Over the last couple of years we have spent more time in Spain than any other country. It was here where the seed of travelling in a motorhome was 1st planted. Reeling from a new EU regulation which meant big changes for our business we flew to Spain to try and recover and establish what our future may hold. Looking back now I can see what a state of shock we were in at the time, having put our sweat, blood, tears and energy into making our business successful we both felt we didn’t have it in us at the time to start all over again. The question of what we should do with our future loomed large, but as my late Nana always told us everything happens for a reason (even if it isn’t apparent at the time). As we travelled the coast in our rental car stopping off at hotels along the way, we passed numerous motorhomes and remarked how nice it would be to travel around that way. So our research began as soon as we returned to the UK. Of course with any major decision comes fears and what ifs. My major concerns were money – could we afford it, missing family & friends who we are very close to, and boredom, would I be able to cope if not running at 100mph. Having travelled for 19 out of the last 22 months, I can now reflect on those fears.
Money – This is probably the topic we are asked the most about from readers of our blog. Of course everyone’s lives and financial situations are different. We live our lives travelling as we would if we were living in one place, therefore we eat out on occasion, we stop off for coffees or beers here and there, and we partake in activities if we fancy doing them.Living in a small space ensures that we don’t make unnecessary purchases though, we are not on holiday so don’t buy souvenirs. As space is limited we tend to buy clothes to replace something that is at the end of its life. We often remark about all our furniture, clothes and personal effects that we have in storage and can honestly say that we don’t miss any of it. A lot of what we do is outdoors and free, we cycle regularly, walk lots, swim in the sea, run (well I do) and keep fit (if we can at outdoor gyms). Our expenditure is reduced significantly to what it was previously. Our regular out goings are now for fuel, food, gas and campsite fees. We don’t feel like we hold back in anyway, in fact we feel that we are living a very privileged and healthy life. In fact we are amazed how little we spend and have even managed to add to our savings whilst travelling.
Family & Friends – This is a topic I don’t like to think about too much or dwell on, if I did I’d be an emotional wreck. Of course we both miss our nearest and dearest dreadfully. We’ve been fortunate to have quite a few of them visit us on our travels and this has proved to be very special and treasured time. We are both seriously in need of a fix soon.
Boredom – I don’t mind admitting to having a very low boredom threshold. I’m used to being busy and as a born organiser thrive on it. I still struggle with just being and doing nothing for a day, and feel the need to go somewhere or do something, but I think this is just in my make up, however I have slowed down (a little). If there is something that would stop me travelling eventually it would be because I eventually got bored of it. I’m certainly nowhere near that point yet, in fact I often worry more about being in one place in the future and getting bored! We’ve had an incredibly busy year of travels this year and of course we want to see as much as we can of a country and culture whilst we are there. That’s one of the reasons being in Spain this time feels very different, as we’ve spent so much time here previously we don’t feel the need to be racing off seeing it all as a lot of it we’ve seen before. When we arrive somewhere now that we’ve been to before we feel a little more like we are living there as residents rather than tourists and it feels kind of comforting to have some previous knowledge of an area.
This is our 3rd time in Spain in the last 2 years, we love it here and its easy to travel in a motorhome, the roads are good and there are lots of places to stay both free and paid for (See bottom for our list of stops this time). Spending more time here means we get to experience not just the country but also the culture. Here are some of the things that take some adjusting to:
Most tourists that have visited Spain would have heard of having a siesta. This long standing tradition is designed to get away from the heat of the day, but for us Brits it takes some getting used to. Shops will close around 1-2pm and open up again around 5-6pm. This also applies to some bars and cafes. The only exception to this is tourist shops and some large supermarket chains which tend to stay open.
Although large supermarket chains are now all over Spain, you can forget shopping on Sundays here as most are closed (in my opinion rightly so). The best way though is to try and shop local. I love visiting the markets where the produce is both fresh and cheap. Don’t handle the produce though, just be assertive and ask (or point) to what you want to buy and the stall will pick it for you. They will also often offer you samples of produce to try. If a town has an indoor produce market then make sure you experience it as they almost always have places where you can stop and have a bite to eat and a glass of something cold too.
Never has the saying mañana been more true. The Spanish don’t rush when it comes to the nitty gritty. When they tell you something will be completed by a certain day, just take it with a pinch of salt, as it probably won’t be. It’s not that they are purposely inefficient they just don’t have the same sense of urgency as us Brits. We found this out when it took 27 days to get a replacement key for our vehicle when we got ours stolen last year. When we ordered a spare on returning to the UK we had it within 5 days. They also have a different view of business generally, if there were customers waiting outside and they were due to close, they would still close. Maybe that’s why they’re a whole lot more relaxed than us uptight Brits!
