away, but with about a kilometre left the path turned too steep and we turned back. As we returned, the fishing boats were coming back into port and the fish sales began.

We decided we would stay in Peniscola until Monday, it’s a lively town with a lot to see and do. Despite being the low season, Restaurants and Bars are open and the weather was fantastic. We set off on our bikes to Benicarlo, just up the coast. The road here has not yet been fully opened and in places the sand was about two feet deep, if not more. It was like giant snow drifts. Shop owners were sweeping out their shops and apartment building and hotels were sweeping and jet washing their frontages. The Fire Service was also pumping out basements. The bikes needed cleaning before we could put them away as there was sand everywhere!

Saturday, we knew the weather was a little doubtful today so we planned to go to the castle. It has been used in several films, including El Cid and in the TV series Game of Thrones. The castle has an interesting history too. It was part of the Arab reign of the region, then Spanish and a Templar Castle before being the pontifical seat of Papa Luna – Pope Benedict XIII. It stands high on the rocks and partially built into them, overlooking the bay and the port and it is easy to see why it was built here. It is cheap to enter and you can wander around at your leisure.

Sunday, after a night of rain, we went off to explore more of the town and the surroundings on our bikes, the sand is still being cleared. We think this will be a long term operation. We took a trip back to the lake where we’d seen jumping fish to see if we could capture it in a picture – we did!

Tomorrow, we’re off up the coast in the hunt for Flamingos! Will we be lucky? As always, thank you for reading this. We really appreciate it. We also apologise for the intermittent postings, due to the storm, WiFi has been very hit and miss!

Week 25: Spain and Rain (not only on the plain)

The rain in Spain on the Costa, not the plain

We set off from our overnight spot in Cáceres we headed south towards Seville and our overnight spot we’d picked in Hinojos. As we headed down we were greeted by more orange trees and the occasional lemon or lime tree. We asked Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav to find us a supermarket and she took us to an empty field! It might be about to be one of those days… We had passed an ALDI on the way so we popped in there instead. The weather was lovely and sunny when we left Cáceres, but as we stopped for lunch the weather decided against a nice sunny spot and we were pelted with wind and rain. On the drive south, the weather pretty much decided it was in charge and although we didn’t have snow, we possibly had everything else! When, the rain stopped it turned foggy!

We arrived at the campsite at Hinojos, to find there was no-one else there, even Reception was shut, but there was someone in the Bar who met us and told us where we could stop and gave us the instructions as to when there would be staff on site! We left, Hinojos, in the sunshine and headed back towards Seville, we’d opted to switch Ditsy Daisy off the Motorways (and Toll Roads) but after an hour navigating around the outskirts of Seville, we put her back on to the Motorway route and found ourselves back where we had started, and a route out which took a matter of minutes! We carried on through the roadworks on the bridge and down towards the coast, through what appeared to be desert, before arriving at El Puerto del Santa Maria, on the Costa de la Luz.

The campsite is opposite the beach and from our pitch about a five minute walk. The sea here is still the Atlantic, we haven’t got around the coastline enough to reach the Mediterranean again. We took a short stroll on the beach, and began to feel this could be our spot for Christmas, although its still a week away. We decided we’d see what we felt like the next day…

The next morning we awoke to sunshine, and decided we would stay here for the big HO HO HO! We’ve been on the road now for almost six months – it was our six month Vaniversary, in a couple of days and we decided we needed to stop for a little longer, plus the thought of having to try and find somewhere as nice, the closer we got to the Christmas break, could have been difficult. El Puerto del Santa Maria, appears to have everything we needed in one place.

We got the bikes out, gave them a quick overhaul and went out on a short (12 mile) cycle around town, not bad after a long break away from them, although it is very flat here, so that is a plus! We were helped out on our return to the campsite by a lovely local lad, who thought we looked a little lost and the route he took us back, headed right past an Indian Restaurant – guess what we had for dinner! And to top it off, it was on justeat.es – exactly the same as in the UK!

