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Winter Sun Pt 11 – Calpe to Zaragoza (via Valencia)

Winter Sun Pt 11 – Calpe to Zaragoza (via Valencia)

Tuesday 10th Pt 2

We set off from Calpe, quite relieved that we were leaving, but only because of the caterpillar situation. It was only a short hop up the coast to our next destination, just South of Valencia. It was 11:30 as we drove out of the site.

Gabby Garmin had one of her little moments when she tried to send us down a cart track, but we arrived unscathed at about 1.30. We had driven through a very dramatic gorge but by the time we got near Valencia, the mountains had receded and we were on a very flat plain.

Devesa Gardens, where we spent two nights, is on the edge of L’Albufera de Valencia – another lagoon, although this time fresh water. As we were driving in, we saw more egrets in one place than ever before. The area is supposed to be teeming with wildlife.

The Albufera in the morning mist

Check in was swift, with good English spoken and we were soon all set up. Paul worked while I got on with the domestics. We had only been on the road for 5 days but there was a good load of washing to do. Excellent laundry facilities, with and ironing board AND iron (which I managed to avoid) and a washing line on every pitch – what a great idea!

The handy washing lines

Paul eventually finished work just before 6 and we leapt on our bikes and went out for a ride to the nearest village – El Perellonet – where we let the boys off on the beach and they had a great run around. We were just losing daylight as we returned and everything was bathed in a lovely rosy glow.

EL Perellonet beach
Rosy van
The vivid sunset

Wednesday 11th March

I had hoped we would be able to visit Valencia today, but Paul was up against it work-wise so I pottered and read most of the day.

When he finally shut his PC down we went out on the bikes to explore a path that Paul had found on his morning walk. A lot of money had clearly been spent on it, with concrete paths leading through a sort of heathland bordered by swampy kind of land.

There was a sign regarding the wildlife that might be encountered and one of the listed species was the tortoise. I would have loved to have seen one “au naturel” but sadly it was not to be.

We took a path that we thought would lead to the sea and sure enough it did. There was a board walk through sand dunes leading to an absolutely beautiful and deserted beach. I imagine it is heaving in summer – although there is no road access. As ever, the boys had a great game of chase and tried to eat all the dead washed-up stuff, the little monkeys! I am very glad we taught them to leave anything we don’t want them to eat! It was pretty difficult though! They kept sneaking back!

El Saler beach – deserted

As the light was fading, we cycled back the way we had come and passed a swampy bit, where the frogs were starting their evening chorus. I loved it. We arrived back at the site, showered (fixed head – tsk) and settled down for our final evening there.

The frog pond

Quick Review of Devesa Gardens

This is a large family orientated site with pool and other sporting facilities, including stabling for your horse. As with many Spanish sites, it is something of a car park, but the pitches are spacious and level and have water, hook-up and drainage. It has recently changed hands and the new owners have invested in upgrading the facilities. There is an on-site supermarket, bar, cafe and restaurant (although not really open at this time of year). The showers etc are good although they are of the hated fixed head type, but not push button. The laundry facilities are excellent with coin-op washer and dryer. They also had more of those clever Spanish hand-washing sinks, but this time ceramic. Very nice.

Thursday 12th March

We had a longer drive ahead of us today and so we set an alarm. Paul got up and walked the boys while I went and showered and then we ate and got cracking, packing up all the bits and pieces. We have got it off to a fine art now as we are doing it so often. We did discover that one of the feral cats on site had been using our Grey Waste Container as a temporary bed but we didn’t begrudge her that.

Driving through Valencia

Today, we drove through Valencia on, I suppose, the equivalent of the South Circular – but it was deserted – unlike the South Circular! One thing we have very definitely noticed is that there is very little litter in Spain. You do wonder what visitors to the UK think about our terrible littering habit. Very embarrassing.

We sadly turned our back on the Mediterranean, and headed inland – destination Zaragoza. The route we took was along the Autovia del Mudéjar. We noticed that all the bridges across the road were decorated with a kind of star of a very particular style. I’d seen it before but was curious to know more.

The Mudéjar star

It seems that the Mudéjar were a group of Muslims who stayed in Spain after it had been re-conquered. Their architectural style is unique to them and very Moorish-looking (for want of a better word).

