Heading for the Mountains…. 28/5/19




With the weather warming up in Alicante we took full advantage of using the BBQ as much as possible before we headed off again, conscious that we would probably be spending a bit more time in Aires where you shouldn’t put anything outside the motorhome.

We managed to do another round of the tapas tour in San Juan, deciding that the route in El Campello is definitely superior in quality for the ingredients, presentation and flavour…. we almost certainly won’t be here for this one next year but it was good to try!

Paige amazingly caught the train on Sunday morning from Madrid to come join Manolo, Santi and us for lunch at the motorhome and for an Ice Cream with Samuel, Sarah, the kids and Miguel, Elisa and the kids before making a quick run back to the station to catch the 8pm train back to Madrid…. I guess if you have come all the way from Arizona to Madrid for the week an extra couple of hours on the train each way doesn’t make much difference…. but it was appreciated and really good to catch up.

The injector for the gas on the fridge arrived and was fitted on Wednesday and we left a very sad Pilar on Thursday morning to run for the mountains and get away from the heat.

As we had planned to get to a small town called El Boalo for the weekend which is to the North West of Madrid, we wanted to plan the trip so we didn’t hit too much traffic so our first stop was at a tiny little town called Castillo Garcimunoz where there was a Castle, an Aire (Free, with excellent facilities is at GPS n 39.661499 w -2.38336) and a small farming community on the top of a hill at roughly 950m Altitude looking out onto rolling hills … mostly a little dry but the poppies were shining through in places giving a little colour!


We were surprisingly joined by three other motorhomes…. I guess it is a free Aire which some people are drawn too and it was very quiet, the only downside was the slight fragrance of goat which was coming from just behind us but nothing insurmountable for one night!

We woke, did our exercises, had breakfast and hit the road making it round Madrid and to our Aire in El Boalo for lunchtime… perfect!

The Aire at El Boalo (3 euros inc. electricity if you want it. GPS n 40.720901 w -3.92232) was fairly new with large spaces and good facilities, situated next to a small park 5 minutes walk from the main square.  We had chosen the location after we saw the weather in France looking very wet and windy over the next week or so and thought we would do a small diversion to come and meet Sergio (and whomever else fancied) for a bit of walking.


After paying our 9 euros for 3 nights at the town hall and a quick stop at the tourist office to get some maps and local info, we headed out on a short circular route which followed part of the ‘Camino del Santiago’ to Mataelpino and then back on a slighter rougher track, both were pretty easy walking 11.5km and roughly 250m gain…. just to ease us in for Saturday’s jaunt!

Sergio picked us up just after 8:30am and we tried to get into the Parque Regional Cuenca Alta Manzanares but although we were early enough (they close the gates to vehicles between 9am and 4pm) we couldn’t get in and ended up turning around and going to a different part of the Sierra Guardarrama about a half an hour drive away.  Starting at 1300m altitude, Sergio, Lasco (Sergio’s whippet), Keith and I set off into the clouds …. unfortunately they had decided to make a visit over this side today and therefore, although it was a pretty good walk, views and warmth were limited!  3hr 22 minutes, 11km and 550m of ascent later we were back at the car warming ourselves in the sunshine and thinking about lunch despite having demolished a large quantity of Keith’s homemade flapjack!!

The region is well known for its meat – both Beef (the Guardarrama cattle are huge and apparently make a good steak) as well as the lamb. Sergio managed to get us a table at a local Asador (Grill house) in Cercedilla where it is fair to say the lamb (along with everything else we ate) was pretty special…


Not wishing to leave us, apparently wanting to share a bit more of the sierra with us, Sergio drove us back to the National Park we tried this morning and this time we managed to get in and thought we would have a little stroll to help settle lunch down…..


One thing led to another and a slight detour to see the natural bridge that was pretty impressive….


And 3hrs 21 minutes, 11km and 570m gain in altitude later we got back to the car…..  the poor dog didn’t know if it was coming or going, although it had managed to get plenty of nutrition on route as apparently it likes eating cow pats…. obviously doggie brownies, although I am not sure that I will be queuing up to try them any point soon!