Our six month Vaniversary, was spent in the lovely Nortia, as the weather has turned wet and windy. Today, marks six months since we were given the keys to Nortia, in Darlington, England and the beginning of our adventure. So far, we have travelled 20,000 miles through 25 countries, some more than once, 30 of the 48 English Counties. We have been to the most northern point of mainland Europe, both centres of Europe (old and new), followed the Baltic Chain, been to the most southern point of Scotland, Lizard Point and Lands End, Snowdonia, the Peak District, the Lake District and the Pennines. We’ve been to the Arctic Circle and beyond, been to Santa’s village and met reindeer. We’ve spent the night at Auschwitz, before visiting. We’ve eaten fish and chips in Whitby and Hawes, Curries in York, Suffolk, Crawley, Tromso – Norway, Aalborg – Denmark, Riga – Latvia and here in Spain. We’ve had some interesting moment in Latvia, where we got stuck in the mud, were filmed for Etrusco, picked up a speeding fine and were stopped by Border Police! We were also stopped on the entry to France, from Italy! We’ve paid our respects at a number of memorials, in a number of countries. We’ve met new friends in lovely places, had new experiences, not all good! We’re now looking forward to our next six months and new adventures and experiences!

The rain continued on and off for the rest of the week, although not cold, we did seem to have a knack of getting wet every time we tried to go anywhere – the dog walk, the local shop etc. However, we have given Nortia a proper road test in trying weather and so far she has passed with flying colours!

There is now a weather warning for the whole of Spain and although our little part has disruption due to a coastal event – the sea is about to get a little rougher, and its not advisable to enter it! It’s still raining however, the Winter Solstice was marked with more rain – whoever said “the rain in Spain, stays mainly on the plains”, had definitely not been to the Costa de la Luz in December! Still the days should now start to get longer.

Sunday, the sun has come out to great us, finally – its only been three days but feels a lot longer. We were lucky to have arrived before the rain, the campsite had got a little soggy and the new arrivals had been holed up in the car park, unable to drive onto site, but today we got new neighbours! The sun also, encouraged the general chores to get started, there was a queue for the laundry, skylights and doors were flung open, carpets hoovered, and we even smelt a BBQ. We went back out on the bikes, just around town, but the town is decorated for Christmas. There are lights strung across the narrow roads and Christmas Trees as well as Orange trees and Poinsettias, growing in the town square. The weather looks promising for the next week, so fingers crossed.

As always, thank you for reading and hopefully you’ve enjoyed our little adventure this week….

Week 8: Sweden

Nortia meets the a Dala Horse at Nusnås, Sweden

After the trouble trying to get LPG, we succeeded on Monday – the LPG station was open and had the adaptor we needed, so happy days all sorted. We actually only needed to fill one cylinder and it cost the vast sum of £8.00! We know we’ll need to make sure we’re topped up before Finland as there are no filling stations there!

This week has been a week of rain and mishaps. Perhaps the two are linked or perhaps its just not as bad as it has seemed! On Monday we moved to a campsite, partially because we were craving a roast dinner – its easier on electric and with washing up facilities – our preference! When we arrived the sun was shining and the weather was perfect, then the heavens opened! Thankfully again the awning saved us and the day – it was too hot to have cooked roast potatoes and stuffing in the oven with the door closed, but the awning protected the interior of the MoHo from the rain. Also it meant we could still cook our chicken on the BBQ.

The campsite was also home to a lot of free range chickens who loved to torment Albi, walking just out of reach of him! We did feel a little guilty having a roast chicken dinner but….

In the morning when I walked the dog, I saw a notice which informed us that there had been a large forest fire last year just to the boundary of the campsite – when we left we saw the fire had been almost all around the campsite.

We then went to Nusnås, the home of the Dala Horse. These are the Swedish painted horses, which are traditionally hand carved and painted wooden statues of horses. Traditionally they we made as toys. They are beautiful and come in all sizes, as well as roosters! It had been on my list to go to, so I managed to navigate us there!

We then moved to another beautiful wild camping spot on the edge of a lake. The water felt warm enough to swim in and the people next door did have a bath there before leaving but we still couldn’t be convinced.

