Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Double Madge

As I’m still on catch up, things may be a little out of chronological order for the rest of March. I’m treating this blog as a diary of things that have happened so I’ll do it in headings rather than order. I hope that you enjoy reading some of our memorable bits from March 2014. What I can’t believe is that we have now been on this pitch for 3 months, a quarter of a year.  It’s by far the longest we have stayed anywhere because previously we were always on a two-week holiday so you packed as much into it as possible.  It’s now beginning to feel like home and the normal way of life.

Benidorm trip

In Spain, you can’t take dogs on buses or trains so we have been a bit restricted on what we can do.  We don’t like to leave the dog for more than about 3 hours alone in the van and if the weather is warm even that is really not practical as it can get warm inside.  We wanted to go to Benidorm (well you have to do it once) and the roads are a bit fast and scary for us to cycle. Thankfully, Joy and Nick offered to look after Connie for the day so that we could go on the bus.

It’s only 1.5 euros each and although it is only about 4 miles it takes about 45 minutes to get there by the time it’s been all around Alfaz del Pi.  Taking the bus is a bit of an experience, they are every 15 minutes so this is a great service but one thing we found is that the bus drivers here have no regard to the comfort of their passengers and don’t give a dam about speed bumps or screaming up to junctions and then suddenly applying the brakes. However the trip  gave us a good opportunity to view a lot of campsites on the way.  This did highlight that we have picked a really good campsite in Albir, it may not have all the facilities of the others but it is in walking distance of all amenities including the beach and town.  If we stayed on the others we would have to bus it everywhere and that’s no good if you have a dog.

The only experience we had previously had of Benidorm was the journey to and from the airport when the coach went around all the streets to pick up and drop off passengers.  At this time we weren’t in the best frame of mind so we hated it.  Also we had driven through and couldn’t find anywhere to park and there were so many traffic lights that it was a very scary experience (again I was driving and I was knackered from the concentration needed).   On all occasions it was a “Get me out of here” experience.

We had been advised to get the bus right into Benidorm and wait for it to turn around before getting off near to the old town.  The main road once you get into Benidorm seems to be filled with tourist shops, English (and Irish) bars and high-rise tower blocks which put most of the side streets in permanent shade.  We were sure to hate Benidorm but just wanted to walk around it to see for ourselves.

We headed from the bus stop towards the beach to have a look at the seafront.  The streets were buzzing with people and it is out of season, I wouldn’t want to go there in July or August, but I can see why young people would want to go there for hen and stag weekends (and give us all a bad reputation). Not to mention the TV series Benidorm that has made it even more popular.  Everyone wants to see where the series is shot and spot the celebrities. My view is that whilst I have to admit that I love it, the series is little more than “Shameless Abroad” and makes me even more embarrassed of my fellow Brits.  And before I move on yes they do ride around on Madge buggies.  Apparently there have been so many young people hiring them and racing around the town that now you have to prove that you are over 50, or that you need one.  And to whet your appetite here's a picture of a "Double Madge" - absolutely marvellous.

So what did we think of Benidorm?

Well to say that we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement, if you removed all the high-rise blocks it would be an absolutely beautiful place. Two fantastic crescent beaches stretching for over 4 miles, Levante Beach in the east and Poniente beach in the west.
Levante Beach

Poniente Beach
Separating these two is a rocky outlet which is where you will find the old town. I wouldn't fancy staying in this hotel though.

I can fully understand why it was developed as a holiday place and why people want to go there.  These fantastic beaches surrounded by mountains.  It’s just a shame that what has made it famous has also ruined it somewhat.

It’s well worth the visit to the Place de Castell which is a fantastic viewing point towards both of the beaches and where I took the beach photos from. 

Place de Castell

So time for lunch.  

Having joked that we were going to Benidorm to be Brits abroad and have a “full English breakfast”, we had been told that the old town is famous for it’s tapas bars – which is actually much more up our street. We found some pretty commercialised bars and then found a back street with some bars where the Spanish seemed to be eating – this will do nicely we thought and purchased 8 tapas and a bottle of Rioja for the princely sum of 8 Euros. 

Time now to get the bus back and check on the dog.  Having arrived in Albir, feeling mellow from half a bottle of wine each, and as the bus stop was just outside, we “popped” into Wyndham’s for a quick one.  Who should be walking along the road but Joy and Nick with Paddy and Connie (the dogs) and of course they just had to join us.  A couple of drinks later we left to return to the campsite and as we said goodbye to Joy and Nick, our “friendly” Dutch neighbours Meerke and Noel invited us to join them for a drink.  “Well it would be rude to say no” I said.  Another early night!!!!!