We got back to the motorhome just after 8pm and had a beer in the park behind the Aire before Sergio headed back to Madrid – we certainly managed to make the most of his hospitality.  Both walks were completely different but really beautiful, we were really lucky to have had the chance to get to know some different areas which we probably wouldn’t have ventured to without Sergio.

After another quiet night we woke, exercised, breakfasted and set off on a slightly different route, although also towards the national park.  I woke with aches and a bit of a dodgy stomach but thought nothing of it as we had just done a bit more than we are used to yesterday and possibly used some muscles I haven’t used in a while however, whilst we were out walking I realised it wasn’t just normal aches and by the time we got back to the motorhome my body had gone on strike and I crawled into bed and just lay there fever-ish for several hours, occasionally making a quick dash to the toilet… not particularly pleasant.


Keith made fajitas which I managed to eat and I took an Ibuprofen and some Spanish miracle tablet (I bought them last time I was here when I had a really bad dose of the Flu which wouldn’t go away) and I started to feel a little more normal, enabling me to sleep in two hour slots for most of the night.

Although I felt much better by the morning,  I still couldn’t venture too far from the toilet so I took a self enforced rest day and stayed in bed a bit longer before we packed things up and set off to Soria, our next port of call.  Soria is a fairly large town (mostly the new part which we didn’t visit) but the old town has lots of parks and beautiful buildings which was well worth a visit.  The Aire (Parking only, GPS n 41.756802 w -2.45605) is down by the river, below the old part and it is very pretty and incredibly quiet except for the walkers, runners and cyclists that pass by.


Once again we were surprised that by about 8pm there were 5 other motorhomes parked up with us, obviously just the time of the year and there are more people on the road!

Still at altitude (1100m), it was only about 8 degrees when we got up to do our exercise this morning … a little fresh for us lightweights that have been used to warmer climates!  Only joking, it has been quite nice and far easier to sleep with the temperature dropping below 10 degrees overnight these last few days.   I did however do my exercises, although didn’t quite have the confidence to venture too far by going for a run…. bit by bit!  Keith kindly made me some porridge this morning, perhaps that’ll help …. it certainly helped me warm up – I will wait to judge on the other results!

A slightly shorter drive today taking us slowly eastwards to Calatayud (The Aire which is free and has good facilities is at GPS n 41.350434 w -1.646321) which is a slightly smaller city holding the title translated as ‘The very Nobel, loyal and most faithful city of Calatayud’.  This could be misinterpreted with the cities other reputation which is that it was apparently also well known in Spain for ‘finding nice girls’, a popular song was written to capture history with the words ‘If you go to Calatayud ask for a girl named Dolores, she is a very nice girl fond of giving favours’.  Nowadays, this isn’t the case and it is a very beautiful, although crumbling city which is a huge shame, obviously lacking money to invest in maintenance as it is decreasing in population.


The city dates back to the first Century when the Romans first settled and later in the 8th Century the Moors built the modern town and the Ayurveda Castle …. there were several castles here.  The town was also home to the Jews in the eleventh century until their expulsion from Spain in 1492 – so it is a real mix of architecture….how some of the buildings stay standing, I don’t know.  We will definitely be back though as there are lots of lovely looking bars and restaurants begging to be tried which I am not up to at the moment….



Treading Water….. 15/5/19


Well, the plan was to be on the road by now but after a quick trip back to the UK to catch up with family, a deviation down to Bath for Keith to go to the dentist – squeezing in a tactical catch up with a few friends – we arrived home last Tuesday to the gas alarm going off, gas off – thankfully! – and a defrosted Fridge/Freezer!

All we can say is that it was an eventful day, the flight back from Gatwick was delayed due to the plane apparently being in Pathos the night before …. I haven’t ever been but apparently a good time can be had by all as even the plane had a mother of a hangover!  Joking aside we were really lucky though, as whilst sitting in the airport lounge at Gatwick with a glass of wine and beer in hand a drone flew up to within about 50m of us….. so the delays could have been quite a bit worse!