The next day we went to Karlstad – there was a big reason for taking this route – KFC. We had been asked what was so special about having a KFC that we needed to make this trip? In truth nothing except when you haven’t been able to have something that you enjoy for a length of time, it becomes an obsession and you have to give in to it! It was magnificent and well worth the two month wait!

From Karlstad we drove to another campsite on the edge of Lake Vånern – the third largest lake in Europe and the largest in Sweden. The campsite at Åmål, was right on the waters edge and although a lake – you can fish it – Ric tried but there was too much weed to get a proper cast, so still no breakfast!

From Åmål, we decided to drive to the Islands of Orust and Tjörn – mainly to the Sculpture Park. As we drove towards the islands the weather changed and it started raining. We headed onto the Island of Orust and had a feeling of déjà vu. It looked very familiar. As we drove to the village of Henån, it looked like somewhere we knew – it was! We had stayed here on our way up to Norway! I had managed to navigate us back to one of our original night stops – that said by this time the weather was terrible – the rain didn’t stop and the puddles were so deep my shoes were drenched! It is nice though sometimes to feel the familiarity of a place when the weather is bad – you don’t feel the need to explore and can stay dry!

We drove to the Sculpture Park, the weather when we set off wasn’t great but it was ok. The Sculpture Park is an open air walk and as we arrived the rain got worse so we stopped in the car park, took a couple of photos and moved on. It was disappointing but two wet humans and a wet dog in a Motorhome driving was not our idea of happy. We’ve added it to our list for things to do when back in Sweden!

Driving back towards Gothenburg we turned left and headed east. We found a lovely overnight spot – a Rastplats by the side of another lake, outside the village of Holsljunga. We’d arrived fairly early (for us) so took the time to settle in and cook a nice English classic – Cottage Pie. The sun did shine for a while in the evening which made everything just a little more lovely! When we’d arrived we had parked behind an older Swedish coupe who had been out foraging – a very Swedish custom and they returned with two small trugs of mushrooms!

When we awoke on Saturday, there were now eight motorhomes parked up for the night, It’s lovely to see these areas being used. We packed up and headed off again – this time towards Karlshamn. We’d found a campsite up in the hills and on paper it looked lovely. As the roads looked managable, after lunch in another (not so pleasant) Rastplats – the space was nice but the toilets….! I decided to have a little drive, all fine until we approached the campsite and had to pass over a narrow bridge, where of course I met two cars – not a car all day until here! We got safely though – thank heavens for decent wing mirrors and an excellent co-pilot. On arrival at the campsite – it was too busy and way too hot – the pitches left were just not us! We left and headed to the sea. There we found a lovely campsite, right by the edge of the Baltic sea. The sun was shining and it gave us the opportunity to dry out the awning after all that rain!

While here, we decided that if the moose won’t come to us – we would go to them and after a short back drive, we arrived at Smålandet Markaryds Älgsafari. Here we were able to see moose up close and they are magnificent looking beasts – we also saw Bison – not native to Sweden and looking a little hot! After two drives around the enclosure, we set off to our next overnight stop.

Again, we were a bit like Goldilocks looking for somewhere to stop – the first was too car park like, the second just too busy and the third just right – Tosteberga Hamn – a small harbour on the Baltic Sea between Karlshamn and Karlskrona. It was fairly busy with a few spaces remaining and we picked one right behind a wooden beach building (a bit bigger than a beach hut in England). We had no power, but Nortia is fully fitted for such a stay and she copes wonderfully. Luckily for us, you can pay in Euros as we didn’t have enough Swedish Krona and they don’t take a card! I had tried to convince them to take Norwegian Krone but that was a complete NO! In Sweden they use an app to pay for things called SWISH, but having downloaded it you then need to download a banking app – which needs to have all your banking details added and it doesn’t include English banks!

It was a perfect stop – the sun was still shining when we got up in the morning and what we get up to this week we’ll let you know soon! Thank you again for reading or as they say here, Tack! Sx


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