The Gallery is a free tool available to all members of Caravan Talk to let you upload and share your photos.
We have recently updated the Gallery tool to remove most upload restrictions and photo limits so we should now be able to add high quality pics of our favourite holidays and towcars without having to resize images etc. ..
To celebrate and help introduce the gallery to those unfamiliar with it, here's a quick guide on how to add your own albums and photos using the Gallery:
Guide to the Gallery pt 1
Start in the Gallery and hit the green upload button to begin the process of adding new photos.
Guide to the Gallery pt 2
If you've already created an album, click "Select Album", if you want to start a new one click "Create New Album". This guide assumes that you've chosen "Create New Album".
Guide to the Gallery pt 3
Now you can set the album information - it should be fairly self-explanatory - you can pick the Name, Description, sorting method and whether people can rate or comment on the photos.
Guide to the Gallery pt 4
Now you can upload images to the album. Select the "Choose File" button and browse to the picture's location and double click on the image. Then you can hit the "Upload" button to add the photo to your album.
Guide to the Gallery pt 5
Once you've uploaded your images they should be displayed like this. Select "Review & Publish" to continue.
Guide to the Gallery pt 6
Here you can name the images, add tags, a description and the copyright holder's name if appropriate. Hit the "Save" button at the bottom of the page to publish your album.
Guide to the Gallery pt 7
You've now published your album, so sit back, relax and let your friends become jealous of your cracking holiday snaps
Want to know more about a particular feature or know a good topic for the next guide? Leave a comment below. ..
Usually, I write about somewhere I’ve been, but here I'm going to write about someone I’ve met……… Or rather - I'm going to write about his hobby. It features friend, William – a guy I first met here several years ago, who with Yvonne, has been a regular visitor to El Pino for a lot of years.
Every morning William and Bentley - his dog, take a walk, down the road, along the beach and back up along the river. As they wander along the shoreline,
William picks up likely pebbles,
pockets them and takes them back to his van.
Using a masonry bit in a cordless drill, the stones are drilled, threaded on a wire and formed into figures.
Each figure William builds is created with a particular recipient in mind.
So last year, at their farewell party, Martin and Joanne, our longtime friends from Scotland, and a keen boules player were presented with a figure carrying his boules, and of course, dressed in tartan plaid and kilt.
During the party the inevitable question was asked………….. was he wearing anything under his kilt?
Another Martin who we nick-name Dutch-Martin hardly goes anywhere without his bike so this was his figure.
Another friend who is always going off to play tennis got this one
Ormond, our Norwegian friend is occupying his usual pitch across the road from me. Being from Norway he knows all about skiing. William made him his figure two years ago.
Since last year, a guitar-player has appeared in the shrubbery outside the site’s reception,
Take a closer look!
as has another figure sitting on the tree at the front of Les and Val’s bungalow.
My pebble-man, wearing the inevitable cap has been sitting in my dining room at home for the past three years.
One can’t help but wonder where next one of William’s trademark figures might appear?
Oh - and the question as to whether or not Martin’s Scotsman was dressed under his kilt? Well! See for yourself.
It’s two weeks since I arrived at El Pino and the weather has been pretty awful. In fact, it’s probably the worst autumn weather I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve stayed here. Yes! In previous years we’ve had rain that’s gone on for 36hours at a stretch. But then, it has stopped and the sun has returned again. Not so during the past fortnight. Just an odd dry day interspersed with day after day of thunderstorms and torrential rain, turning site roads into rivers and flooding some of the pitches. This was just one day.
https://www. youtube. com/watch?v=WezpqWkC1KE&feature=youtu. be
All of which was probably responsible for the rock fall which occurred last Tuesday along the coast road. A lump of rock - the engineers estimate the weight to be in the region of five tons, detached itself from the cliff face and rolled down into the road completely blocking it in both directions.
Before it could be moved, breakers had to be brought in to cut it into manageable pieces. The road will remain closed until the cliff face can be secured and the road surface repaired.
A section of about ½ mile is closed
And here is where the fall occurred
The road surface is damaged, the Armco barrier bent where the rock hit, then rolled back to the centre of the road.
The A7 motorway runs through the hills, about 2 miles inland, but the coast road carries a lot of local cars and buses. The gods were certainly smiling when they arranged the fall to coincide with a lull in the traffic.
Happily, the weather has changed for the better and we are able to get out again. I rode the bike along the coast road to see how repairs were progressing. They weren’t!
Hi, HELP, required. As you are probably aware I’m new to caravaning, started only last year, we have a Lunar Clubman SR, 2017 which is fitted with the Sargent EC500 psu, it also has a control panel above the door. We also have the Aldi hot water / heating system. I’m trying to establish what if any thing the PSU unit does? So I’ll try and explain my problems one at a time, first issue we are connected to the mains power supply, we also have gas connected, on the main EC500 control unit located under the seat it has four lights the first two = Reverse Polarity and Charging I understand, however the next two Space heater and Water Heater are a mystery, because it appears the Aldi system provides hot water and heating, 1st question. Does the Space Heater button and the Water Heater buttons need to be on at all if we are using gas to provide hot water and heating via the Aldi system? 2nd question if I turn these buttons off will it have an adverse affect on the vans electrical systems, 3rd question, if they’re left on do they use power from the mains and 4th and final question at this point is “if the Aldi system provides hot water and heating from gas and electricity why have the EC500 fitted?. YOUR HELP WITH THIS MATTER WOULD BE SINCERELY APPRECIATED
Another decent day at Olvera so I drove into the town. Olvera is built on the side of a hill with the church and castle crowning the peak. Being of Arab origin, the streets are narrow and steep. Certainly no place to try and park a car, so I parked on the perimeter and walked up towards the church. What a steep hill! The final 50 yards was not only steep, but was stepped as well. Finally I reached the small plaza where the church is on one side with another steep track leading to the castle on the other. For a small town, the church is remarkably ornate with many richly gilded memorial chapels erected along the aisles.
I looked across at the castle standing on even higher ground and decided I’d had enough climbing for one day, so after resting in the shade, I made my way back to the car and drove out of town to find the Vía Verde de la Sierra.
Back in the 1960’s work started on a new seventy-five mile railway line which was planned to connect Jerez with Almargen. Embankments and cuttings were created, tunnels were bored and lined, stations were built – but for some reason, the tracks were never laid. The project was abandoned and the track-way became overgrown. Only in recent years has a twenty-four mile section of the route been rescued and turned into a track for walking, cycling and horse riding. I unloaded my bike and cycled through the tunnel and along the track for a few miles. It passes through some beautiful scenery.
Tomorrow is moving day
Changes to my itinerary brought about by so many rainy days has meant that I will be arriving at El Pino six days earlier than what I’d planned but friend, Jim (CT’s Wigandiver) assures me that my pitch will be available. So having missed out on Merida and Carmona, there’s only105 miles to do to reach Torrox.
With a ten o'clock departure from Olvera, I reached El Pino around mid-day and was welcomed by Silvia, a long-time receptionist at the site.
Having got the caravan on to the pitch, I set about positioning it as I like it. Not an easy task and maybe even impossible without a mover because of the trees. With water and electricity connected, I broke off for some lunch and a snooze. The afternoon just whizzed by, chatting to friends old and new, but then, I’d already decided to do nothing more until tomorrow.
When I was packing the car before leaving home, I made the mistake of laying the awning bag, the groundsheet and mats with the poles on the floor of the car before piling the travel crates on top. Consequently I had the car to unload before I could reach the awning. I got cracking by 9am. Shortly after, Jim and two of his mates arrived and we had the awning erected in no time. After lunch, I took it easy, installing my kitchen range at one end of the awning. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll get gear sorted and put where I want it.
El Pino is a large, sloping site on seven levels where slopes have been bulldozed into level areas, although not every area is available to tourists. Four levels have been equipped with toilet and shower blocks. Every pitch is within fairly easy reach of a mains power box where a 10amp supply is connected via a continental adapter. Drinking water is available at the toilet blocks, plus at a few extra stand-pipes. Roads within the site are well surfaced although some of them are steep. Main gates are locked from mid-night until 8am with a security watchman posted in reception. A small shop is available close to reception which is open 9-7 throughout the year. Above the shop is an open-air patio for the site’s bar-restaurant, which is normally open throughout the year. (Having said that, at the moment it’s closed – undergoing a change of management)
Part of the site is devoted to permanent chalets which are privately owned. Many of them are British owners who were once caravanners here. In another section are some more basic chalets which are site-owned available for short letting periods, although in the winter months they are rentable by the month. Again, some of the people using them, I first met when they were caravanners here.
There is a free wifi connection which has a strong signal at my pitch. I understand it’s not so reliable further away from reception
Within two hundred yards of the site are three bars, two of which are restaurants as well. There’s also another small shop selling bread and essentials. Larger supermarkets are about a mile away close to the sea-front. The area is well-catered for with an Aldi; a Lidl; a Mercadona; a 10%Dia and a Supersol.