As the flight was so late the trams had stopped running so we opted for a taxi, eventually getting back to the motorhome just after midnight opening the door cautiously, not turning on any lights just in case there were gas fumes but thankfully all was good.  We had been warned that there may have been a problem by one of our neighbours who did a daily walk round for us and on Tuesday afternoon could hear an alarm inside the motorhome but couldn’t hear the gas on the fridge which he had heard on previous days.

In the week leading up to us flying to the UK we had smelt a slight smell of gas and thought that it was possibly the end of one of the bottles before it changed over but the smell had lasted longer than expected so we had called and booked an engineer to come and have a look on the Wednesday morning following our return…. hindsight being a wonderful thing, we probably should have dealt with it before we left.  Thankfully however, the motorhome has an alarm and a cut off, which means that should the gas toxins within the motorhome get above a certain point the system cuts off and stops the gas supply…. we don’t want to think about what could have happened if that wasn’t in place – losing the food in the freezer and a few yoghurts is a small price to pay!

We were back in Hattie though and were pleasantly surprised by Jose Maria, a retired Dometic engineer who turned up at 10 am on Wednesday morning, pulled everything a part, swept the chimney, fixed the problem and serviced the Fridge/Oven unit.  It appears that at some point someone has tried to clean the gas injector with a pin – something that you should never do – and has made the hole larger, burning the gas at the incorrect temperature….so a new part is required – hence we are currently treading water, waiting for the part to arrive from Madrid which will hopefully be over the next couple of days.

With Hattie temporarily sorted and needing to hang around a little longer we were happy to receive a message from a friend who lives in the states and will be in Alicante next Sunday …. so it was obviously fate that we hang on for an extra few days.   We were also hit by a heatwave last week which was a bit of a shock coming back from the UK as temperature rose to high 20’s during the day and barely went below 20 overnight … thankfully it only lasted until Sunday and is now happily sitting at around 23 degrees during the day but going down to 15 overnight – a little more pleasant for us cold blooded Brits…. slightly different to the horrific weather that we had over Easter that left the beaches in a really bad state, taking a couple of weeks to clear up…


Although it is difficult to believe, we have now had Hattie for a year.  Who would have thought that the mad dash home and up to Melbourne in Derbyshire was at the end of April last year… where does time go? We can happily say, without any hesitation that it was the right decision to make the change and despite a few hiccups along the way, she suits us perfectly for our lifestyle…. lets hope that the next 5 years are slightly cheaper but as enjoyable as this last one!  Despite having to change our plan slightly, we are still looking forward to taking her to lots of new places in France, Germany and the UK this summer.

With a bit of extra time on our hands and not having ever stayed here this late we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Tapas competition has started in San Juan Pueblo, so we ventured out for a few cheeky tapas – which come accompanied with a glass of wine or beer for 2 euro 50 cents – last Friday night.  The first two (oddly, one was vegetarian which is still a bit of a daring choice for Spain) were pretty good – although we both agreed probably not to the El Campello standard of last year –  however unfortunately, the other three varied between ‘Average’ and ‘Pretty Poor’ …. just going to have to try some more this weekend before we head off!


We also caught up with Pilar and her sister for lunch on Saturday in Santa Faz at one of their favourite restaurants ‘Pro Bar’ which serves quality seasonal produce full of flavour in small dishes …. delicious.  It also enabled us to finally see the infamous Santa Faz Monastery which is where once a year, thousands of Pilgrims walk to from  from Alicante.  Oddly, the pilgrimage  two weeks ago and we were caught up in all the Pilgrim traffic on the Tram whilst on the way to the airport, they were apparently all on their way to get the free wine and cinnamon buns that are put on by the local town council!!  Apparently roughly 260,000 Pilgrims do the 8km walk, eating roughly 1000kg of cinnamon bun and drinking 800 litres of Mistella (Sweet white wine) …. not bad for 8am, although I am sure that a fair few bring their own supplies as well having seen the state of the teenagers by lunchtime on the beach in previous years!

It cannot be denied though … the Monastery isn’t too bad!