It was a very hot drive and we made sure the boys were shielded from the sun as best we could. We arrived at our site in Zaragoza at around 2:45. It’s (or was?) a municipal site (Camping Zaragoza) but very pleasant and located right next to the canal – although it can’t be seen from the site, which is a shame.

Our pitch at Zaragoza

We followed the usual routine and Paul was soon hard at work and I wasn’t! When he eventually finished, we decided to try and find the towpath and go for a cycle along the canal with the boys.

The double gates to the canal looked as if they were locked but clever Paul spotted that the single gate to one side was actually unlocked. We pushed our bikes through and set off. We let the boys out of the backpacks almost immediately, but we had to be a bit careful, because some of those pesky pine trees, where the vile caterpillars like to lurk, were dotted around. It’s probably too early for them to be on the march in these cooler climes, but you can’t be too careful.

Towpath bridge

We had a lovely ride and encountered quite a few other walkers and bikers, but the boys behaved themselves well – until Ted decided to stop for a drink from the canal. Ted being Ted, over-stretched and promptly fell in. One wet dog but no real harm done.

We returned to the van just as the sun was going down and decided to go and have a look round Zaragoza at night. My research had showed that it might be well worth doing. We were further from the centre of Zaragoza than we originally thought but it was well worth the trip. The sight that I wanted to see was the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar. It was such an amazing sight. Both of us agreed that it was probably the most impressive edifice that we had ever seen. We were actually glad that we had seen it at night as it was so beautifully illuminated. Our Lady of the PIllar (in English) is one of Mary’s nicknames, it seems? It was a vison of Mary that caused the first church to be built on this site.

Although there have been many churches on this site, the present one, built in the Baroque style, was begun in 1861. It has 11 cupolas and four towers. During the Spanish Civil War , three bombs were dropped on the church but none of them exploded. Divine intervention? Whatever, I am jolly glad that they did no harm to this beautiful building.

We took the opportunity to buy some of the cheapest diesel we have yet found – a mere 89p per litre! Result!

Cloud had built up during the evening and we could see flashes of lightning every now and then, on our journey back to the van. We arrived back to what sounded like many fighter planes having been scrambled, crackling through the airwaves. It was quite eerie as we couldn’t see them through the clouds and it went on for fully half an hour! What with that, the lightning and all the scary Covid-19 stories, it really did feel like we were witnessing the end of days. Me and my hyperactive imagination, eh? But it had really spooked our jumpy Ted. We assume they were from the Spanish Air Force base near Zaragoza.

We eventually retired, thankful that the planes had shoved off and that the road that borders the site is much quieter at night.

Friday 13th – eek!

Paul had a lot on work-wise so I had a lazy morning and then he dropped me at the nearby and huge Al Campo for a look round and to pick up some stuff for lunch and for our journey tomorrow.

I am a member of a Caravanning in Europe forum on Facebook and some worrying stories were starting to be posted, about sites closing down, sites not taking any new people and even sites asking people who had booked for a week to leave because they were closing.

Al Campo was very busy and I saw the signs of panic -buying for the first time in Spain. Things were starting to get very serious. We were even hearing stories of Spain closing its borders. This was the one we were most concerned about.

No loo roll!

All the checkout girls were wearing gloves and the one who checked out my purchases had a hacking cough. It’s funny how the hysteria that has been wound up by the press makes you a bit paranoid. Although it has now gone beyond the nonchalant stage, where we scoffed and said it would be just SARS or Swine Flu all over again. – just a storm in a teacup. WHO doesn’t declare a pandemic at the drop of a hat! In case you are concerned we do only have 6 loo rolls left. Time to buy some newspapers?

We had been joined on site by a very friendly English couple (from Camberley) in a camper van, who had been in Spain settling their daughter into her new life in Barcelona. They were a bit dog-sick as they had left their dog with friends and made a massive fuss of the boys, even offering to take them out for a walk. They were pretty worried about the situation, too, but were lucky enough to be getting a crossing from Santander on Saturday.

We decided we would get up early and make a dash for the border – just in case. But as we were here, we thought we’d go out for a last ride along the canal, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We retired early, ready for the early start.

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