Thursday, 2 February 2023

Thursday 2 February - between Playa de Puebla de Farnals & Playa de Puçol

Where's Bertie? He's in a huge grass/dirt car park fronting the promenade next to a small urbanización that lies between the bigger resorts of Farnals & Puçol. Exact location: 39.57397, -0.27820
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine. A frosty start again, but warming to t-shirt and light fleece weather.

It was me who lounged in bed this morning as Mick sprang up at the sound of the alarm clock. He headed out the door an hour later into another frosty morning. I soon hauled myself out of bed and set about the main task of the morning: working out where to go between now and getting to Seville in 2 weeks' time.

The result was a booking at a 'camper park' (i.e. a campsite, but only for motorhomes) starting tomorrow for six nights. It would have been seven (and thus a slightly lower per-night price) except that I accidentally counted fence posts rather than panels*.

With Mick back, a flurry of activity ensued, and with one minute to spare before our 72 hours was up, we pulled out of the Aire. Not that anything would have happened if we'd overstayed, other than that we would have been rude and inconsiderate to others who wanted our space. There were clearly quite a few people there who have taken root. It's an ongoing bugbear that many Spanish towns invest in motorhome facilities, but don't enforce the limits or rules, such that long term dwellers make it difficult for tourers to find spaces.

Where to go? We settled on driving a whole 2km to this car park that we've passed on foot quite a few times between us (but never together) over the last three days.

Motorhomes all neatly parked. Despite looking like a field, it is an official car park.

It's rather nice here - much nicer than the Aire - with access directly onto the wide seafront promenade (of which I included a photo in yesterday's post).

With my left quad not at all happy with me*, two short walks have been my only activity today.

This afternoon's stroll took us to this historic watch tower, past which we've been running, but hadn't previously stopped to read the information board. Ignoring the English section, I was chuffed (after three years of daily Spanish lessons on Duolingo) that I could read the the Spanish with only a small handful of words that I either didn't know, or couldn't recall their meanings.

Otherwise, more of the same: working on't laptop.

(Actually - one other occurrence of the day - Mick noticed the number plate of the British van two away from us (MH07 FUN (i.e. motorhome fun)), and recognised it as one we'd seen last week and to whose owners he'd chatted. He was going to go and say hello again, and assure them that we're not really following them. Fortunately they were out, as next time we passed he realised that it was one digit adrift from the one we'd seen before (MH04 FUN). A near miss on one of those incidents when you heartily greet someone in the street before realising they're not who you thought they were.)

(*Mick assures me that the use of this description of the error I made isn't peculiar to us, but is generally understood. I hope he's right.
*Immediately before leaving home I did a 32k run, which was my second of that length of this chunk of training, having worked gradually up there over a few months. The 32k run didn't leave me sore. Not sure whether today's extreme soreness was a result of so much sitting around, and relative lack of running, whilst travelling and (more particularly) with shingles, or whether it was the shoes I wore. They're the same shoes I'll be wearing for the marathon, so I'm not expecting to be doing much walking the day after that either.)

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Tuesday & Wednesday 31 Jan & 1 February - Puebla de Farnals

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Aire in Puebla de Farnals.
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine. Max of 12 degrees on Tuesday and 14 today.

Only a day has passed, but it's a struggle to remember what we did yesterday. There was definitely a run, during which we (separately, as our aims didn't coincide) discovered that with some boardwalks and grit walkways joining the formal promenades, it's possible to keep to the coast all the way from here to Playa to Puçol, where we stayed in January 2020. (Playa de Puçol is 5km N of here, but it then has its own 2.5km-long promenade.) 

They don't skimp on facilities for walking and cycling. You're never many paces from a litter bin either.

My turn-around point was at the very car park where we spent a couple of nights on that trip.

The other big news of yesterday was that my shingles rash improved to a remarkable degree, scabbing over and no longer being raised and angry. With the discomfort in my back almost disappearing too, I took it as an indication that it would be entirely sensible to go and run 35k today.

Looking at a couple of weather forecasts before I headed out the door this morning, the BBC was telling me that it was 1 degree outside and YR was saying 7 degrees. On this occasion, I knew that YR couldn't be right, as Bertie's heating (set to 8 degrees) wouldn't have kicked in at 4am and again at a quarter to seven if it had been 7 degrees out. I poked my head out the door and reported back to Mick, who was very sensibly still under the duvet: there was a frost on the grass. Meanwhile my Facebook memories of this day on three previous trips to Spain show us out and about in short sleeves (in fact, I can't think that we've ever had a frost in Spain on the coast before).