To see this blog with several more pictures go to https://jondogoescaravanning. com/spain-nov-2018-feb-2019/
Hey! Don’t let the rain ruin your camping trip. Wet weather doesn’t have to spell the end of a journey if you’re well-prepared. Below you’ll find few useful tips and gadgets for camping in the rain.
Have you ever camped in the rain? We have. What is more, it seems like there’s something in us what makes that rain is always where we are . ..
Read more on our blog: Camping in The Rain. Best Tips and Gadgets
The weather was determined to make my departure from El Escorial as unpleasant as possible. My plan was to drive 90 miles to Talavera, but to detour slightly and visit the archaeological park at Carranque where there’s the site of a Roman Villa and mill. Then later I wanted to visit the site of the Battle of Talavera which was the Duke of Wellington’s first major victory of the Peninsular War. Followers of Bernard Cornwell’s fictional character, Richard Sharpe, will remember it was at Talavera where Sharpe captured the French Eagle. But with more rain forecast, and the fact that the windscreen wiper blades were thrashing to and fro, my plans were out of the window. Therefore, instead of heading off along the A5, I continued around the M50 and took the familiar A4. I thought perhaps by heading more easterly, I might get away from the rain. But I was wrong. I arrived at Camping Santa Elena, and I took the rain with me.
Camping Santa Elena is a useful stop-over site because it’s very close to the motorway. I’ve stopped there several times and a review of the site can be found in some previous years blogs. This time, I hadn’t unhitched, so getting ready to leave was quicker than usual. I followed the A4 all the way to Cordoba and beyond then took a cross-country route for 50 miles to arrive at Olvera – having taken the rain with me. Camping Pueblo Blanco at Olvera is a large site situated on a hill, about a couple of miles from the town, which stands on another hill across a valley. Roads within the site are well surfaced and lit during darkness, as is the approach from the main road. Every pitch has been levelled and each pitch has a capped grey water drain. Water taps and electric bollards are within easy reach of each pitch. Shower and toilet blocks are clean and well maintained. ACSI cards are accepted out of season with a night’s fee being €17. Wifi connection is available but at an extra cost.
Once I’d got settled, I texted forum-friend, Jim who was already at El Pino. As I’m likely to arrive there earlier than planned, I wanted to know if my usual pitch was empty! Apparently, they too were having a rainy day.
This is more like it! ……………A clear sky, at last, bringing the promise of a good day.
This is the 08. 30 view from my pitch across the valley towards Olvera.
With breakfast done, I packed some lunch and a beer and set off towards Ronda. Several times in the past, I’ve stood on the New Bridge at Ronda looking out over the landscape far down below me and thought how it must look from down there looking back at the cliff top. Using Google Earth and GPS Coordinates I planned to try it. After much searching I found the back lane in Ronda that I needed to get down there. Very quickly I was off the smooth tarmac and on to uneven cobbles. The road twisted and turned down the cliff side. I would have given up and turned around but that was out of the question as there was nowhere to turn. Finally, I reached the bottom; then parked to get my picture.
When I saw a couple of tour company’s people wagons getting ready for the journey back to the top, I took the opportunity to keep in convoy with him. Back in the town, I was lucky to find a parking place close to the town gate.
When the Romans came to Iberia they built two towns in this area. One they called Arunda and its near neighbour was Acinipo. Acinipo was much the more important. Its trading influence grew so much that it was authorized to mint its own currency. It also had a theatre which would seat around 2000 people. But with the gradual retreat of the Romans, the two towns declined. Acinipo virtually disappeared whereas Arunda continued to flourish. Then along came the Moors and rebuilt Ronda surrounding it with a protective wall, making the place their own, complete with public bathhouses.
Later I walked to the New Bridge – which isn’t new because it was built in the 18th Century but there’s also an old bridge which was built in Roman times.
From Ronda, I drove down across the valley then up onto the next escarpment where the once flourishing Roman town stood. This is Acinipo. The area is full of heaps of building stone with the remains of the theatre standing high up on the skyline.
The seating has been cut into the limestone rock. Three archaeologists were busy in different areas around the theatre. I returned to Pueblo Blanca via the cross country roads.
Sunday had all the promise of a good day, so I packed up lunch and set off along the A384 towards Antequera. After 30 miles, Tomtom directed me to turn left and go across country. The traffic-free road took in some beautiful scenery. After several miles, I could see the lagoon which was the purpose of my visit. It’s known as Fuente de Piedra and is home to a range of water-fowl including vast numbers of flamingoes. As I drove along the flat landscape I couldn’t help but notice the large expanses of flood water standing on the fields. Before long I went round a bend and ahead of me was a flooded road with three abandoned vehicles standing with water reaching the door sills. A tractor was in the process of removing them. I had no alternative but to reverse a considerable distance and try to find another way – with Tomtom throwing a wobbly – until I switched it off. After several miles of following signs for Antequera, I reached the Seville/Granada motorway and before long I saw an exit for Fuente de Piedra. The carpark and visitors centre is just beyond the town. At the visitor centre, there are several rooms telling the history of the lagoon, then another describing the water-fowl which may be seen. Unfortunately, there is no English language version. Binoculars may be hired at the centre.
Two circular walks are laid out with observation ‘hides’. Sadly, I am unable to walk very far these days so I regret to say that the only flamingo I saw was the model in the visitors’ centre. And probably the birds prefer to congregate as far away from humans as they can.
After lunch, I set off back to the site, but before I got too far along the road, I detoured and followed the signs for the Moorish village of Teba.
During August in1330, King Alfonso of Castilla was busy trying to dislodge the Moors from the castle in Teba. At the same time Sir James Douglas, commonly known as Black Douglas was crossing Spain on a crusade. His task was to carry a jewelled casket containing the heart of his recently dead King, Robert the Bruce and deposit it in the church in Jerusalem. Not being a man to miss out on a fight, Douglas offered his assistance to Alfonso. Together, the two armies defeated the Moors, but in the thick of battle, Douglas lost his life. A commemorative stone in one of the plazas has been raised in his memory.
I was ready to leave Fuentes Blancas by 9 am and being Sunday, the roads were quiet. Very soon I’d reached the start of the A1 which is a toll-free, two-lane motorway which goes all the way to Madrid. You won’t find service areas on the road but there are many filling stations, some with large parking areas alongside them. However, most are entered from a service road, and some of them are long. One of my favourite stops is at KM150. And another, just before the Madrid ring roads at KM27. At both, service roads are short; pumps are caravan-friendly and there’s a large carpark for meal breaks behind the shop.
A few weeks ago, when I was researching my present route with the aid of Google Maps, it gave me three choices for the journey from Burgos to El Escorial. One was via Segovia using the toll motorway, the second, a longer route via Madrid and a third – the shortest, using a 30-mile section of local road from KM50 on the A1, across to the A6. Looking at Street View, the road seemed fine for towing.
So when I reached the foot of Puerto de Somosierra, I disregarded Tomtom’s instruction to head for Segovia, and instead, continued on to the top of the pass. After several attempts to have me turn round, the device reset its self for a new route. But from the new ETA details, I realized it had chosen the long route via Madrid. It didn’t seem to want to consider the local road. Was I about to make a mistake? The exit came up…………... and I decided to take it. The road was as I had seen on Street View. An undulating road through the mountains, with some beautiful scenery. Yes – there were a couple of small towns to go through with a few speed bumps, and one of them where the whole population seemed to have turned out to attend a Sunday street market. Eventually, I met up with the AP6, but the short distance I had to travel meant that I left it before reaching the toll-booth. Ten minutes later, I was checking in at Camping El Escorial.
It was just around lunch-time when I arrived on a lovely Sunday afternoon. The place was heaving with Spanish weekenders. I drove around the lanes of pitches with not a vacant pitch visible anywhere. Eventually, I realized I had got into the area for semi-permanent caravans. A few minutes later, I found the ‘parcelas’ where there were lots of spaces. I pitched close to a water tap and within a reasonable distance of the toilet block. With water and electric connected, I took a walk around. The activity and noise, mainly from young teenagers were horrendous. It was back to the caravan to put the kettle on.
As if by magic, two hours later the place was as quiet as a tomb. Some caravans had towed off, but many had just been locked up and left. Now, as I look around, this part of the site looks busy, but nearly all of the vans are deserted. And as the crowds departed, so the rain began. It continued throughout the night.
Monday morning - and the rain was still hammering on the van roof. According to Meteo, it would continue all day. And they were right! But with the Royal Palace and the Valley of the Fallen being closed on Mondays, it was no great hardship. So the high point of the day was a visit to the local Mercadona.
Tuesday started as a dull, dismal day and so it continued throughout except for just a few periods of broken cloud. If I were to visit the Valley of the Fallen, it would have to be today because more rain is forecast for tomorrow. The complex is situated within a huge pine forest only five or six miles away from the site, but high up in the Guadarrama mountains.
