We arrived in Seville / Sevilla just after lunchtime on Saturday 30 June to a lovely caravan park which is the second oldest in Spain built during the 1950's. We were very happy to see this park had a pool, as it was 35 degrees. The heat is very dry and a bit easier to handle than humid heat. After a quick swim we decided to go for a drive into Seville to have a look around. We found the large botanical gardens and had a walk around watching all the pigeons and the tourists on the horse and sulky rides. There were a couple of brides and grooms posing for their wedding photos here as well.
The next day we decided to catch the bus into town to visit the Real Alcazar, this is a royal palace that was founded in 913 as a Muslim fortress so it is very different architecture to what we have seen so far. The palace is still used today by Spanish royalty when they visit Seville. Because of the warmer climate, the palace has a lot of open outdoor gardens and areas with water fountains and fishponds. Attracted to the water, Cara went through a barrier to get a closer look and ended up being told off by the guard. She was very upset poor thing!
Instead of walking back to the bus stop we decided to get a ride on one of the many horse and sulkies. We all loved this especially Loche who found it very relaxing, as he didn't have to drive. When we got to the bus stop we had another hour before the next bus so we splurged on a cab back to the caravan park. We hopped in and Loche was interested to find the car was electric. We ended up getting back to the park in record time as the cabbie was going up to 97 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. Tip: do not get in a cab in Seville unless you absolutely have to.
Back at the caravan park we decided we'd better work out where our next stop was going to be as we were leaving in the morning. We talked to a few people and decided on Almeria, about 400 kilometres south on the coast.
The landscapes between Seville and Almeria were vastly different to the Northern Basque region on the Atlantic Ocean side of Spain. The sweeping rocky valleys and tall hills saw the Disco struggle in the heat. The 1800 metre climb and 34 degree heat was taking its toll on the automatic gearbox. The gearbox over temperature light came on at speeds over 80Kph on the long, steep hills; this said there was no shortage of power only the frustration of doing 60 - 70 kph up hills. As soon as we dropped speed, the light went off.
Along the sweeping rocky outcrops and ruins of Muslim fortress and castles, patches of fertile olive plantations could be spotted. After hours of rocky outcrops we finally reach the coast only to find what; more rocky outcrops? But also beautiful coastlines with the sheer cliffs dropping into the ocean - oh actually no, the Meditteranean Sea, our first views of it!!
After a long day travelling we were very pleased to see our caravan park was nestled between two big mountains right on the sea with its own private (but rocky) beach. Loche goes for a walk around to find the best pitch while I wait with Cara. He comes back and says he's found the perfect spot, but we will have to ask the lovely lady sunbaking topless to move. The pitch was literally right on the beach.
On the beach I get out and start helping Loche reverse the caravan into the pitch. Loche stops the car to get out and check, but there was little need as his second helper came to assist dressed in her European beach wear of a g-string and well, nothing else. Surprisingly he did not hit anything, as his helper was more distracting than assisting.
A 35 minute drive from Almeria is the location of many disused western movies sets. These sets were built from the sixties onward. Many films have been shot in this location some you may know: The good, the bad and The Ugly, Dr Who, Indiana Jones Chronicles, Conan the Barbarian and many early Clint Eastwood films. For 16.50 € each you get to walk in and around the sets and twice daily there is a live cowboy show.
Boy was it a show complete cowboys and their noisy guns a blazing. The first scene was in the Saloon with a shoot out between the badies and the sheriff.
This is where Cara learnt that she does not like loud gun shots. After the second shots were fired Cara was terrified. Some explaining was needed to convince her that the people were only pretending and nobody was killed and the guns are not scary.
After the show one of the actors came up to Cara but she was not impressed. His great nature could not win her over, but he did show us what bullets are used in their show guns. Yep there are the real .38 cal blanks. Cara had every right to get upset.
The next morning we were up early packing up the van, Loche saying a sad goodbye to his favourite beach and off to Moncofa, a little town just north of Valencia. We only stayed in Moncofa for one night to have a quick look around and break up the trip to Barcelona.
- Almeria has the least rain fall in Europe of around 10mm a year
- Beaches in Almeria are extremely rocky but people still lie on a towel and sun bake - generally with as little clothes as possible
- The caravan park at Almeria was the oldest in Spain built circa 1950's
Valencia is the:
- 3rd largest city in Spain - behind Madrid and Barcelona
- Origin of the Paella
- Home of Valencia oranges
- Rice producing region for all of Spain and a lot of Europe
Our next stop was a campsite about 50 km south of Barcelona. The lady at the camping shop in South Hampton where we bough the washing machine highly recommended this site to Loche. Calling Vila Nova Park a campsite is an understatement. This is the largest caravan park we have stayed at so far. Boasting three restaurants and pizzeria, three shops, three massive swimming pools (one indoors), wellness centre (day spa), onsite doctor, organised soccer and tennis games, and several coach services to Barcelona, this was more of a mini-city than a caravan park.
We were shown to our pitch and were deciding on the best way to put the caravan on the pitch when a lovely man camped opposite came over and said he was happy to help us with anything should we need it. Over the 6 days we stayed here we became quite good friends with Huub and his wife Heleen and two children Sanna and Julian. They are from the Netherlands and have very kindly invited us to stay with them when we are up their way.
On Sunday we decided to go for a drive up to Montserrat which is a little town high up in the hills north west of Barcelona. There is also a monastery nearby but we didn't quite have time to see this. The scenery and views from Montserrat is amazing and much to my horror there is a cable car that you can ride on to take you even further up the mountain - to me it looked like it was almost a vertical ascent and therefore descent. Loche and Cara were very keen to go on this and so we walked up to see if we could get on. 'Unfortunately' there was a very long line and we weren't going to have time to go on it. I don't think I'm being too much of a wimp...look at the pictures to see for yourselves.
We decided our best way to visit Barcelona was to catch the bus from the caravan park and then hop on the red open-top busses. We spent two days in Barcelona and I was a bit unsure what to expect here other than lots of crowds and pick-pockets. I was very surprised by the end of the first day to actually find I really liked the city. The streets are wide and leafy, it's very clean and just has a certain charm to it. I fell in love with some of the houses Antoni Gaudi designed, as the architecture of them is just so way out there from the norm. On arriving back at the campsite after our fist day in Barcelona we were talking to Huub and they had decided to drive into Barcelona to see the sights the next day. They said they had 3 extra seats in the car and could easily take us if we liked. This made our lives so much easier as it was a 40 minute drive in the car as opposed to a 75 minute bus trip.
We set off early to beat the crowds at Sagrada Familia and it was well worth it, with only a handful of people there at 8am. From here we split up with Loche, Cara and I heading back to the red-busses. This time we visited the Olympic village, did some wandering around the shops and finally went to La Pedrera, one of Gaudi's residential buildings.
We finished the day off back at the caravan park with Huub and Heleen cooking a BBQ for us all, we had a lovely night with wonderful food and great company. We were leaving the next day and hadn't packed up the caravan or even have our next stop planned, so we decided a late departure would be the best and only have a short drive the next day.
Our interesting facts on Barcelona:
- Is the port where Christopher Columbus operated from
- Was the first tourist port built in the Mediterranean Sea
- Has no shortage of pick pockets
- Sagrada Familia, the most famous church in Barcelona, has been under construction since 1882, the design by Antoni Gaudi. Construction is aiming to be completed by 100th anniversary of his death.
- Antoni Gaudi was hit by a tram in 1926 and died in hospital three days later, he was dressed in rags at the time and no taxi would collect him. His body is in a Crypt in Sagrada Familia.