Party, Party Party
Spain has one of the highest number of public holidays in Europe (14 whereas the UK get 8) & they really don’t need an excuse to hold a fiesta. They know how to throw a damn good shin dig too, but if you attend be prepared to stay up late. Most celebrations don’t get started until around 10pm and finish in the small hours. Believe me though the ones we’ve attended have been spectacular and experiences not to be missed.
I don’t think I will ever get used to the Spanish eating times. Spanish have a fairly light breakfast,and their big meal of the day is at lunchtime, taken around 2-3pm. You will often see restaurants advertising a “Menu Del Dia” (menu of the day) which is normally 3 courses, plus bread and a drink for around 10 to 20 € pp. How they manage to go back to work afterwards is beyond me, because when we indulge I’m done for the day! Although you will see the bars filling up around 8pm this isn’t because they are off for evening meal, this will just involve drinks and maybe tapas (snacks), the evening meal does not take place before 10pm. I must be getting old before my time because most nights by that time I’m about ready for bed!!!
Up close and personal
I love to hear the Spanish chatting, they are up close and personal (we’d think that someone was in our personal space) and even if there are only two of them it sounds like there’s a room full. They talk loudly and at the same time as each other and it starts at a very young age, so when a family gets together the noise level is incredible.
Good old fashioned family time
The Spanish have good old fashioned family values and you will often see teenage grandchildren walking arm in arm with their grandparents. Sundays are sacred family days where they all get together for a meal. The restaurants are packed out and so are the sea front promenades where they stroll up and down chatting. I love this element of Spanish life and think unfortunately other countries have let the need for 24 hour business take over this precious time. Long may it continue.
Fitness and the environment
It been interesting observing different cultures as we travelled extensively through Europe this year. We’ve continued to keep fit wherever we’ve been and in Spain its so easy and such a pleasure to do so. In some countries I’ve not seen another soul when on my early morning run whereas in Spain I will meet dozens of others doing the same . The Spanish have invested in free outdoor gyms as well as walking and cycling trails, and of course the weather helps motivate you to get out of bed in the morning.
Our time in Spain this time will be less about racing around seeing this “must see” sight and that “must do” activity and more about enjoying and immersing ourselves in the Spanish culture.
Our route and stopovers so far. We arrived by ferry from Genoa into Barcelona port on 13th October and have travelled down the coast. Our stopovers are detailed below:
Tarragona – a beautiful old town with lots of history. We were lucky to be there when there was a medieval fayre in the town which created lots of atmosphere, but even without this the city is interesting to wander around. We parked on the beachfront and could have stayed overnight although we opted to move further along the coast. Free parking at GPS 41.114056 1.26666
Torre La Sal – a wild beach front with fabulous walks along the coast. Cycle route to Opresa Del Mar. Nice quiet area, water available on the beach. Free parking GPS 40.135711 0.165142
Playa Del Gurugu – A vast beach parking next to a busy aerodrome. Cycle path to Benicassim. The overnight parking is free and is located in a huge fenced off area (as its next to the aerodrome expect some noise). There is a free aire around the corner with all services, but vans are crammed into tiny spaces there. GPS 39.998593 0.028261
Valencia – We found it to be a vibrant city with a mix of old and new and well worth a visit. We stayed at Valencia camper park for 15€ a night inc electric. This is a cross between a campsite and an aire. There are showers and toilets (although the water temperature fluctuated) and a small restaurant (we didn’t try it). There’s full facilities but you have to pay for potable water (50c for 40 litres). There are also washing machine which are 3 € for a 30 degree wash or 6 € for a 60 degree wash. The wifi is free and very fast. The staff here are super helpful and friendly. here’s a metro station about 10 mins walk away and you can buy tickets at reception (they will sell you a book of 10 and refund any you don’t use). The site is in the middle of nowhere so take provisions. GPS 39.580269 –0.445286
Cullera – A small Spanish beachfront town. When we first arrived at this spot and saw all the motorhomes there we were not too keen, however the town has a genuine Spanish feel and has not been overtaken by tourism despite the gorgeous expanse of beach. There’s a water font next to the river and a drainage point for emptying. GPS39.155002 –0.241608
Denia – Camping Los Pinos – A small family run campsite about 3km’s from the centre. Easy cycle route along the beach front. Pebble beach in front of camping. Facilities are clean and there’s loads of hot water for showers. The campsite is rustic but has a good feel. Wifi though is very poor although we asked around and found that The Sunshine Bar in town has fast wifi. GPS 38.828964 0.147912 cost in winter 15€ a night for short stays