It was built between 1940 and 1958 and is a monument intended to commemorate all those who died of both sides during the Spanish Civil War. About 40,000 soldiers are buried here. However, because Franco was the one who ordered its construction, and because he has his tomb close to the high altar in the Basilica, the complex is inevitably associated with the Dictator’s regime. Then there is controversy regarding the labour used in its building. Some say it was built by the forced labour of prisoners of war. Others say the work was carried by criminals on parole who were working to reduce their sentence. Suffice to say that it became such a political hot-potato that in the late 2000’s, the place was closed to the public. Even now, security is tight with outer-clothing and pocket contents having to go through an X-ray scanner.
From several miles away the huge cross is visible. It stands on top of a cliff, approximately 4500 feet above sea level. The cross itself is nearly 500 feet high and the arms have a span of 154 feet. Around its base are four colossal sculptures of the four evangelists.
Down below on the Esplanade is the entrance to the Basilica which has been cut deep into the mountain – and it’s huge.
Unfortunately, the authorities have chosen to ban photography – although I did manage to sneak one shot.
There is a funicular which carries visitors up to the cliff top alongside the cross but today, it was closed. The view from the top must be superb.
My next stop was at the Royal Palace of San Lorenzo. It was King Philip II who ordered the palace to be built in 1557 to commemorate the Spanish victory over the French at the Battle of St. Quentin.
His idea was that the complex would serve as a burial place for his parents and himself. In fact, many of the Spanish monarchs are buried here.
I was here some years ago so for today I settled for a view from the outside and a walk through the gardens.
By late evening, the rain was back again, and the weather forecasts make a depressing view. Talavera and Merida, my next planned stops look awful for the next three or four days. Maybe it’s time for some replanning.
To be continued.
To see this blog with several more pictures go to https://jondogoescaravanning. com/spain-nov-2018-feb-2019/
To reach Burgos from the port at Bilbao, one needs to take the A8, then the AP68, then finally turning to the AP1. The road is a dual-carriageway toll motorway with several service stations along its route. Drivers take a ticket shortly after the start of the motorway and payment is made by cash or card at the exit. The final peage is situated just before the exit for the Burgos campsite. For the 100 mile tow, the toll charge was €21. 50
Fuentes Blancas at Burgos is a popular site used mainly as an overnight stop-over on longer journeys. But there are sufficient places of interest around to warrant a stay for two or three days. At the site, the pitches are laid out on either side of three parallel roads through the camp. Close to reception are the caravans and bungalows which are semi-permanent. Further through the site are pitches for tourers and motorvans. Open air sink units are situated every 100 yards or so but in the winter, the water is turned off because of freezing. Similarly with the electric bollards. They are placed every 50 yards. The electrical connections are of the two-pin continental type, which are showing their age. During the winter months, two of the four toilet blocks are open – one is heated, one is not. Both are clean and functioning with hot water in sinks and showers. From past experience, I know the pitches tend to become water-logged during periods of heavy rain. As it was raining when I arrived, I reversed the caravan on to the pitch ensuring that my front drive wheels stayed on the roadway before unhitching.
The site has a good internet connection which is free to log on to. Login details are available at reception. The ASCI discount card is also accepted.
By Thursday evening the rain was back again and continued through the night and into the next morning. But by lunchtime, it had stopped and the sky was clearing so I got into the car and headed off to Burgos. On the road leading to Fuentes Blancas, there’s a turning which is signposted “Monastery of our Lady of Miraflores”. I decided to explore, so I turned off and drove to the top of the hill. The gatehouse was open with a few visitors coming and going. I joined them. The building is home to monks of the Carthusian Order, and this monastery was founded in 1442 by King Juan II of Castille & Leon. Carthusian monks wear an oatmeal coloured habit and hood. But none of them was to be seen, because they live a life of silence and solitude, with each monk living in his own cell. The first service of the day begins at midnight, followed by eight others throughout the day. Carthusian monks are only allowed two visits per year by members of their immediate family. The French members of the Order are the producers of the cocktail ingredient, Green Chartreuse.
Once through the gatehouse, there is a small area with cloisters on two sides. On the third side is the church with the coats of arms of King Juan and Castille over the arched doorway.
Like all religious houses in Spain, this one is highly ornate with gold leaf decoration everywhere.
However, it is to the wood that my eye is always drawn. Here there is wood carving in abundance.
Two banks of choir stalls are arranged down either side of the chancel. They are all intricately carved from walnut and were completed in the 1550’s. In a side chapel, three sides of the room are taken up with massive chests of drawers containing vestments and altar frontals.
These too were constructed in the 16thC using walnut.
Saturday looked to be a promising day so I packed some lunch and set off back towards Santander, but by the old N-623 road. On a forum recently – maybe the C&CC – someone asked about towing on this road. Well yes! it’s possible, but there are several hilly, multiple S-bends on the route, so why would anyone want to when the toll-free A67 is just 15 or so miles to the west. However, I was on it because I wanted to visit the medieval village of Orbaneja del Castillo. The village was built during the Moorish occupation of Spain and the thing that makes it unique is that it’s built into the side of the Ebro Gorge. In the cliff, towering above the village is a cave from which spring water flows. The water runs into a culvert through the village, then cascades down the cliff face before reaching the river in the bottom of the gorge. .
On the way back to Burgos I detoured slightly to stop in the village of Vivar. It was in this village where the Spanish hero, El Cid was born. At the centre of the village is a rather neglected memorial to him.
Time to move on tomorrow.
To be continued. ........ To see this blog with several more pictures go to https://jondogoescaravanning. com/spain-nov-2018-feb-2019/
It’s the end of October and time to head south again for the winter. This will be the twenty-fifth winter when I’ve spent some of the months caravanning in Spain. Our early visits were comparatively short: the first one being only four weeks. But gradually, they have lengthened, so that now, I stay for the maximum time my insurance will allow - 122 days. Over the years, we’ve stayed at several popular areas from Alicante on the Costa Blanca round to Albufeira on the Algarve, but our favourite has always been the Costa del Sol. So it will be to El Pino at Torrox where I’ll be going after a slow meander through Central Spain. In the early 1990’s we flew to Malaga and stayed in an apart-hotel so that we could explore the possibilities for caravanning. It was during that stay that we discovered the site at Torrox. However, we didn’t stay there during our first years because the lack of a decent road made it very inaccessible. By the end of the ‘90s, as the area began to be developed, the approach road was somewhat improved. Now that I caravan on my own, I look forward to arriving at El Pino where I know I will meet lots of friends from previous years.
The ferry I’m booked on this year is the Baie de Seine; it’s what Brittany Ferries use for their “Economie” Service. The ship is smaller than the two cruise ferries, so the facilities on board is not as great However, cabins are comparable on both services. Bunks and en-suite bathrooms are the same. The only difference is that one has carpet on the cabin floor whilst the other has wood laminate. The Economie ferry has a self-service dining room with a limited range of meals, whilst at least one of the cruise ferries has a waiter-service dining room.
For me, one of the plus points of the smaller ferry is that unloading is done in much less time. Being parked in the ‘wrong’ position on the big ships can mean a wait of up to an hour between doors opening and driving off. The second plus point of the “Economie” sailing is that for my sailing dates there is an approximate saving of around £60 each way.
All the crossings from Portsmouth to Northern Spain take between 30 and 36 hours. For the first time traveller, both departure time and arrival time should be carefully considered. A convenient departure time will not necessarily be followed by a convenient arrival time. For instance leaving Portsmouth at 17. 30 means arriving in Spain in the evening by which time, in winter, it will be already dark. On the other hand, a departure from Portsmouth at 22. 30hrs gives a very early arrival at 07. 00hrs, with a good day of travelling time ahead of you.
On Tuesday morning the departure time from Portsmouth was 08. 45hrs and whilst I could have managed by leaving home at around 5am, there’s always the chance of early morning fog, and I do like to have time in hand for contingencies, so I left the evening before and spent the night on the dockside. When I arrived at the port, there were six other towed caravans and motor vans already there, so I parked where the marshal indicated. Having ascertained that I wouldn’t be required to move before morning, I wound down the legs, settled down for dinner followed by an evening of DVD’s in the caravan.
Tuesday morning started early with check-in opening at 05. 45. Having been there over-night, I was one of the first through. I was immediately met by Border Control. Maybe because it was the start of their shift, the lady assigned to my outfit was conscientiousness personified. After many questions regarding my car and its contents, she then asked for access to the interior of the van. This was followed by an examination of the underside of both car and caravan with mirror and torch. Finally I was allowed to proceed to the loading lines. From being almost first to check-in, I became almost last to board, and found myself with some other tourers down below the water line on deck 4 among the solo trailers and HGVs. My cabin was on Deck 8 and in an ideal position for both restaurant and reception. In fact, it was so close to reception that I was able to get on the internet in the cabin.
The crossing was made in good weather with only a mild swell as we crossed Biscay.
The ferry docked on time and within twenty minutes I was heading towards passport control and the exit. Border Control took a quick look at my passport and I was soon out on the road leading up to the A8.
