Monday 27th - Tuesday 28th July
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On Monday morning as we set off to Benidorm we received a call that changed our plans! We had always intended to meet up with friends at their villa in a weeks time, but the changes in quarantine requirements had forced them to reevaluate and cut short their trip. Instead of having more than a week to get to them, we had just a couple of days.
We still drove down to Benidorm, and enjoyed cruising around but it was really quite busy. Rather than pitching up, we continued down the coast towards our friends. To break up the drive we found a glorious beach side Aire, with stunning pitches and quirky facilities. You can't get much better than a Beachside Aire for just €8 per night - except free I guess? Actually, we parked for €8, and paid an additional €3 for electric, we could have paid a little extra for water too, but we just didn't need it!
The toilet and shower facilities were spotless! Who knew a shipping container could be so fabulous? The beach was less than 1 minutes walk away from our pitch, and the restaurant on beach looked clean and surprisingly large. The only fly in the ointment was, well the flies. The area around this part of the coast is an agricultural area and there seemed to be a lot of flies. Probably nothing that a decent repellant wouldn't ward off, and certainly not something that should put anyone off visiting.
What3Word Location: https://w3w.co/retitled.waxing.pump ///retitled.waxing.pump
Sunday 26th - Monday 27th July
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When we pulled out of Xeraco it was only a quick 45 minute hop down the coast to our next stop! We picked Camping CalpeMar purely for the photos of it's lovely pool! Based right in the centre of town, Camping CalpeMar is a stones throw from lovely sandy beaches, and also a pretty old town.
The pitches were quite small, and it was tight manoeuvring around the site, but Steve was his usual amazing self and got us on a pitch with only a bit of tooing and frooing. The pool was quiet when we arrived so we all went for a lovely refreshing swim.
After our swim we decided to take a walk in to town. The beach was busy!! Wow, I was not excited to join all those people on that crowed beach. As we walked through town every person we saw was wearing a face mask and trying to keep a good social distance. We ended up having KFC for dinner - here is a tip. Use the digital menu ordering board thingis to find the "promotional offers". We managed to order more food than we really needed for about €30 - and that included ice cream sundays for everyone!
The shower and toilet facilities were clean and fresh and actually very nice. This would have been a good base for a few days exploring the Costa Blanca.
Saturday 25th - Sunday 26th July
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From the Glorious Camping Malverrosa de Corinto our plan was to mosey down the coast and eventually meet up with friends in Villaricos. First stop should have been Valencia, but we couldn't find anywhere we were comfortable parking the van and leaving it for a few hours while we could explore the town. So, we did a drive by!! As we drove through the city I pointed out the dried up river bed that is now a city park, we were entertained at traffic lights by juggling street performers and we saw the beautiful architecture of the old town.
After a couple of nights at the beach side campsite we were ready for a pool. We thought we had found an aire with a pool. Reviews seemed to suggest that this aire would cost €22 per night. In fact Camper Area Xeraco actually €50 for the 1 night. I feel I need to explain a little more here. Aires, are usually just parking places. Sometimes they have services. Basic services include areas to empty toilet cassettes and maybe a water tap to replenish your water supply. Other services can include Electric Hook-Ups, Wash-up areas and Showers... the list can go on. Now we were looking for somewhere with an electric hookup so the boys sleeping "up top" (above the cab), would not melt in the 36* heat and maybe a pool.
When we pulled up on the site, we were met with an incredibly clean manicured area. I was shocked when Steve returned to us explaining he had paid €50 for the night. The shock was only partially as he is a tight assed Welsh man, but also because my expectation and first impression of Camper Area Xeraco was that this was a nice, but sterile, parking lot. It did not take long to find the gorgeous pool and the stunning showers and toilet facilities. Obviously a lot of money has recently been spent upgrading the aire facilities to create a beautiful camper site. As for my sterile first impression; it will not take long for the hedges to mature and create a glorious sense of space and shade.
It was actually really sad to see such a lovely area so quiet and under utilised in the height of the tourist season. Steve had a conversation with a British guy who had been there throughout lockdown. He was tucked way back in a corner of the site, he was fully self sufficient so he didn't need an electric hook up, just somewhere safe to park with access to water.
In the evening we popped across to a pop-up night market that we spotted being set up when we arrived. Although it was an open air event, we were impressed that the were people at each entrance with hand santitiser. EVERYONE was wearing a face mask, I only spotted a few small children with out them. Even with these safety precautions, it didn't take long before we started to feel very uncomfortable with the sheer numbers of people in the same area. In the end George bought a new toy gun, and we escaped back to the safety of our van bubble.
So yeah, on reflection, this Camper Area for €50 was WELL worth the money!
Thursday 23rd July - Saturday 25th July
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Oh my goodness, we found a Gem. We had planned (ha, as much as we ever do!!), to aim for Valencia and combine a city break with a seaside stop, but I couldn't seem to find "just the right thing". I expanded my search area and found Camping Malvarrosa de Corinto 30 miles up the coast to the north.