Benidorm Trip – part 2

Well we enjoyed our day out to Benidorm so much that we thought we would make another trip before Nick and Joy went home so that they could look after Connie for us.  No photos this time just a quick walk around and an enjoyable lunch planned.  This is worth a mention because it didn't turn out quite as planned. We wandered around the old town for a while to see if we had missed anything before.  Found the bar that we had used before for later reference.  It was a glorious sunny day and quite warm and I was wearing shorts and sandals although we did bring jumpers with us just in case.

We decided to stop for a quick beer before lunch and found a back-street cafĂ© where the Spanish were eating – this looks like a good place we thought.  We bought our beer and I must admit that I do like seafood (or is it seefood and eat it) and as this was a seafood restaurant decided to take a look at the menu.  It certainly wasn’t as cheap as the tapas bar that we had intended to visit but hey, why not splash out once in a while.  

So having picked a back-street restaurant we expected something special for our money and awaited our meal.  Suddenly the wind picked up and it became quite cool, plus fairly heavy clouds had gathered in the sky.  I said to the waiter that it was a bit chilly so he beckoned for us to follow him inside.  I’d much rather eat al-fresco if I can but it was quite cold so I duly followed him.  We entered the restaurant which was a long thin building and then suddenly we were out on the street the other side.  

So wanting and thinking we’d found a back-street place we were suddenly out on the main drag, the one place that we had wanted to avoid. We’d already ordered so we decided to stay put – but this was a big disappointment.  The food was good though and the waiter showed us how to eat the small fish without spending ages picking at the bones with a knife and fork.  

It was getting pretty nippy now and the waitress brought out blankets for the diners – I was very grateful as I was wearing shorts. 

A bottle of wine, a couple of coffees and a brandy for Iain later, we left the restaurant having parted with 40 euros – not quite the 8 euro tapas that we had planned - c’est la vie, but we won’t be going back there again.

Motorhome Practicalities

Those who are not motorhomers don’t understand the necessity to have your holding tanks full and empty in the right order.  Fresh water in, waste out.  With regard to fresh water we just fill it using a watering can and it is amazing how little water you actually use when you have to go and get it. 

As as our black waste is a fixed tank we find it much easier to take the van to the disposal point and empty black and grey at once which we do on a regular basis.  

Normally with motorhomes the vehicle battery is trickle charged when on hook-up so it’s never a problem starting the vehicle.  However ours is American and it doesn’t seem to work the same.  So come the time to start the van what happens – yes you guessed it, whirr, whirr, whirr…………… nothing.  

No problem we say, we have an emergency start button.  This puts some charge into the battery from the leisure batteries  and hey presto we spring into life – or not.  Again absolutely nothing, not a flicker. It worked last time so why not now. Time to troubleshoot and I’m not the most patient person!!!! 

Firstly I’m using my set of keys and before starting you have to press a button which does something with the ignition (I don’t really understand what) and you get a set of lights on the dash which tells you that you are ready to start.  Now what is the problem, is it that the emergency start button isn’t connecting or is it my set of very clean keys.  Why are my keys very clean? Well that’s simple, Iain insists that I always carry my keys with me and a couple of weeks before, they were in my pocket when I washed my trousers in the washing machine.  I wonder if I have actually drowned the chips. 

So it’s now key button override time – apparently there is another thing that you can use to override the button – this is all getting very complicated now. So as I can’t reach the override while my keys are in the ignition, I use Iain’s keys – still no luck.  By this time I’m getting into frustrated mode (good job I’m up to date with my HRT) and we were both racking our brains to think what to do next.  I was looking around on the dash and as I flicked an unknown switch, I said to Iain, “You know this switch that we don’t know what it does” and before I could say any more all the lights came on.  Emergency start button depressed and hey presto – life.  So we’ve now learned what that switch does. 

It’s amazing how many switches and stuff that you have on a motorhome that you never seem to find out what they do and no-one can even tell you, they all have their little foibles. Often these things are fitted because there is a problem and it’s easier to put in something which by-passes the problem rather than fix it.

So we trundle off to the service point.  Me driving and Iain in the passenger seat.  Now an observation about people who have a lot of time being busy doing nothing.  Whenever a van is on the move it becomes a spectator sport, especially when a woman is driving.  Also because our van is a bit different it does attract a bit of attention.  So with this exercise being performed by us on a frequent basis, by the time we return to our pitch  we generally have an audience of about 15 people to see how this woman manages to park this large truck.  

There’s nothing like an audience when you are trying to manoeuver into a small space – but of course I’m well practiced now and take it in my stride – I even got out the other day and gave a little bow to a round of applause.

Still to come - El Cisne, goodbye to friends, quiz, morning brandy!?!?!?! Another short day!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Wendy, Iain and Connie. Really enjoying reading all about your adventures, keep them coming! We are all fine and Martha is growing quickly. Hope to see you in the summer sometime. Jen, Ed, Rebecca and Martha xxx