For several years, when arriving at Bilbao I’ve wanted to stop to see the Hanging Bridge which is built close to where P&O used to berth their “Pride of Bilbao”. I’d already researched on Google Earth a likely stopping place for the car and caravan, so with coordinates entered, I headed for the spot and unloaded the bike. I cycled around the harbour for a couple of miles and arrived at the mouth of the river where the Vizcaya Bridge was built to connect the two sides. The builder, who was a student of Gustave Eiffel was given the brief to build a bridge that wouldn’t disrupt the river traffic, but would also not need long ramps to gain height. He came up with a design for a hanging bridge.
The bridge was built in 1893 and is made of iron. It uses twisted steel cables with a gondola hanging below which can carry six to eight cars and maybe a hundred foot passengers, The crossing takes less than two minutes. I would loved to have made a crossing on it as a foot passenger, but already the first few drops of rain were starting so I headed back to the car.
By the time I’d reached the A8, the rain was really hammering down. It was time for a review of my plans. Instead of heading west towards the Pico de Europa, I turned for the A68 and set off for Burgos – just over 100 miles away. It rained all the way.
A topic often mentioned on forums is about how to keep the caravan fridge cold on the ferry. My method is to turn on the caravan fridge the day before the travel date. At the same time put items in your home freezer. I put three 1ltr cartons of orange drink and I already had two fruit loaf cakes prepared a week ago. In addition I prepared a large chicken casserole and doled it out into meal -sized cartons. On the afternoon of departure, all the frozen stuff was taken from the freezer and packed into the caravan fridge, together with packets of ham and cheese, plus other necessary items. For my night on the dockside, the fridge was operated on gas. By not opening the fridge door too often, by the time I arrived in Burgos, my chicken casserole was still frozen and only required several minutes in the microwave.
The rain petered out during the night and the morning was giving a promise of a lovely day.
I was already beginning to regret my change of itinerary. But what’s done is done! For the present, the most important thing was to get to the local Mercadona and stock up on some essential items – most urgently some rolls for lunch. The store was only 6 or 7 minutes away by car, so it was to there I headed. Even from some distance away I could see the car park was empty. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw the shuttered entrance. It was closed. It was a Bank Holiday!
I continued on into town and Tomtom directed me to an underground car park close to the Cathedral. Having parked, I crossed the road and onto the bridge which leads up to the Arco de Santa Maria – the most impressive of the dozen gates which in the 12C were built into the wall surrounding the city.
Through the gate, is a plaza in which the Cathedral is built.
Work started in 1221 on the orders of King Fernando of Castilla. It’s built in the form of three naves surrounded by 19 chapels. To one side is what is reputed to be the finest Gothic cloister in Spain, decorated with sculptures from the 14th Century.
At the centre of the Cathedral is the tomb of Rodrigo Díaz – better known as El Cid. He has become a Spanish folk hero; especially in this part of Spain because he was born only a few miles down the road at the village of Vivar. Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar was born around the year 1040 into a family of the Spanish nobility.
He became an important general-administrator fighting against the Moors but when his King died, he was caught up in a Royal family squabble and was exiled. He worked as a mercenary-general fighting for other leaders, both Moor and Christian. It was the Moors who gave him his tittle - ‘El Cid’. Later in life he captured the City of Valencia, ruling it himself until his death in 1099. After leaving the cathedral I went to see his statue in one of the town’s squares.
Later I walked through shopping streets hoping to find a bakery open, but there was nothing. I returned to Fuentes Blancas for a very late lunch. Thank heaven for some baking potatoes in the car together and a tin of beans. Mercadona will have to wait till tomorrow.
To be continued……………...You can see this blog with several more pictures here:- https://jondogoescaravanning. com/spain-nov-2018-feb-2019/
We love this time of the year when the fall foliage colors emphasize the beauty of the nature. There are many scenic outdoor destinations in Europe which you should discover especially during the autumn months. Below you’ll find our TOP 3 – Best Fall Destinations in Europe for outdoor adventurers in 2018.
Read more on our blog:
Best Fall Destinations in Europe
Hey, there! We’re just getting ready for a Balkan road trip, that inspired us to write about the best road trip apps.
Before we get to the apps, I just want to mention that we didn’t use to spend a lot of time on our phones during the travels. We always try to enjoy every moment of the trip, taking a break from the phone and being online.
We’ve chosen only the best apps, which are going to help you make the most of that travel adventure.
Read more on our blog:
4 Best Road Trip Apps
Friday was departure day for our annual holiday my two girls, grandson and I spend together. . This year, they rented a ‘cottage’ in Devon. The ‘cottage’ turned out to be a three bedroom, two bathrooms house overbooking the bay at Bigbury-on-Sea on the south Devon coast. And just up the road, in the next village there was a Club CL that had space for my van.
All of my long journeys invariably begin with a drive along on the M25 in one direction or the other so I left home at six in the morning to avoid the worst of the traffic. By 08. 45 I’d reached Stonehenge so I pulled into their car park for a coffee break and rest. Because I’m a member of English Heritage I took advantage of the free admission and travelled on the coach to visit the stone circle. Within the hour I was on my way and didn’t stop again until I reached the site.
My pitch was at Chapelcombe Farm in St. Ann's Chapel. It’s a working farm concentrating mainly on sheep. Their licence must be for more than a Club CL because my pitch was number seven with No. 8 and No. 9 going along into the corner of the field.
Each pitch has it’s own water supply, dustbin and electric supply point. Toilets and showers are provided in one of the out-buildings of the farm although the showers are charged for on a meter. Some of the pitches are on manicured lawn whilst mine and four others are on gravel. Presumably the gravelled pitches are the CL. From all the pitches there are extensive views across the countryside to the hills of Dartmoor in the distance. Site fee is £14. 50 per pitch per night. In my view, for a site by the sea in August, it is excellent value.– even more so for the family of five on the next pitch,
But the local roads!…………… They are a nightmare for driving. Especially towing to the site from the A38 trunk road. Most of the roads are narrow, high hedged single lanes, with passing places every 300 yards or so. My advice to anyone visiting the area is to ignore your sat-nav, research a route using maps and Google Earth and write it down.
On Saturday my daughters and grandson arrived and they quickly settled in to their ‘new home’. In the evening they called for me at the site and we went along to the Pickwick Inn for dinner. The Inn is situated at the cross-roads in the village and is only a short walk from the site. The Pickwick Inn is a Grade 2 listed building because although the frontage was built in the 19th century, the rear of the pub includes what was once a 15th century chapel and part of a 17th century house.
For our first day out we drove to Torcross then on to Dartmouth. I decided to try the short cut and fortunately the tide was out. By taking the Tidal Road one saves a detour of four to five miles. The road runs alongside the river but as the tide comes in, parts of the road goes under the water. We very soon arrived at Torcross, the village at one end of Slapton Sands. In December of 1943 the village was evacuated and the whole area was given over to the American Army as a battle training ground in preparation for the Normandy landings. In the car park is an American Sherman tank which was dragged from below the surface of the Bay.
It has been erected as a memorial to 940 American soldiers who lost their lives during a disastrous pre- D-day training exercise during one night in April of 1944.
After a lunch and a couple of hours on the beach, we continued on our journey to Dartmouth where I was able to park quite close to the Castle. Dartmouth Castle came into being during the 1380’s when it was thought that the town was likely to be attacked by the French. During Henry VIII’s reign, because of his break with the Church of Rome and because all the countries of Europe were threatening war against England, the Castle was enlarged and given artillery towers and an iron chain which could be stretched across the estuary to a tower on the far bank.
During the Napoleonic wars the Castle was again further strengthened.
The Castle is now in the care of English Heritage.
We had a birthday to celebrate during the morning so we spent the time in the conservatory until lunch time. During the afternoon we walked across the sands to Burgh Island.
The Island is around 400 yards from the mainland with about 700 yards of sandy beach between the two water lines. At high tide the water is up to seven feet deep on the causeway. The tide changes rapidly and should you find yourself marooned because of the rising water, you can always pay to have the sea-tractor ferry you across to the main-land.
On the Island is a 13thCentury Inn – The Pilchard so named because in the 1800’s fishermen caught vast numbers of pilchards around the Island, stored them in barrels of salt and sent them to market. After several years the pilchard stocks diminished so that now, pilchards are rarely seen in these waters.
The other building on the Island is the Hotel. In the late 1920’s the Island was bought by Archibald Nettlefold, a film producer and the then owner of Walton Film Studios. He built a grand hotel in the latest ‘30’s style with palm court and sumptuous suites. Among his frequent guests were the likes of Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson. The hotel is open to dinner guests starting at £75 per person however, dinner is included in an over-night stay. Each suite can be had for £750 per night.
