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2018 - Spain - Feb / Mar
A new year, dismal weather in UK and it was time to head down to Spain for some sunshine!
Our destination was, where we have been before, Benicassim (see map above). We crossed from Portsmouth to Bilbao through a pretty rough Bay of Biscay. Not a comfortable cruise by any means!! We were delayed sailing due to an earlier medical evacuation on the preceding Spain to UK trip. An hour or so after leaving Portsmouth we became aware of a rescue helicopter hovering just off the port side of the ship. Oh no! not another medical evacuation - but all was well, it was simply a training exercise. We were travelling with our good friends, Keith and Frances Gander. It takes two days driving to Benicassim and so we intended to stop at our usual campsite, Camping Zaragoza. However, the delayed arrival in Bilbao forced us to an earlier stop at a campsite at Navarre, near Logrono. The weather was cold and there was snow on the ground. The Spanish scenery is not particularly interesting for most of the journey (see below).
It was lovely to arrive at Benicassim to warm sunshine and to meet up with old friends from previous visits. We have shown many photos of Benicassim in previous years so we will not repeat them here. One couple that we met up with again were Tom and Jan who live in France. Tom was an enthusiastic walker and cyclist and so he and George would disappear into the mountains behind Benicassim hiking and biking. (below) a view from the top of the mountains looking south east to Castellon - Benicassim is to the far left of the picture.
(click to enlarge photos) (right) view of Opresa, which is north of Benicassim during a cycle ride.
(right) we had a visit from our friends Christine and Dylan Durant. They are also motorhomers from the Worthing area.
Speaking of people from the Worthing area, our travelling companions, Keith and Frances, had some friends from Worthing area staying at a campsite further up the coast.
They were staying at Torre La Sal and the campsite sounded very attractive. We were becoming a little disillusioned with our regular site, Camping Azahar, as it was taken over by very noisy, Spanish people every weekend and the Spanish had caravans parked on permanent pitches which were scruffy and these two things spoilt the ambience of the site. At one time the Spanishquarters were a fairly small percentage of the site but this year it seemed to have expanded and we had decided that by next year it would be even worse. With this in mind, Tom and George cycled up to Torre La Sal and explored the various campsites. The decision was made that in 2019 we would not be going bck to Benicassim and Camping Azahar but would, instead, be reserving pitches at Torre La Sal 2 campsite. However, this decision was not so simple to put into practice. The site is very popular and usually fully booked. If you stopover for one month or more then you are entitled to the same pitch again, next year, unless you say that you do not wish to reserve it. With the height of our motorhome (3.4m) there were not many pitches that we would be able to get on to because of the height of the tree branches. Luck was with us and one suitable pitch was available for 2019. We booked it and paid a €100 deposit.
A day out coach tour had been organised to Valencia. We had been to the city before so we asked if we could be dropped off at the City of Arts and Sciences (an area just outside the city centre). The architecture of the new museums is spectacular. The ‘City’ is considered to be one of the twelve treasures of Spain.
The day that we visited it was raining but not to worry because we were there to see the museums. Our plan was to visit several but we ended up spending most of the day at the L’Oceanografic (Aquarium). It was simply amazing and we vowed to return another time to visit the other museums.
Another day out was organised by a smaller group, some with cars, to visit the town of Segunto which is south of Castellon and north of Valencia. The town was established in the 5th century when a fortification was built on top of an isolated hill. This was an interesting visit, although the old hilltop town has all but disappeared, the ruins give an amazing insight to a previous era.
(left) Old hilltop town gateway. (right) l-r Margaret, Jan, Bobby, Desnée, Tom. (bottom) a commanding view of the coastline looking south and east.
All too soon it was time to return to the UK and leave the sunshine, the warmth and the blue sea behind. Our return route was back via Bilbao. Our halfway stop this time was on an aire at Cascantes an hour nearer Bilbao than Zaragoza. We had stopped overnight in Cascantes before and had noticed an interesting looking junk yard on the outskirts of the town. We hoped that we would find it open this time but we were out of luck. All we could do was to peer through the railings at an unbelievable collection of items.
The steam, the diva and the pig. Pots and wheels. Old cars and vans, kitchen sinks, ploughs, etc. etc. We stood and gazed for at least 40 minutes! (right) Cascantes almond blossom. When we arrived at Bilbao, Keith and Frances, who had been following us, were nowhere to be seen. Apparently, after we had passed through the toll booths on the motorway, all the barriers had jammed - they had been stuck for quite sometime.
Then when the barriers eventually started operating, they had only travelled a few miles before a multiple car/motorcycle accident unfolded in front of them! Eventually, they arrived at the check in booth to be told that they had booked twice! Another delay of 25 minutes while all that was sorted out. At Bilbao you can park up on the quayside. overnight in preparation for taking the 10:30 sailing the next day. The check in opens from 4pm to 7pm the previous evening. We were surprised to see a hundred or more motorhomes and caravans parked up on the quay.