Heading out at sunrise, it didn't take awfully long for the sun to get high enough to reach me, but to my surprise the frost lasted well over an hour - making the pedestrian bridge over the motorway, with a footway formed of metal sheets, a slippery proposition.

One lap (of 2) down, I popped back to Bertie where I ditched my windshirt and gloves, proceeding in just t-shirt and cropped leggings, as by then it was perfectly warm out.

Nearly daylight
Yet more excellent walking and cycling infrastructure. Despite the lack of people in these photos, it was being put to good use.

After a thoroughly enjoyable time, I got back to Bertie with 35.5k under my belt, with only one sore quad and one little blister to show for it. I then insisted that we had enough water for me to shower, even though we hadn't put any in Bertie's tank since a week last Monday (and then we didn't even half fill it). I was right, but only just, with the water slowing to a trickle just as I was done.

As per yesterday, the afternoon was spent on the laptop; we're not being hampered by a lack of power now.

It's a pity we have to leave here tomorrow. Whilst there are quite a few negatives to this place (including the barking dog who disturbed us at various points during the night and has just started up again now), another night here would have been convenient. Tomorrow's first job will be working out where we're going next.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Monday 30 January - Puebla de Farnals

Where's Bertie? He's at a free Aire at Puebla de Farnals. Exact location: 39.56549, -0.29222
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine, but still not overly warm, although I think we hit 12 degrees today, and it's been hot inside Bertie.

Finally rolling off the wasteland at Canet d'en Berenguer just before 9 this morning, off to Lidl we went. Having relieved our bank account of a chunk of money in return for a full fridge, freezer and cupboards (plus a couple of things on the sofa that we couldn't immediately find homes for elsewhere), we relocated a whole 100m up the road to give Bertie a treat. You remember that a week ago I posted a photo of his filthy back end? Today we took him to a jet wash and brought him back to a respectable state of cleanliness.

I said I was going to take more photos, and this is what I have to offer?!*

Onwards then to this Aire, only a quarter of an hour away. "How do you rate our chances of there being a space free?" asked Mick on the way. I was moderately hopeful, as we couldn't have hit a better time or day to maximise our chances. So it was - we took the one space available, and whilst there may have been other movements during the day, we haven't seen any other spaces come free. There has, however, been a constant stream of motorhomes coming and going. How many of them wanted to stay here we don't know; the big attraction is that there's a free service point here, and being parked right next to it, we've been aware of how popular it is**.

We've just had one walk today, to and along the beachside promenade, during which I failed to take any photos, so you can have these taken on Playa de Berenguer at 0730 this morning.

It was on our way back to Bertie at the end of that stroll that Mick asked what the name of this settlement is and I realised that I had no idea. It's only as I've come to type this blog post that I've looked up to see where we are. What I did know was that we're only one beach further along from Playa de Puçol where we spent a couple of nights in January 2020.

With the day being so sunny, the rest of it was spent staring at laptops, with Bertie's battery not caring one jot that we were sucking power from his solar panel.

(*I didn't pack a spare kitchen roll. This was a mistake, as: 1) it's a vital piece of equipment in the art of washing a full day's worth of dishes in less than a litre of water; and 2) Lidl in Spain only sells either four packs, or single giant rolls. We don't get through it that quickly and if we buy four rolls, then we need to find somewhere to store the other three, so we opted for the giant roll. The photo doesn't give the true sense of how huge it is. It's rather a blot on Bertie's good looks.
**Visually this Aire isn't anywhere near as nice as the wasteland upon which we've spent the last several nights, and its location isn't nearly as good either. We'll still stay here for the full 72hrs allowed and will enjoy the convenience of having a tap and a drain to hand whilst we're here.)

Saturday & Sunday - Canet d'en Berenguer

Where was Bertie? He broke our usual rules about how long it's reasonable to stay in one informal spot by spending another two nights at Canet d'en Berenguer.
Weather: Saturday: Sunny but cool. Sunday: overcast, some rain and not very warm.

My schedule had me doing a 35k run this weekend, and on Friday night I'd got my stuff together to do that on Saturday morning. By Saturday I'd thought better of it. The balancing act between doing enough, but not over-exerting myself when I've got a virus (Shingles) such that I make myself so poorly that I can't run the marathon.

A lazy start to the day was had instead until mid-morning when we headed out in search of a supermarket. Our drinking water supply was almost exhausted, and whilst public taps are common in Spain, Canet d'en Berenguer doesn't seem to have any. An 8l bottle for 85c, carried by Mick the 1km back to Bertie, plus a basketful of other groceries, would see us through.