Today we set off down the A38 for a few miles before turning off towards Dartmoor to visit the estate on which there is the Canonteign Falls. The estate used to belong to Viscount and Lady Exmouth and in 1890 after the closure of the estate’s silver mines, the redundant miners were set to work building a man-made waterfall with leats to power various water driven machines on the estate. The waterfalls are the highest man-made falls in England, measuring 70metres high.
I persevered through the woods and upwards to the base of the falls, but then a long arduous climb continued via ninety uneven steps which takes you on a circuitous climb round the top of the falls and back down on a different route. I settled for the walk to the base of the falls, leaving daughters and grandson to do the climb and circular walk. .
We decided on another beach trip today. This time to the National Trust beach and car park at South Milton. Fortunately we arrived early enough to secure one of the remaining parking places. Others who arrived later queued on the road for a space. Others set off on the long trek back to find another beach. After lunch the family took a walk along the cliff coastal path whilst I took a nap. The view inland from the car park was as equally beautiful as that looking out to sea. In the evening we drove to the next village where we found another lovely little pub to have dinner.
On Friday I programmed the Tomtom with the coordinates for a car park at Salcombe. We set off down the hill to the Tidal Road only to find that the water was still too deep to allow us to cross without damage to the car.
We waited for fifteen minutes or so as we watched the water line recede. Finally I drove through three inches of water for a hundred yards or so. Thirty minutes later we arrived at the car park where we found it ¾ full. It filled rapidly quite quickly after our arrival. With very little of the beach being exposed, the girls and Sam set out to have a walk. I was quite content to sit on the sea wall doing some people watching. But not for long. Within minutes a helicopter flew into the bay where it hovered above our heads and then began to descend, filling our eyes with blown sand. The machine settled on the grass alongside the car park where the rotor finally stopped and doctor and paramedics jumped out and ran across to the restaurant and beach shops.
After twenty minutes or so an ambulance also arrived and after quite some time, a youngish chap was stretchered out and with heart monitor balanced across his middle he was loaded into the ambulance. After a further delay the medical team returned to their helicopter, standing around finishing their huge ice cream cornets before boarding and taking off, leaving us to hang onto our hats and shielding our eyes from the violent down draught.
Later in the evening we adjourned to the Pickwick Inn for a final meal before preparing for the journey home the next day.
As I drove home towards Stonehenge, I decided to do a small detour. The British Army has had a presence on Salisbury Plain for more than 120 years but after World War-1 the War Office began buying up huge tracts of land so becoming the landlord to many farmers. The ground they purchased also included Imber, an ancient, isolated village with a 13th Century church set in the centre of the Plain. So all the villagers became tenants of the War Office. In 1943 villagers and farmers all received letters telling them that within 43 days, they must leave their properties. . The date by which everyone had to be gone was just one week before Christmas. No one other than military personnel has been allowed into that part of the Plain for many years, hence it’s the only area in the Country without post codes. But recently without any public announcement, the Ministry of Defence has allowed access to the village church for one week during August. I was curious to see what had become of the remote village.
The church was built in the 13th Century and stands on an earlier building from the previous century.
At one time it was rich in fittings and furnishings however most have been removed and scattered among other churches in Wiltshire. The building is now just a shell however the army has kept it in a reasonable state of repair with the bell tower still functioning. Because of some 13th and 15th Century wall paintings which are still faintly visible on the walls, in 2005 the church was given a Grade 1 listing and its care and preservation was handed to The Churches Conservation Trust.
As for the rest of the village, most of the once thatch-roofed cottages have been pulled down and replaced with groups of skeleton houses built without windows and doors and roofed with pressed steel roofs. Likewise the former manor house has had its windows and doors boarded up. A third floor built into what was once a dormered roof has also gone, to be replaced by a factory-like steel roof . The ‘village’ is now used by special forces as a training ground for simulated house to house combat.
This blog may be seen with many more pictures at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/another-summer-in-devon-august-2018/
A full week with nothing in the diary so why not take the caravan down to Kent for a few days. My first choice was Black Horse Farm at Folkestone but it was fully booked for some of the nights I wanted so instead I looked at Daleacres on Romney Marsh. They had pitches available so I booked. I was quite looking forward to seeing the place again. The last time we went there as a family, taking our Siamese cat with us was in 1970. I have memories of our cat taking himself off for a prowl along the hedgerows and proudly returning with a freshly caught vole.
For my first drive out from the site I drove twenty miles along the coast to visit Samphire Hoe Nature Reserve, just outside Dover. The entrance is from the dual carriageway – the side which leaves Dover and heads towards Folkestone. Entry is down a one-way, traffic-light controlled tunnel cut through the cliff. The road comes out onto what used to be the narrow beach at the foot of the cliffs.
If you are into DIY you’ve probably at some time been faced with getting rid of unwanted soil. If it’s just a bucket full, you may have sneaked it into the dustbin or if it was a bit more, taken it to the rubbish tip. The last little bit of block paving I laid to extend my drive, produced two cubic meters of earth – enough to fill a small skip. But what if you’ve got FIVE MILLION cubic metres of the stuff to get rid of. What do you do with that? ……... You build a nature reserve.
Back in the early 1980’s when the Channel Tunnel was being planned, there were lots of suggestions as to how the spoil from the tunnel boring could be got rid of. The winning solution was to create Samphire Hoe. They began by sinking two rows of sheet piles out into the sea from the base of the cliff. After they’d gone straight out to sea for a ¼ of a mile, they made a 90 degree turn and continued putting in the piles parallel with the cliff for a mile. The piling then made a 45 degree turn towards the cliff, finally enclosing the area at the base of the cliff. The three metre wide space between the piles was then filled with mass concrete. In all, the area covered around 75 acres. Once it was pumped dry, it was into this space that the builders of the tunnel dumped the chalk.
And why the name, Samphire? In Victorian times fishermen who lived along the beach in wooden huts also collected Samphire, a type of sea vegetable. It was stored in barrels of sea water and sent up to London on the newly built railway to supply the Victorian catering trade.
After a walk through the reserve, I drove to the White Cliffs National Trust car park. Walking along the top of the cliffs you get a bird’s eye view of the activity in the Port of Dover.
On the way back to Daleacres I visited the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial which is built on what used to be a World War-2 airfield situated on the high ground to the west of Dover. The memorial is laid out in the form of a giant propeller with a sculpture of a young airman dressed ready and waiting for the the next order for take off.
A semi-circle of panels bearing the names of all the young people who gave their lives during that short period forms a backdrop. To one side of the complex are two WW2 aircraft. A Spitfire and a Hurricane.
On my second day I drove towards Canterbury to visit Howletts Wild Animal Park. I left early, wanting to get most of my visit done before it became too hot. I arrived just as it was opening at 9. 30.
The Park began as a private zoo in 1957 on a large country estate owned by the gambler, John Aspinall. During the 1950s gambling was illegal except for when it took place on race courses - and on postal football pools. Aspinall bent the law by hosting private gaming parties for members of the aristocracy where fabulous amounts of money were lost during the course of an evening. Aspinall’s hobby was keeping exotic pets. Amongst his collection he kept baby lion cubs and monkeys. In 1974 he became involved in the disappearance of one of his gambling friends, Lord Lucan. Lucan was facing charges of murder for killing his children’s nanny, mistaking her in the dark for his wife. Before he could be brought before the court, he disappeared, and so escaped justice. It was believed but not proved that Aspinall had helped in his disappearance.
The zoo is now run by the Aspinal Foundation on the Howletts country estate with the mansion being at the centre. The animal enclosures are laid out on either side of a circular route around the estate. To visit every enclosure involves a great amount of walking, however I was only able to manage a comparatively short distance before retracing my steps back to the entrance. Some form of transport would definitely be an asset.
Saturday the 14th of October 1066……. …That was the day Harold, fresh from his victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, met his adversary, Duke William of Normandy. The two armies were evenly matched however, the forced march from Yorkshire, left Harold at a disadvantage. A close-combat battle had continued for most of the day, but by nightfall, Harold was dead and the English army was in disarray.
William lost no time in building castles, giving grants of land to his knights, and savagely dealing with any resistance. By Christmas, he had himself crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
History has it that the Pope ordered William to do penance for killing so many people during his conquest of England so in response, he ordered the building of an Abbey on the site of his first battle on English soil.
So on Wednesday my first stop on my tour was to visit the site of the battle and see the remains of the once great Abbey.
Building began in 1070 but the great church was not finished until 1094, by which time William was dead. The church was designed so that it’s high altar was positioned on the spot where Harold supposedly met his death. The Abbey continued to flourish right up to 1538 when Henry the Eighth ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry took the treasure but the Abbey and much of its lands was given to his friend and Master of the Horse, Sir Anthony Browne, who demolished the church and parts of the cloisters and turned the abbot's quarters into a country house.
Later in the day I stopped off in Rye, one of the Cinque Ports. In medieval times the town was a flourishing sea port but because of the silting up of the river, it now stands several miles from the sea. I wanted to walk up Mermaid Street where the ancient Mermaid Inn is situated.
