Well Sam has always said he would never go on a cruise, but here we are on a ferry which is a cruise ship travelling the Mediterranean, headed for Rome via Sardinia. It was quite sad to leave Spain as we have had a fantastic time there, but the world is out there waiting to be explored, and we must obey. We feel like we experienced a bit of everything in Spain. The things we like about travel are seeing new places, trying out new food, language and activities, experiencing different cultures, having the freedom to change our mind whenever we wish, meeting new people, and spending time with friends who we need to travel to see. Spain was an opportunity for all these things. Spending time with my cousin Ali and Patrick - the newly married Mr and Mrs Meehan, was great, as was living in Paradise for a while!!! Our suite in Los Boliches was definitely a bonus after sleeping in road stops in the camper for a while. It was good to be able to chat to family at home and away, as well as being able to keep up with news, and chat on Facebook to friends. Sam played his first 2 actual full games of golf in his life on a couple of exotic courses in Spain, and I got to go shopping!!!! We had early Christmas dinner with all the trimmings with Patrick, Ali and their Danish neighbours, spent a lot of time in the sun, on the beach, bike riding and stopping for coffee, to help break up the 20 km journey each time. We even did the ' hiring a couple of sun beds, umbrella and food service ' thing that everyone seems to do at the beach. Oh yes, I could become accustomed to this lifestyle. Sam even used Domingo's rubbish net on a pole to try and catch a fish he saw in the water!! - much to everyone's entertainment. Ali and Patrick took us up to Mijas, in the hills, where they were married, and we looked in a bull fighting stadium and saw an hour long flamenco dancing display in the town square - great timing!!! Of course, we also had to visit the obligatory Roman ruins / castle / churches on one of our bike rides, and even found an indoor swimming pool to do laps a couple of mornings. I guess it wouldn't be a trip if Sam didn't force me to some kind of torture every few days!!.
But wait, there's more!!! We visited a massive car boot sale with acres of junk waiting to be bought, went to a tapas bar for a meal with Eileen, the lovely lady who Fern and Meg stayed with when they were there, ate at the café that the girls went to after the wedding, and roamed Fuengirilo at night.
We had a warning light come on the dashboard of the van and were unable to work it out as the manual was in Dutch, but thanks to Google Translator, we discovered that we had accidentally flicked a fog lamp switch on and it was just telling us that!!!!
It was very tempting to just stay in our new home away from home and not go anywhere else, but we knew we had to go. It was lovely having the opportunity to spend time with Ali and Patrick., and have decided that it is our mission to visit them in every place they live - they are heading to Phuket next!!!.
Our next port of call in Spain was a Wolf Park in some mountains near Malaga. Ali was so excited to hear about this attraction as she was sure it would add to the value of their home should they decide to sell!!! We drove their following Sean's (our Irish Sat Nav friend) instructions and ended up driving in circles, and through streets only just wide enough to fit a car. We did lots of waving and shutting our eyes, but eventually found the park through the fog and went on a tour. It is basically a private shelter/rescue farm for wolves, and also has a small farm with the ugliest pigs I have ever seen. When we left, the fog had lifted and we were able to see where we had been.
I am still having therapy to recover from the next section of road we traversed. We headed to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to hike from Capileira in the High Alpurras. The road on the map said it wasn't recommended for caravans but it didn't stop trucks and buses from risking their lives to use. Capiliera is 1230 metres above sea level and the road wind up in a zig zag with REALLY steep drop offs right next to the road - no extra verge for those with vertigo. It took us about 2 hours and 30 years off my life - the drop was on my side of the road - to get to this beautiful town which is built on the side of the mountain. Hardly anyone spoke English there but we managed to find a parking spot in the town, that was not overhanging the edge of the mountain, and work out where our hike was to leave from the next morning. The hike was amazing. We hiked for 3 ½ hours down a mule track to the river and back up the other side, along mule tracks, past ruined farms, terraced paddocks the size of a postage stamp, - well maybe slightly bigger - threshing circles, a Hydro Electricity plant, old workers village, now graffitied and in ruins, water course to supply water to the town, and eventually back to beautiful Capiliera 8 kms later. From there, we hightailed it back down the scary raod, this time I was on the other side so it wasn't so bad, to the motorway to Barcelona. The faithful Snel Guide to Aires in Spain warned us against stopping at truck stops on this motorway as thieves abound, but we like to live on the wild side - well Sam does, so we stopped anyway, chaining the car from the inside as well as locking it.
The next day, Sean managed to get us to the ferry port in Barcelona with only 5 circles back over the same path. Parking was impossible, but we eventually found a park that cost $4 hour and checked on our travel arrangements the next day. Thank goodness we decided to do it first - it would have been a real panic when we were supposed to be boarding the next day!! We found a Park and Ride just out of the centre of the city at a beach near the old Olympic village, which took campers for $40 per 24 hours - not much choice in a big city. It was a dump - in the middle of reconstruction and with very daggy facilities but we moved in, then headed to Barcelona on the tram. Nothing is written in English so we hopped on the tram without a ticket as we couldn't read the instructions on how to buy one. I spent the whole trip worrying about being caught while Sam tried to talk to everyone on the tram and find out where to go.
We had a great time in Barcelona that afternoon and evening. Even though hardly anyone spoke English, we found enough people who were happy to help us with our limited Spanish and hand signals. We rode the underground, walked La Ramba, Gothic City, Maremagnum waterfront area, had coffee at street cafes - still not as expensive as the Paris one we went to!!!, ate Paella, tapas, drank Sangria, and walked back to the tram, having no idea where we were, but meeting interesting people. The next day we moved the car back to the park in the port area and bought a day pass on the hop on, hop off double decker buses and saw Barcelona. It was interesting to see all the Olympic places, hear the history of the place, and get a really good look at the city. We also took time to sit in the warm sun in the Plaza, wander the streets and have lunch down by the water where we saw the pedestrian bridge lift for a yacht, and saw the police chase African street sellers along the path, accompanied by cheers and encouragement by observers. The street sellers had their wares on a rug with ropes in the 4 corners that they held all the time whilst watching for cops. As soon as someone saw the Guardia, they all pulled their rope, which bundled up their complete array, and ran for it. The bus trip was good, but I was a little over seeing Gaudi's work by the end of the day. We ended the day back on La Ramba, enjoying the beautiful evening, alive feeling of the city, and our last Spanish meal.
I am so glad we spent the time in Barcelona. It rounded off our experience of Spain, which had been rural, beach, tourist towns, mountains, villages and family. Sitting at an outdoor café on a balmy evening, watching the world go by was a perfect way to end it.
Thus ended our time in Spain. When we collected our car from the park, we had left the lights on and had drained the battery. With no jumper leads and no one to speak English around, we eventually managed to get a German Racing Team to tow the van with a rope we found in the van, and jump start the vehicle. It was entertaining driving on to the ferry with about 1000 trucks, but it only took about 2 hours to load for the 20 hour trip!!!