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Archive : Devesa Gardens

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.

Winter Sun Pt 10 – La Manga to Calpe

Sunday 8th March

Another travelling day. We left at around 10:30, which seems to be our usual time.

It was warm and sunny, the boys had their sunshade and we made good progress. We stopped at around midday for coffee – good as usual. We passed into the province of Valencia on our way to today’s destination of Calpe.

I had visited the year before for a singing competition run by the Spanish Association of Barbershop Singers (SABS) and I had been quite taken with Calpe. It was touristy but in a fairly refined way, I thought, and I wanted to show Paul.

We passed by Benidorm which surprised Paul. From the motorway it looks like a kind of fairytale city with its fancy high-rise blocks. I have never been so have no wish to comment. A lot of people clearly like it but I suspect it’s not for us. Too British. I come to Spain to see and experience Spain and Spanish people and things.

The latter end of our route was quite challenging for a caravan but good old Paul just got on with it as he does and we finally arrived on site – Camping Estrella Polar – about 1:30

We were shown to a place next door to some other Brits with a MoHo and a Cavalier King Charles. They were very friendly and we chatted to them as we were setting up. Our pitc was under a Mimosa Tree and also a Pine tree, which afforded us some shade when we wanted it.

Mimosa Blossom

They went out on their scooter and we decided to hit Calpe. We went for a closer look at the dominating feature on the Calpe skyline – no. Not a hotel. A BIG rock – the Penyal d’Ifac which is 332 metres high. It’s pretty impressive.

We had a walk along the promenade by the lovely beach. It was very warm and people were swimming. We decided we’d eat out and popped into a restaurant for “raciones”. These are a larger serving than tapas and are perfect for sharing. You tend to order them one or two at a time and then keep on ordering until you are full. It was full of Spanish people so we reckoned we might have chosen well and indeed the food was excellent. But it was very smoky. Very odd to be in a room with people smoking these days.

Boquerones – Anchovies
Albondigas – or meatballs

When we eventually returned to the site we sat outside chatting to the Brits until the sun almost disappeared and the breeze made it too cold to sit out. But in our chatting, it transpired that they lived (until very recently) in Ferring. This – by extreme coincidence – is where our good friends Bob and Barb live. They don’t know them but when Paul said that they had a big old Hymer motorhome, he said oh yeah – they live in xxxxxxxx. And they do!!! Small world, eh?

Paul liked Calpe and could see why I had wanted to return. I pointed out the hotel where we had stayed and competed last year . We also popped into the very handy Mercadona opposite the hotel. We had been frequent users last year, buying snacks and stuff for our little gatherings. When we went to bed we heard – for the first time on this trip – cicadas as we went to sleep. Lovely.

Hotel Diamante Beach Calpe

Monday 9th March

We woke up to quite a hazy morning. Paul worked until lunch hour (2-ish)  and then we decided to go to Dénia so that we can check out where Uncle D has been.

We drove along the coast, noticing the abundance of large and flashy villas nestled on the hills along our route. Clearly some serious cash around these parts! We called in at Moraira, where the boys had a play on the beach. We met a 3 month old German Shepherd puppy and the boys were great with him and they had a great time playing chase. We thought Moraira, which has a Castle very similar to the one at Castillo de Baños, was very pleasant.

This was higher than it looks!
Castilla de Moraira
Paul and the boys

We pressed on to Dénia via Gata di Gorgos and the road took us through a very impressive gorge.

We liked Dénia. It has no high rise development to speak of and a very pleasant ambience. It’s bigger than I had anticipated and has every convenience. We particularly Liked  the end of the beach, past the (big) marina. The mountains behind Denia are also beautiful and there is a large castle , of Moorish origin.

Denia Marina
The Moorish Castle

We were pretty hungry by now and sadly happened across a McDonalds. Sometime you just gotta.

We returned to the campsite via the lake in Calpe where there are flamingoes, doing their headless thing. SO lovely to see them “in the wild”.

Paul worked all evening while I watched the box and then we retired, slightly earlier than usual, in readiness for the next leg of our homeward trip in the morning. 

Quick review of Camping Estrella Polar.

We liked it immediately we arrived. The pitches are not very private but that was actually OK. It’s set in a pine forest on a hill overlooking the town of Calpe. There’s a bar, showers (4 for men, 4 for women) pot-wash, and a washing machine. It’s very quiet. Close to eating places and a small supermarket. We would be very happy to return. The only slight niggle was that the rubbish was overflowing all the time. And the Processionary Caterpillars – of which more tomorrow.

Tuesday 10th MarchPt 1

We had been warned when we arrived that the site was experiencing an – well you can hardly call it an infestation, but they were rather a menace. Processionary Caterpillars. They like pine trees and travel in a procession. Nothing too menacing in that? But – they have hairs called “urticating hairs” – which they can eject like tiny harpoons. They cause a bad allergic reaction (nettle rash) on human skin and can be fatal for dogs. Dogs often lead with their nose and may even try to eat them, attracted by their smell. The hairs become embedded in the tongue and cause necrosis – the tongue can turn black and the passageways swell up, causing breathing difficulties. Immediate treatment is essential and one of the articles I read said that often, by the tome the animal p[resents to the vet, often the only thing they can do is ease suffering. Horrific!

The site had been working to eradicate them and we were pretty vigilant but as Paul went down the side of the van to disconnect our water supply he saw a procession of them. He immediately put the boys in the van (they were on short tethers but better to be safe than sorry?) and went to report.

The nests in the pine trees
A procession