The building declares that it was built in 1420. I also came here for the first time in 1958 when the river frontage had been converted to look like the French town for the film “Dunkirk” with John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee was being made.
From Rye I made my way across to Dungeness, a desolate shingle promontory said to be one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe. It continues to build up year on year so that in all, the area has had seven different lighthouses. The two modern power stations dominate the landscape but I headed off to the train station where the train had just ended its journey across the marsh.
The miniature train is built in a 1/3rd size from normal. It was the brain child of two model engineers who first started with one train running on a much shorter length of track. Now a service runs from Hythe to Dungeness.
I ended my day with a look at the beach at Littlestones.
Very little has changed from when we used to come here on caravanning weekends in the 1970’s. Close by is one of the Martello Towers.
These were built during the period when Napoleon was threatening invasion. Originally, all along the coastline from the Wash round to Hastings, 103 towers were built. The design (and name) was said to be copied from a circular fort on Mortella Point in Corsica.
My first stop today was less than a mile from Daleacres. I wanted to take a stroll along the Royal Military Canal. Following the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte had a vision of a united Europe under French rule. His eyes turned towards England as his first target. He supposedly said, “All my thoughts are directed towards England. I want only for a favourable wind to plant the Imperial Eagle on the Tower of London.” The British government were alarmed and were particularly worried about the flat Romney Marsh as a landing for invasion. Plans were quickly drawn up to build a circular canal running from Hythe in the east to Rye in the west – a distance of 19 miles. It would be 20yards wide and 3. 5 yards deep and all dug by hand with shovel and wheel barrow. However before it was completed Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar gave Napoleon other things to think about. Now the Canal remains a lovely place to walk and to see some beautiful scenery and wild-life.
Later in the morning I drove into Dover and went to visit the Castle. I was here two years ago but only saw a small part of what’s there. After a quick look again at the Keep and the Roman Lighthouse,
I headed for the Secret Wartime Tunnels. The first tunnels under Dover Castle were dug in the Middle Ages. Then again more were dug during the Napoleonic Wars as a barracks to accommodate up to 2000 troops. In May 1940, as France was over-run by the German advance, the tunnels became the nerve centre for 'Operation Dynamo' which was the code name for the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk's beaches. Admiral Ramsay was in charge of operations and his efforts are commemorated in a statue of him standing on the cliff tops.
In the Second World War there was also a hospital in the tunnels complete with operating theatre. The main military telephone exchange was installed in the tunnels in 1941. It linked Dover to the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air ministry and to fighter airfields. As one stands on the deck of a P&O ferry approaching Dover harbour, it’s hard to imagine all the huge rooms and tunnels, plus all the activity that went on inside the cliffs and under the Castle.
Next day we had rain. The first wet day for weeks – but it was also the day for my return home.
To see this account with many more pictures go to my website here
Fitting a new window regulator isn’t a caravan job – unless you happen to be a motor-caravanner. Most door windows these days are operated by the flick of a switch. They’re great – until suddenly they don’t work. Whatever the make of car, they nearly all have the same type of mechanism. See the picture below. ................. The wires rust where they go around the pulleys. ...... Eventually, a wire snaps.
One afternoon at the end of February, just before I was due to return home from Spain, I drove out of the site. I did what many other Brit drivers do. I dropped the passenger window, pushed my phone ‘selfie’ stick through the opening and waved it in front of the barrier control box. Because my electronic opener was fixed in the selfie stick the barrier opened and I drove through. Then I closed the window. But it didn’t work! All I got was graunchy noises from the window motor and no movement of the glass. Instead of going out, I returned to my plot to see what could be done. I quickly realized the electric motor wasn’t going to close the window. By pulling and pushing, I managed to raise the glass to its closed position, but it was just as easy to push down again. With black plastic tape and rubber wedges I got it to look reasonably secure. A local garage quoted me 600 Euros to fix but not until the following week. I would be on my way home by then. It would have to stay as it was.
I got a replacement regulator delivered shortly after getting home but cold, wet weather persuaded me to stay indoors Then for eight weeks a surgical procedure put my left hand out of use, so only now have I got around to doing the job.
This is how to put it right. First to remove are the plastic trims around door pulls and arm rest. They can be gently prized off with a small screwdriver, but take care – they are fragile. Beneath the trims are the screws which hold the arm rest on. Next to remove is the inner door card, held by ten or so plastic fittings which push into drilled holes. The plastic fasteners inevitably snap as the card is levered off, so it’s as well to order replacements. Usually the supplier of the regulator offers plastic fasteners of the correct type for your car. Fixed to the inside of the door, under the door lining is a damp barrier which has to be taken off. If you use a suitable knife to cut the adhesive the sheet can be reused. Inside the door there are several electric connectors for the lift motor, the door mirror, the window switch, foot-well lighting, the central locking and radio speaker. All need to be disconnected. At this point it’s as well to remove the speaker. Mine was held in with pop-rivets which I drilled out. It’s sometimes suggested that the window glass should be removed from the door completely but I lifted mine by hand to it’s top position, then secured it with duct tape. But before doing that, the two screws holding the lift sliders to the glass should be taken out. The regulator rails and motor are held by six screws. They need to be removed and the guide rails and motor manoeuvred out of the door cavity. The lift motor is bolted to one arm of the regulator. Three screws are removed and the motor comes away from the regulator. Broken lengths of wire and springs may have fallen to the bottom of the door cavity. They too should be removed.
Whilst doing this job it’s advisable to wear nitrile or latex gloves. Not only is the regulator very greasy but the edges of the inner door are unbelievably sharp.
The motor spindle is fitted into the new winding drum and the holding bolts tightened. If not already done, coat the wires with as much grease as is possible, then manoeuvre the unit into the door and loosely replace the four torx screws. Temporarily reconnect the motor wiring so that the lift motor can be parked in a suitable position so as to allow the glass to be attached to carriers. When they are in such a position, the glass can be slowly slid down and the window secured to the sliders. With the screws tightened and the motor reconnected, the window should be closed and the two top regulator screws tightened. Leaving them loose allows the rails to adjust to a suitable position. Now open the window fully and tighten the bottom two screws. Check that the lift mechanism is working correctly. If it closes, then re-opens, the ecu needs to be reprogrammed. On my car it’s simply done by holding the switch in the closed position for ten seconds. All the electrical connections can be remade and it’s as well to test each function before proceeding further. If everything is correct, the membrane can be replaced and the door card refitted.
Since it was a first time for this job it took me two leisurely mornings – (by 11. 30 the sun had got around and it was too hot to carry on) The Spanish garage wanted to charge me €600. Maybe they quoted for a new motor. I don’t know what an English garage would have charged, but total cost to me was 40 quid so I was well pleased with the outcome.
The new regulator fitted inside the door cavity.
The plastic membrane replaced prior to refitting the door card
Avondale fitted two G4 halogen lights under the overhead cupboards to light up the sink unit area and cooker. They gave a good light but they ran very hot which was possibly one of the reasons that the bulbs didn’t last very long. And they used a considerable amount of battery power compared with more modern lights. It was maybe time to replace them with LEDs. Browsing ebay I found sets of four lights. I chose these:- https://www. ebay. co. uk/itm/4-X-LED-12-VOLT-SURFACE-LIGHT-CARAVAN-BOAT-MOTORHOME-BRUSHED-CHROME-WARM-WHITE/121789332702?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872. m2749. l2649
I thought that when I replaced the two G4s with the LEDs, I would add two extra ones above the window. The whole job was easily done in a morning. Unlike the G4 lights which require new bulbs from time to time, these LEDs are not replaceable but since they have a supposedly 20,000 hour life, it’s expected that they will last for a good few years. Each light also consumes only 1. 8 watts against the G4’s 10watts each. They are available in warm white or cool white. My preference is for the warm – the cool light appears very clinical.
First I disconnected the old lights. They were connected with two male/female spade connectors which are housed under a plastic cover fitted inside the cupboard. With the old light disconnected, the fitting came away by removing three screws. The bezel for the new light was fixed first with the two screws provided. The new wires passed through the bezel, through the existing hole and into the cupboard. For the two additional lights a hole was drilled in the cupboard side through which the wires would go along the shelf above the window. Again, the bezels were fixed first with the LEDs snapping into them. The wires were threaded through the hole and the three pairs of wire were grouped into negatives and positives. A male spade connector was crimped onto each group of three wires. It is essential that the polarity of each light is correct since if positive and negative are reversed, the light won’t work.
I made up a small length of matching pelmet to fix to the shelf. This enabled the new wires to be attached to the back of the pelmet, so hiding them.
To read a more detailed account of the job with more pictures go to section 17 of https://jondogoescaravanning. com/modifications-additions-to-my-rialto/
Whilst I was away in Spain I noticed that the rubber boot on my tow hitch was beginning to swell and tear. It was time to replace it before dirt got in to contaminate the grease.
The disintegrating boot.