With over 13 years on the road we have learned to trust our instincts. Some times we pull up at a place, have a bit of a look around and pull away without really stopping. Sometimes we pull up and get a tingling... This place was the latter. The drive up to reception was quite tight, with trees and bushes narrowing the tight bends further. Rustic! Reception itself was quite rustic but they handed Steve a map with a couple of options on and within a few minutes we were on the site looking at potential pitches.
Two of the pitches we were offered were right on the beach front. Obviously we picked the one closest to the Tapas bar!!! The toilet block was fine, nothing spectacular, and there were a couple of washing machines too. BUT the facilities really aren't very important when the location is as amazing as this.
The beach was a mix of shingle and sand, the waves were absolutely perfect for bodyboarding and wave jumping. We spent the next 2 days splashing, and BBQing and drinking and relaxing and having a wonderful time. Oh, I also did the first load of washing of the trip.
On Friday night we took the HUGE walk (ha ha no more than 30m) to the Tapas bar. To celebrate 1 week on the road we ordered the daily specials with bread, salad and wine. They were delicious.
This is one of my own Top 5 sites, not for the facilities (they were perfectly adequate), but for the fabulous location.
Tuesday 21st - Thursday 23rd July
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2 hours south east of Burgos we stopped at a campsite near Soria. Camping Fuente de la Teja was all that we needed. Clean, fresh toilets and showers and a huge, lovely swimming pool for the boys to play in.
We arrived with the sun beating down, but really high humidity. After a couple of hours (and just as dinner was cooking) the rain caught us out! Good grief, the clouds came in fast, and the rain even faster. After an early night, we were back on the road again heading south east.
Our next stop was Camping Albarracin. Nestled in the hills at the edge of Albarracin, the campsite features 2 tiers of pitches. The top tier was home to large open pitches, fabulous for the length of our van, but awful for shade. Steve managed to shoe horn us on to a smaller, but shadier pitch on the lower level. Soon after arriving we headed down to the municipal swimming pool to cool down and play.
Municipal Swimming pools are owned an operated by the local authority. This one was about 5 minutes from our site down a winding road. For the bargain price of €1 per person we joined locals in a lovely large pool and enjoyed the last of the days sunshine.
The rest of the campsite was fairly standard, with good clean facilities and a nice looking bar. Besides being conveniently positioned for our trip, Albarracin is also an incredibly beautiful town. It's overlooked and protected by medieval walls and right at the top is a 10th Century Tower. There are also ruins of an alcazar, which is a Moorish castle, and the 16th-century Catedral del Salvador features a bell tower built on the remains of a Romansque temple.
Albarracin is a wonderful town to walk around, but even more stunning when captured by drone!
Monday 20th - Tuesday 21st July
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Setting off from Santander, we drove south for 2 hours to the town of Burgos. We picked Camping Fuentos Burgos as our home for the night. When we arrived, the reception staff gave us a map with quite tightly packed pitches, but the site was so quiet we were able to pick our own pitch with plenty of room to spread out.
We were unsure how "open" Spanish Campsites would be, and we really were relieved when we realised that all the wash rooms were open! Also open were the bar and most importantly the Swimming pool! There were plenty of "Social Distance" signs, but luckily (for us) they were unnecessary as the site was so quiet.
With temperatures in the 30s the boys were very grateful for their first swim of the holiday!
Tuesday morning we woke up, packed up and headed into Burgos to visit the Museum of Human Evolution. Parking proved a little trickier than we expected, the aire we planned to park in had been changed to "Coach Parking" only, but Steve managed to find road side pay and display. George coped well with the short walk and we had a great time exploring the museum. I really enjoyed learning about the local geography and how it contributed to our understanding of Evolution. The boys particularly enjoyed the Darwin exhibition, including walking around a replica of his ship The Beagle.
After a couple of hours mooching around, we headed back to the van for a quick sandwich and a family chat! Together we decided that we needed to skip Madrid. As great as it was around the museum, George's foot just isn't ready for a full day of exploring. Instead we decided to change course and head towards Valencia.
Saturday 18th - Monday 20th July
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We have had the most perfect 24 hours in Plymouth!
The Plym Family Robinson were amazing hosts. After 5 minutes of teen/tween awkward mumbling, our three boys settled in for an evening of chat, table football, XBox and fun with Eva and Clara. Jill and Mel prepared a wonderful chilli, with Jill's world renowned guacamole and salsa. The wine flowed freely and we caught up on the last 4 years. Steve took George to bed around 11pm and the big boys I were right behind at around Midnight
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage and good bread, we booked a taxi in to town to explore! The taxi dropped us at Tinside, Plymouth's iconic outdoor pool, and Jill regaled us with stories of her lifeguarding youth, which almost impressed the boys as much as her "Jason Statham in her Wardrobe" story. George travelled in the Robinson car with a festival cart that the Teens enjoyed pulling him around in.