We both went out for 15k-worth of exercise in the afternoon, but at different paces, with Mick still working out what run:walk ratio his Achilles can take. The promenades weren't quite as busy in the afternoon as they'd been in the morning, but eateries were heaving and there'd clearly been an influx of visitors for the weekend.

An overcast day and cool enough that I went out for a jogette wearing a long sleeved base layer and a wind shirt. Not the weather we came to Spain for - moreover when it started to rain about 40 minutes in. Fortunately for me, I was passing Bertie at the time, so I called it a day. Mick was rather further away and got a bit wetter.

The rain didn't last long, but the temperature alone was enough to make us take a rain-check on our intended lunch out (we didn't want to eat inside a busy restaurant, nor to shiver on an outside table).

The perfect day, one might think, as we were going to be indoors, to do lots of work on the laptops, except the very weather condition that made it so also meant we didn't have enough solar power to do that. We still got a reasonable amount done, but at the expense of keeping Bertie's battery topped up.

Really must make more of an effort to take some photos. Looking at my camera reel, the only snaps I have are of my shingles rash and Bertie's LPG tank gauges (we're going through LPG faster than ever, running the heating morning and night), and I don't think anyone needs to see either of them.

Friday, 27 January 2023

Friday 27 January - Canet d'en Berenguer

Where's Bertie? He's still on the wasteland at Canet d'en Berenguer.
Weather: wall-to-wall sunshine and warm enough for a t-shirt and light fleece.

The BBC weather forecast for this area is currently predicting nights of between -1 and 1 degree, which is colder than at home. The YR forecast (Norwegian, but like the BBC it offers forecasts for anywhere in the world) is giving overnight lows of 6 degrees. Based on my walk around the block just before sunrise this morning, YR is currently the forecast to trust.

After breakfast was a spell of looking at places we could stay over the next couple of weeks (found a really good looking place, before noticing that it wasn't on our route; hate it when that happens, which is far too frequently!), then we took ourselves off for a walk over to Puerto de Berenguer. In view of the nearest two fords being under water, as witnessed by both of us yesterday, we took the long way around by road.

Compared with Canet d'en Berenguer, the neighbouring settlement is positively bustling, with many eateries and other businesses open. It seems that people live on that side of the river, whereas on this side it's almost entirely holiday homes, which are closed up at this time of year.

With our memories suitably refreshed as to what the coast to the south of here looks like (I could picture a number of resorts I'd run through last year, but couldn't quite decide which was the one I was trying to remember), we were too lazy to return via the road bridge. Resigned to getting wet feet, to the ford we headed - and it was completely dry. I'd like to cite a silver lining to having walked the long way around on the outward leg, but I'm struggling to find one.

There's nowt else to report. The afternoon has been spent staring at laptops and now I find that teatime is upon us so I shall go and rummage in the fridge.

(A bit negligent not to have taken a single photo today. I'll try harder tomorrow.)

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Wednesday & Thursday 25-26 January - Canet d'en Berenguer

Where's Bertie? He's sitting on a piece of waste ground next to the car park in Canet d'en Berenguer where he spent the night of 5 March last year.
Weather: Yesterday mainly sunny, topping out at 15 degrees, today wall-to-wall sunshine, but a bit cooler.

Current kipping spot

To set expectations: we're not planning on doing anything interesting for the first three weeks of this 9-week trip. Our main aim for these weeks is just to be living somewhere warm and, aside from the usual daily chores, our time will largely be spent lounging, running and vetting routes for the TGO Challenge. During that time we're going to be repeating a section of coast that we've travelled along twice before (it was a close run thing as to whether we just based ourselves in one place for the entire period), so it's likely that few places that we go will be new to us. I will continue to witter away on blog posts for my own future benefit, but for any other readers, you may want to check back after 15 Feb!

Having said that, we nearly started yesterday with a visit to a castle! We were within 2 hours of reaching Sagunto on Tuesday when it suddenly occurred to me that we may have been there before. Thanks to the blog, within seconds I confirmed that we had, but only to visit Lidl, before coming out here to Canet d'en Berenguer. On first sight of the town, I immediately recognised it, thanks to the huge, sprawling castle remains atop a hill.

So, after a very quiet Tuesday night at the roadside in the abandoned development, we gave thought to visiting the castle, which is something I very much wanted to do. However, I also wanted to get out for a run late morning, and not knowing how busy the coast is with motorhomes this year, we wanted to arrive at our nightstop between 10 and 11am (the window for the maximum chance of finding a space).

A big shop at Lidl, and a 10-minute drive brought us here to find only a few motorhomes in the not-overly-large car park. However, the wasteground next door held quite a few more, and it was that gathering we decided to join, for the benefits of being flat and out in the open (solar gain for interior heat, plus solar power to charge the battery), versus a bit slopey and completely shaded in the car park.

