Monday, 12 May 2014

Here we are at Mar Menor

Nothing to report on the drive here, quite straight forward and now we have arrived at Camping Mar Menor, the biggest campsite I’ve ever seen.

La Manga and Mar Menor

La Manga is a big sandbar that stretches over 18km from the Cartegena end of the Mar Menor northwards, it rather puts Chesil Beach into obscurity.  The Mar Menor (little sea) is a huge lagoon with an outlet at the northern end to the med.  It’s quite shallow and therefore about 3 degrees C warmer than the med.  It’s just like a bath and also very salty so this place is fantastic for water sports.

La Manga is pretty well built on with the normal holiday high-rise buildings and shops and bars and is basically one main road down the middle with a lot of side roads off leading down either to the Mar Menor or the mediterranian.  The beaches are fantastic however we are not the sort of people who like to sit on the beach all day – in fact we never just sit on the beach.  We (or probably more likely, I) like to look at it and walk along it and even paddle in the sea but I’m not much of a one for swimming in the sea, I much prefer a pool. 

 I am however one of those people who is always happy near to water, so I love these coastal sites.
This is also one of the main Spanish holiday resorts although as we are finding everywhere, even in May when we are now finding it a bit hot during the day, the place is empty, because to the Spanish this is relatively cool and only in July and August does the place come alive.

The Campsite

Before I tell you about the campsite, I have to quote this from their website which either is a typo or has lost a little in translation:

“Within 40 years it was changed from a unique natural paradise into an unbearable place, where you can count over 300.000 people in the Summer.. The beautiful beaches on both Seas are the only reason why so many Tourists return there each year.”

 Yes it really does say that!  Here’s the link if you don’t believe me

The campsite itself has over 1,500 pitches, (Cap Blanch had about 175) including rental bungalows, camping pitches and permanent pitches.  It boasts an indoor swimming pool, gym and sauna although these are only open in the winter months, along with outdoor swimming pool, numerous games areas, beach-side restaurant, a very well equipped and not overly expensive Spar supermarket where you can buy almost everything including thankfully mobile phone top-up, a cash-point machine, dog washing facility and wait for it, it’s own church.  It stretches from the main dual carriageway right down to the beach on the Mar Menor.  

Here’s a picture taken from outside the supermarket and the blue dot in the distance is indeed the sea at the bottom of the campsite. It is about half a mile from the entrance to the beach.  

You really need a bike here just to go to the shop or the swimming pool.  It’s really like a small town. The pitches are edged with hedges so it’s quite private and great for the dog, but there is very little shade available.  Iain has put down some large stones along the front edge of the pitch and this is enough for Connie to know how far she can go.  People think it’s strange that she will not go beyond the stones, but we have trained her also to stop at electricity cables.  She’s pretty good but sometimes her excitement gets the better of her when a dog goes past and she will run out into the pathway and spin whilst woofing at the passing pets.  Unfortunately we have to watch her as the temptation to chase the cat next door was too great once and she ran off after it. 

What really amuses us though are the permanent pitches.  It appears that these are freehold pieces of land about 100sq ft and people can put literally anything they like on them.  Some of the “dwellings” are really pretty and well kept but actually in parts it looks like a shanty town has sprung up.  Some of them even seem to be brick built and have upper floors and roof terraces.  It’s quite amazing and I can’t stop looking at them. This would never be allowed in England, not only to mention that if there was a fire it would rage through the whole place.

We booked in for just three nights but as our itinerary for the next month is flexible we have decided to stay for 10 nights.

There’s very good cycling around here although some of it is on rough ground.  There’s even a bit where we let Connie off to have a run alongside the bikes.  

Connie's running track about 1km a bit far for an old girl
She’s pretty good and normally runs alongside, but sometimes will spin infront of the bikes and you have to be really quick to make sure that she doesn’t have you off.  She’s never really understood about wheels.  However  the other day she lost sight of us and ran straight onto the beach.  Luckily it wasn’t too busy and of course dogs are banned on the beaches.  I kept calling and whistling but when she’s in a panic she just runs at full speed in all directions – not only was it embarrassing but some people on the beach were panicking and grabbing their children and stuff.  It seemed like an age before she finally saw us and came back but it was probably less than 2 minutes – 2 very long minutes. There’s some pretty good dog walking and on the rougher areas of beach it’s ok to let the dog go on.

Splishy splashy stuff - great fun
 I still can’t get her to enjoy swimming. The first attempt was successful and she came out just far enough that she had to swim but she didn’t like that game much and now I can't even get her to come into the water with me.  
Dad, Dad tell her Dad, I don't want to go swimming ever again

 The water in the Mar Menor is very shallow and it’s as warm as a bath and very salty.

We have cycled into La Manga a couple of times with the princess in her buggy and this picture is taken from one of the beaches looking directly across to the campsite.  Don’t be fooled we’d only gone about 5 miles, there’s a lot more of Mar Menor than shown here.

Just a picture to show how empty the streets are

Yesterday we took a bike ride into Los Belones which is the next town along the other way from La Manga.  The ride was along a service road which I can only think was the original main road so we didn’t have to do any rough riding or go onto the dual carriageway.  But it was quite narrow and there was a huge tractor that seemed intent on pushing us off the road.  It came up behind with no warning – I thought it was on the dual carriageway so didn’t take any notice of the noise and luckily there was a gap where I could pull into to stop him hitting me.  A bit scary but no damage done.

The ride into Los Belones was pretty boring to say the least but the views weren’t bad.  Nothing much to report on the town but we were glad that we’d gone somewhere else but wouldn’t bother again.  There was a Bodegas in town but we actually didn’t pay a visit as I didn’t want a) to get drunk and ride back and b) drag any purchase back in the buggy.  This is the downside of a motorhome rather than a caravan, you don’t have a car to get around.

 It was a bit of a long-haul coming back as it was against the wind, but yes I know, it’s good for me, which wasn’t helped by me going the wrong way, cycling up the verge of the road when Iain suddenly realised that we were actually cycling the wrong way up the slip road of the dual carriageway and not on the old road.  Luckily we hadn’t gone too far so we could go back, otherwise it would have meant lifting the bikes – and of course the buggy – over the metal railing to get back onto the correct road.   Of course because we hadn’t been able to let Connie out for a run we still had to walk her when we got home.

The restaurant on site is pretty good and not overly-expensive so we’ve had a few Menu Del Dia’s while we’ve been here.  Last night, being  Saturday, there was entertainment and so we went along to a Rod Stewart tribute singer.

He was actually pretty good and a very enjoyable evening was had by all.  Of course only having been here a week, we haven’t made any friends but as the social hand-grenade of the outfit I did decide after dinner to invite myself over to join a table of people whom we’d chatted to around the  campsite.  Well you have to make the effort don’t you.

The weather is now getting quite warm, well hot actually, and I’m very glad to have some shade to sit in and at least it still cools down to around 19C in the evening.  I’ve been swimming in the pool several times and it’s quite warm, but other than a bit of swimming and cycling, we’ve had a very relaxing few days.

I love it here and would thoroughly recommend the campsite and place to anyone wanting to visit, and you can even fly into the local airport (15 miles away) with Ryannair and EasyJet so it’s not difficult to get here even for those mortar homers amongst you.

I've a bit more to post about La Manga but wanted to keep it reasonably up-to-date and as we're off I've run out of time to complete my La Manga post - soooo busy doing nothing!!!!!

Tomorrow we are off to Granada, (about 200 miles away) the plan is to spend three night there, but the forecast is up in the 30’s so we might only stay two nights and then move on heading north to Toledo.

Catch up soon. ................................

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