The method for changing is the same for both Winterhoff and Alko stabilizers. Also these notes and pictures may be of help to anyone wishing to change their hitch from Alko to Winterhoff or vice versa. I began by removing the A-frame cover which was held in place by four self-tapper screws. Both Winterhoff and Alko hitches are attached to the drawbar by two 12mm bolts. Both bolts have got to be removed. However, before removing the rear-most bolt, the one in my picture marked with a red dot,
a piece of 12mm rod needs to be tapped into the hole to hold the end of the hydraulic damper in position. The rod needs to be slightly shorter than the diameter of the draw bar – which on most Alko caravan chassis is 50mm.
The holding bar knocks out the bolt.
Should you remove the bolt without fitting a holding bar, the damper will relax and move away from it’s fixing position.
The drawbar with the bar filling the hole.
With the bolts removed and the rod holding the damper in position, the hitch can be lifted off the drawbar, allowing the old boot to be removed. Whilst the hitch was on the work bench I took the opportunity to clean up the two pads with some fine wet&dry paper
The upside down hitch showing the rear pad.
I hitched it onto the car’s tow ball to check that there was no movement. On the Winterhoff hitch there is a pin which moves along a scale to show when new pads are required.
The hitch fitted to the car’s towball.
When fitting the new rubber boot, it first needs to be stretched over the plastic insert in the housing on the A-frame which is shown in picture No 4. With the new boot fitted, the stabilizer can be bolted back onto the drawbar, replacing the front bolt first. Being careful not to damage the thread, the rear bolt is used to drift out the holding bar. With some new self-locking nuts tightened to 90Nm, the job was finished.
Full blog at https://brianyoungphotos. weebly. com/caravan-blog
Posts so far:
7: At last I have made the effort
6: Off to Suffolk coast
5: New tug: BMW X5
4: Good start to 2017
3: Waste water pipes
2: So who is Oscar?
1: To start, a caravanning blast from the past
It started about lunchtime with myself working in my S-I-L's workshop polishing motorbike body work when the cry of FIRE was heard. Now, at this time of the year the Almeria province issues bonfire permits providing the fire is started before 2pm. Recently a neighbour's fire had set the nextdoor's house on fire, burnt to the ground and he was jailed. We are in Tabernas, the driest place in Europe, home of film studios for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and many other spaghetti westerns.
Fire here is to be feared and rightly so. Within 2 minutes 7 of us ex-pats were in a neighbours garden with buckets taking water from the swimming pool to try to put out a fire in the neighbours edge of the property. The Spaniard had started a bonfire and then driven into town as there was no wind. What an idiot!
The fire spread along 60m of the property border and we just made it in time and managed to put it out and dowse everything down.
Returning to our house we decided on a BBQ so went off to the local supermarket DIA to get burgers and assorted buns and rolls. We then had a super BBQ on a fire pit made on my SIL's plasma cutter finished off with roasted marsh mallows for the grandchildren.
Then we all got in the jacuzzi, my first time!
Self, OH, daughter and three grandsons. We enjoyed it whilst drinking red wine and Gasiosa (lemonade) having started with sherry. Not a gin and tonic in sight! The sun set, the moon was 3/4 full, we saw the Space Station go over and stayed in the water till 10 pm with just the fairy lights for company. Then back to bed.
All this in March and the weekend was sunny but very cold but suddenly today was hot and Andalucia has gone from late winter to early summer in 2 days. The temperature today was hotter than any summers day in Cumbria. We have been coming here to see the family 2 to 3 times a year for 11 years now. But any later than April or earlier than October and it's too hot for us.
P.S. The jacuzzi cost €800 but is worth over €2,000. It had a fault so my SIL (who can fix anything, nearly) took the risk and we fitted a new temperature sensor got off eBay for £2. You have to be lucky sometimes!
Opinions are polarized over the question of whether or not one should use the caravan’s onboard shower. My choice has always been to use it. Therefore I was horrified when during the past winter spent in Spain I saw what looked like a crack developing across the corner of my shower tray. Upon closer inspection there was more than just the one. But maybe it’s not surprising. It is after all eighteen years old and plastics do seem to become brittle with age. Also it gets a lot of use – approximately 150 days per year.
Without removing the tray there’s no knowing how deep the cracks penetrate. And if the old tray has to come out, it makes sense to replace it with a new one. Should the cracks go all the way through then the floor is going to become damp and eventually lead to rot. After so many years an identical replacement was impossible to find however, a suitable tray was found at https://www. grasshopperleisure. co. uk/ Although it was going to need some modification.
Before I started removing the shower tray, I unscrewed the bifold door. Only when I had it removed and outside, did I realize how coated with lime scale it had become. I set to with vinegar and a paint brush. Eventually it came up looking like new.
With the six screws removed from the corner unit, the moulding pulled away from the wall, exposing the water pipes behind it. To remove the tap unit completely the water pipes needed disconnecting. Next I unscrewed the eight screw caps and screws holding in the shower tray. With the screws and the drain outlet removed I expected the shower tray to lift out, but not a chance. It was firmly glued to the floor with 6mm x12mm strips of adhesive pads along each moulded channel. It would yield to nothing less than a garden spade thrust under the tray. Of course, the tray came out in pieces - shattering along the cracks I noticed several weeks ago. . Finally all was removed and I was relieved to see the wood floor was quite dry and sound.
With the new tray temporarily in place, I could see at once that the drain hole in the floor would need re cutting. Also the new tray was smaller than the previous one. There were gaps all around it – 15mm down each side and around 40mm along the back. . Leaving the tray in place, I marked out the position of the new outlet. Then I began cutting the holes for the new drain – 90mm diameter on the top sheet of the floor and 40mm through the bottom sheet.
The old tray had been attached to the floor with 12mmx6mm sticky, spongy strips which also reinforced the fan of ridges across the tray. I used silicone sealant to overfill the grooves on the new tray so that the cured sealant would support the ridges, and at the same time the excess would squeeze over the floor and when cured will hold the tray in place. Some bags of sand on the tray held it down whilst it cured.
Next day some thin but flexible plastic angle was glued between the top surfaces of the shower tray and the walls around the cubicle. Later, when it was dry, lengths of upvc window trims were selected from a variety of stock widths. Each piece was measured and mitred then attached with white sanitary silicone to the angle which was laid down yesterday. Because the new shower tray was considerably deeper than the original, the corner unit needed to be raised. Because of that, the water pipes had to be lengthened by about three inches. The bifold door also wouldn’t fit in its original position so that also needed to be raised. With a bead of silicone run down the inside of the door frame and around the tap unit, the job was finished.
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” ― Randy Komisar
We found that we were becoming very averse to this kind of risk , so we gave up work and accidentally bought a caravan, Kismet and four cavapoos; Kai, Rosie, Ruby and Lani.
Then, we rented out the house, sold most of our possessions on eBay and began to travel full-time with The Fab Four. In the summer, we tour in caravan Kismet. In the winter, we rent a small ski apartment.
Our purpose is to experience a different life. We are not millionaires; we made choices about what’s important to us and live within modest means. However, we feel rich beyond measure because we have time; time to do more of what we love.
What we love is water, woodland and wilderness; our passions are windsurfing, skiing, cycling and, well, just wandering where the fancy takes us!
My blog is about all of this; how we escaped; how we travel with four dogs; the fun and frolics involved in being first-time caravanners and quite simply, the wonders of the world!
They say that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. If you want to know how it happened for us, see my very first post World Wide Walkies – The First Step https://worldwidewalkies. blog/2017/07/04/first-blog-post/
Picture - Kismet, pitched just feet from the Adriatic on the Island of Krk, Croatia
For advice on touring with dogs, saving money, giving up work early or to follow our travels around Europe, check out my site at http://www. worldwidewalkies. blog/
It had to happen. Leaving day had almost arrived. It was time to prepare to head homeward. I’d planned to set off on Friday, doing a leisurely four day drive north. In the forecast the weather looked good all the way through Spain, although with some very cold nights.
I decided packing up would be best done on Wednesday. I made a half past eight start by cleaning and dismantling the awning kitchen unit. I’ve got a microwave oven and an electric oven with a two burner hotplate on top of it, all sitting on a table with an extension top. Once the ovens were cleaned, they were put on the floor in the bathroom giving me access to them on the journey. Then the two PIR halogen strip lights which clip to the awning roof bars were taken down and packed in the car. By 9. 30, friend William had arrived with step ladder, long brush and bucket. He then set to cleaning the awning roof of three months worth of bird droppings. Next to arrive was Jim, closely followed by Paul. I am so grateful to these guys, both those three who helped me pack up, and Martin who helped me with the awning away back in November. By 11. 30 we were finished so we broke open the beers with me being very relieved that all the gear had been packed away in the dry.
I left El Pino at around 9. 15 on Friday morning and within 10 minutes I’d reached the A7 motorway, heading eastward towards Motril. The journey now (except for the approach roads to my overnight stops) would be entirely on dual carriageway all the way to Bilbao – and nearly all of it would be toll-free. After I’d driven 100 miles and was on the A44, at KM70 (or there abouts), I pulled into a Repsol filling station, cafeteria with large parking area to take a coffee break. Within 15 minutes I was on the road again and I didn’t stop until I’d completed 170 miles which brought me to Santa Elena. When I saw the Osborne bull, I knew I wanted the next exit.