We can't see the beach due to the sand dunes between us and it, but a one-minute walk gives this view.

There's still a sign at the entrance of the car park asking motorhomers not to use the local litter bins, but to use the big communal bins on the nearby roads, which we take to be permission for, or at least acceptance of, our presence here.

Other than a run along the seafront promenade, the rest of our day was occupied indoors.

Last year we ran to the adjacent town to the S. This year we can't do that without getting wet feet as the river currently has water in it and a ford is involved.

A gloriously peaceful night was had, with just the sound of waves hitting the beach, before today was largely spent staring at a laptop. We did both get out for a significant bit of exercise in the middle of the day, and another little strollette on the beach just before tea. (In the interests of heat acclimatisation, I'm breaking my habit of running first thing in the morning, instead waiting until the day has warmed up, but it just wasn't that warm out today, particularly with the cool breeze; by contrast we had it over 27 degrees in Bertie, thanks to the wall-to-wall sunshine).

The neighbour on our right is a Finnish ski instructor who has taken this winter off to enjoy warmer weather. His dog enjoyed Mick's attention.

Taken at Tuesday's roadside kipping spot, to show that the roads south weren't kind to Bertie's extierior. He is, by quite a margin, the filthiest motorhome we've seen (maybe ever!).

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Tuesday 24 January - Sagunto (Spain)

Where's Bertie? He's sitting on the roadside in an abandoned development in Sagunto (not far N of Valencia) on the E coast of Spain. Exact location: 39.68444, -0.26936.
Weather: Sometimes sunny, sometimes overcast (we drove a long way today!), cold until we hit the coast.

On Saturday morning, we woke up at home and here we are, 3.5 days later, on the coast of Spain. We knew we could do the journey that quickly, as we've used almost identical staging as we did when we fled home in March 2020, but, my goodness, it's a lot of driving.

We got a slightly earlier start this morning, before 9am, which was too early for the money collector, who had also failed to call last night. Having used not just a parking space (of which there must have been over a hundred free), but also the electricity and wifi, we couldn't abscond without making reasonable efforts to pay, and on this occasion we were successful. Or at least, we fashioned an envelope out of a sheet of paper, put the correct money into it, and put it through a letter box on the booth at the entrance, so hopefully it reaches the right people.

Toll roads saw us out of France and through the first few miles of Spain. There we found ourselves at a manned booth where, we realised as we pulled away, we got short changed. Hopefully it was an honest mistake, but you have to wonder. It's not a situation where you can just nip back to make a complaint, and it's unlikely that most people check their change, particularly when handed a fistful of coins.

Spain; we came here for the warmth and sunshine...

The toll roads west and south of Pamplona we avoided. The free road, running almost adjacent to the motorhway, is no further and only a tiny bit slower.

Just before Zaragoza a pause was had parked parallel to a service road, in between lorries, and next to a towering concrete wall. It wasn't the nicest lunch spot, but on the plus side, the service station had a convenience store where we were able to buy some still-warm bread, having not passed a supermarket or bakery all morning.

The next stop, only about 20 minutes later, would have made a slightly nicer lunch stop, but there we only paused for fuel* (160.6c/litre).

The kilometres duly passed by as we continued on, trying to stay entertained with a variety of podcasts, BBC Sounds downloads, and bits of a couple of audiobooks. I also spent a few minutes deciding where we were going to spend the night.

With 100km to go the temperature outside was still fluctuating between 0 and 3 degrees, but we were still up high, so we had faith that it would warm up as we approached the coast. Sure enough, as we pulled into Lidl's car park in Sagunto at 1715, it was 10 degrees. Not as warm as we'd like, but probably not unreasonable for the times of day and year.

Whilst I bought the three ingredients needed to cook tea (we'll do a big shop tomorrow), Mick checked out the most local options of where we could spend the night.

Both behind and opposite Lidl are the sorts of abandoned developments that one finds all over Spain: the roadways and pavements have been installed, together with streetlighting, with building plots lying between the grid-system roadway. Then the whole thing has been abandoned. They're not the most attractive places to stay, but tend to be quiet (and, as I've said many a time before, once the curtains are closed, the view outside is irrelevant). So, that's where we are. Given the time of day, I saw little point in going the last 5k to the coast-proper tonight; the chances of finding a good place to park there will be much higher in the morning.

(*Yes, we're buying fuel frequently. One day we may do something about the fact that Bertie's diesel tank leaks if we fill it more than three-quarters full, but having lived with it that way for three years, there's a good chance it won't be any time soon.)