I booked in at Camping Despenaperros which is situated at the far end of the village in Calle Infanta Elena. The site entrance has a double arched entry which with long outfits needs some care in entering. Pitches are level and all under trees without any boundary markers.
Each pitch has an adjacent electric point, water tap and drain connection although some of the electric sockets require attention. Electricity is switched on at reception so if the supply is accidentally tripped, you maybe be in trouble since reconnection requires a visit during office hours. The toilet block is centrally placed on the site and all the facilities are modern and in a clean condition. However, whilst toilet rolls are provided, none of the pans are fitted with seats. Free Wifi is available over most of the site. With my ACSI card I was charged €17 per night.
For the past four years the motorway has been carried over the gorge on a viaduct and to join the motorway requires a drive through the village to the junction however, I turned right and drove down through the gorge to the next junction. During the journey I’d been debating with myself whether to make my next night stop south of Madrid at Aranjuez or north at La Cabrera. I finally decided to get north of the City so I took a coffee break at the filling station at KM98 on the A4 after driving for 100 miles. I also took on some fuel – but not too much. I didn’t notice the price until I’d started to fill. A whopping €1. 20 per litre. That particular stop has easy access from the motorway and a good parking area. My rest over, and I headed towards Madrid. There are three ring motorways around the city. The M30, the M40 and the M50. The M50 takes the widest detour and adds about 10 miles however it carries the least traffic, so I turned on to it at junction 17. It joins the A1 at Junction 21. At KM57 I took the slip road and five minutes later I was checking in at Camping du Miel. My ACSI card was accepted with a payment of €19 for the night. Most of the site is taken up with mobile homes and bungalows however, at the edge of the site there’s an area devoted to tourist pitches. A water tap and electric bollard are shared by four pitches although being winter, the water was turned off. The toilet block is close by which has modern facilities, is clean and also heated. Washing up sinks are outside where there’s hot and cold water. With the pitch taps being turned off, there was nowhere to fill an Aquaroll. .
At 8. 30 I went out to an ice covered car with the outside temperature down to -7c however with the engine running, the windows quickly cleared. Within twenty miles I’d reached the foot of Somosierra, the pass through the Sierra de Guadarrama. It rises about a thousand feet over a distance of four miles however it’s a well-engineered three lane motorway without any serious bends. Today’s drive was just 120 miles so it was just on lunch time as I arrived at Camping Fuentes Blancas at Burgos. I presented my ACSI card but when the receptionist realized I was on my own she told me to put it away as the site fee for a single person was cheaper. I paid €17. 60 so presumably the ACSI fee would have been €19. Pitches are on level ground which is inclined to become boggy in wet weather. In some previous years when I’ve stopped there the pitches have been so water-logged that I’ve parked on the roadways. There are several ranges of washing up sinks dotted around the site however, the water is turned off during the winter months. Water is available at the two toilet blocks but again there’s no tap where an Aquaroll may be filled.
Another Osborne bull.
The last stage of my journey was the 110 miles down to Bilbao ferry port. I didn’t leave until just before 12 mid-day because my plan was to spend the night on the dockside. Arrival and check-in was scheduled between 4pm and 7pm but when I arrived at 3pm several outfits were already waiting. Check-in began at 3. 15. Very soon I presented my booking number and passport and I was issued with my boarding slip and cabin key.
When I took a walk around the parking lanes at 7 in the evening there were 45 outfits overnighting on the dockside. The night was quiet and I slept well. But where were the blue skies that had been with me for the past four days. They were gone – only to be replaced by heavy black clouds. Maybe the forecast for snow in northern Spain by Wednesday was going to be correct. The ferry arrived at around 7. 30 and loading began at 9. 30. The ship was fifteen minutes or so late in leaving but we had a reasonably smooth crossing. We docked at 9am; unloading took for ages, as did Border Control but by 10. 15 I was on the motorway and home just 90 minutes later. Just a pity about the snow!
As I’ve done in previous years, for the benefit of would be travellers, here’s a break down of my expenses for the four months.
Ferry fare Outward £363
Total ferry fare which included friends discount £709
Fuel for outward & inward journey 240Ltrs £236
Toll charges Bilbao to Zaragoza 32Euros
Cartagena to Almeria 8 Euros
Burgos to Bilbao 21. 50 Euros Total £54
Site fees for 14 nights outward journey €200
Site fees for 3 months + 1 week €996
Site fees for 3 night homeward journey €46
Total site fees €1242 Approx conversion £1092
Red Pennant for 120 days £295
Time is running out! Not too many days left now. But it looked as though another beautiful day was on the cards which I thought would be good to take advantage of before I’ve got to start heading homeward bound, so with lunch packed into my cool-box, I headed up into the hills beyond the white village of Frigiliana. My aim was to take another look at the remote hamlet of El Acebuchal. Even now it doesn’t have a surfaced approach road. A dirt road wends it way around the hill sides for four miles or so before descending into a valley where there’s a collection of houses.
The place came into being during the 17th Century since it sits alongside one of the ancient mule routes between Granada and the coast. Life would have been hard for the inhabitants but it became even more difficult when they were caught between Franco’s Guardia Civil and the guerrillas who had taken to the mountains at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The Franco authorities suspected that the villagers were supporting the rebels by providing them with food and refuge. Some of the villagers were summarily executed; others were imprisoned, and eventually, those remaining were ordered to leave their homes together with their live-stock. The roofs of the houses were pulled down so that they became uninhabitable. And the village became known as the “Pueblo el Fantasmas” – the village of ghosts. And so it remained for the next half century.
Then twenty years ago a descendant of one of the original families decided to try to rebuild his grand-parents old house.
Those premises are now the village’s bar and restaurant which has built up quite a reputation. The church has been rebuilt and it had its inaugural service in 2007.
Several other houses have been renovated and occupied, whilst others are still derelict. In fact 36 houses are now habitable – many of them as holiday lets however, besides being no metalled road, there’s also no telephone land-line, no mobile reception, no shops or ATMs.
This one took the quick way down!
To read this blog with several more photographs see my blog at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/
There’s no doubt about it, and most of the visitors here in southern Spain agrees, that this has been the coldest winter we have experienced. That’s not to say that it has been wet, because it hasn’t. You only need to see the shockingly low levels in the reservoirs to appreciate that, but many nights have been much colder and some days have been decidedly chilly. Of course that’s speaking relatively. When I say some nights have been cold I’m talking 5C and a chilly day is when the temperature doesn’t get much above14C. Probably in a few weeks time when I’m home, 14 degrees will seem quite barmy.
But yesterday, when the Australian guy told me 21 degrees was forecast for the afternoon, I had a sudden urge to pack some lunch and a beer into the cool box and go out for the day. This would be my first day out since that distastrous fall off my bike four weeks ago. I set off along the motorway to Velez Malaga where I turned inland and headed up to Lake Viñuela. I resisted the urge to stop at my favourite lay-by over-looking the Lake and instead, headed over into the next valley where I took the road up to Alcaucin. The village is located in the foot hills of the Sierra de Tejeda mountains and from the road climbing up to the village, there are some stunning views. Looking across the valley is the U-shaped pass known as the Boquete de Zafarraya.
It was here just a few years ago that in one of the caves high up above the pass, the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton was uncovered. A twisting, steep road leads through the pass to the village of Zafarraya which is built on a plateau on the far side of the mountain range. The road was once an important trade route between Granada and the coast. So much so, that the Moors built a castle and town over looking the road.
Closer to my view point were the first signs of Spring with the almond blossom beginning to bloom.
The olive harvest was also just getting underway with huge sheets being spread beneath the trees.
Labourers then use long handled rakes to pull down the olives before being gathered up and packed into sacks.
At the village the road ends so with no through traffic, it has an unspoilt, traditional charm. Car parking is at both ends of the village. Walking through the narrow streets, the first object of interest is the restored Moorish fountain, La Fuente de los Cinco Caños, with its five spouts providing fresh spring water.
Whatever the time of year, the fountains never cease to run. There’s a traditional story that if an unmarried person drinks from the centre spout, that person will marry someone from the village within the year. But there’s no need to rush! I tried it three years ago and it didn’t work!
From the fountain I walked through the narrow streets up to the tiny Plaza where there’s the town hall and the 16th Century church. What a shame all these beautiful photo opportunities have to be spoilt by the parking of cars. The best shot I could find was the bell tower peeping over the orange trees.
There can’t be many towns and villages in Spain without its share of abandoned building projects. Sadly the outskirts of this beautiful village is blighted by hundred of half built apartment blocks and houses. These ones have been derelict for more than 10 years.
Whatever will become of them?
To read this blog with several more photographs see my blog at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/