From Tinside we walked up the hill to The Hoe. We admired the Lighthouse, posed for BeetleBum photos and learned about Nancy Astor, the first woman MP to take her seat in Parliament.
We walked back down the hill and mooched around the Barbican area. After a pitstop for coffee and Cola at Cap'n Jaspers we headed back to Tinside and the South West Coast Path to watch the Pont-Aven arrive in to port - I don't think we fully appreciated how large the ship would be!
After the ship swept past Drake Island we headed back up the hill to use the lovely shiny clean new toilets. Unfortunately, they are still being built, so we used the filthy, rotten portaloos that were desperately overdue a bloody good clean. Shudder!
Having stayed a bit longer than planned watching the ship arrive, we did two trips in the Robinson car back to their house. The advance party of adults and George arrived back first. While George settled in to play Fortnight, Steve and I took the Motorhome to fill up with fuel and snacks!
We arrived back at The Robinson's at the same time Jill returned with the Tweens & Teens. There was just enough time to meet the lovely Greg, and say hurried goodbyes before we set off to catch the ferry.
Plymouth ferry port is very close to the town centre so it didn't take long for us to join the boarding queue. It did however, take over an hour to reach the front of the queue! When we did finally reach the front, our ticket and passports were checked, we were allocated to "Group Blue" and waved on through.
Boarding the ferry we were directed on to the lowest car deck (only slightly grinding the van out as we descended), and sent straight to our cabin. When we had booked a "Wheelchair" accessible cabin we weren't really sure what impact George's broken foot would have. At best we hoped it would help us stick together, at worst, it would provide us with the space we need for more accessibility if needed. I know that Brittany Ferries have really upped their cleaning game, but I still took a couple of minutes to wipe down all the surfaces with anti-bac before the boys entered the cabin.
When the pandemic hit, we could so easily have chosen to cancel or postpone the trip, and in fact until just 2 weeks before we left we were certain we wouldn't be travelling. However our ferry was never cancelled, and we received lots of reassuring videos and guidelines from Brittany Ferries and the FCO updated travel advice, sooo the Roaming Radfords decided to head back out on the road with an open mind and a whole new level of hand hygiene.
The ship was really interesting. There was no questioning of the mask policy. Masks were worn by everyone in all public areas, and there was plenty of hand sanitiser gel available in every key area. The onboard pool was closed and empty, and the cinemas were open but with reduced capacity. Although we were all strongly advised to stay in our cabins as much as possible, all bars and restaurants were open.
We ate a picnic dinner in our cabin and had an early night. Everyone slept surprisingly well. When we woke up the next morning we headed to the self service restaurant for the most disappointing "Full English" ever. The croissants looked really good, so we've decided to stick to the continental breakfast for the return crossing.
A little later than planned (mysterious technical issues and strong currents apparently), we arrived in to port at Santander. In stark contrast to the embarkation, the corridors and stairwells were much busier. It was a lot more difficult to maintain social distancing returning to the motorhome than leaving it.
Before we were allowed off the ferry, a lovely man with a carrier bag for completed Covid-Declaration forms and a temperature gun checked our temperatures were below 37.5°. Thankfully we all passed that test, had no issues with passport control, and were waved through customs and out in to the glorious Spanish Sunshine.
Friday 17th - Saturday 18th July.
Pyle, South Wales (Uncle Si & Auntie Lucy's driveway).
The trip to Wales was smooth and uneventful. His broken foot needs to be kept elevated, so George has appropriated a front facing double seat. Eddie and Harry, his older (and significantly larger) brothers are travelling backwards together. I'm not sure how long this arrangement will last, or if bickering of bone healing will prompt a change in seating arrangements - I'm sure ill keep you updated!
We parked up on Steve's brother's drive and enjoyed a lovely evening with Uncle Simon, Auntie Lucy and cousins Max and Joseph. There may have been some wine and vodka consumed.
We had half planned a nice long explore of the local Margam Country Park. But George's foot ended that plan. Also, it was raining early on, and we haven't brought coats! All the boys played beautifully, especially Eddie who is lovely with his young cousins.
Around 11am on Saturday the weather brightened up (stopped drizzling at least) and we went to Margam Park for a picnic (Gregs) and kick about.
Before leaving South Wales we managed a quick visit to see (from a safe social distance) Nanna and Grandpa who are both in their 70s and shielding. Naughty Grandpa may have slipped the Radford Boys some holiday spending money!!
By 2pm we were on the road again!
Next Stop : Plymouth! (Robinson Residence)
PS - we still haven't spotted any "forgotten items". Coats don't count as we didn't put them on the list, and we never need them in Spain.
The last week before leaving on any long trip is always a little bit manic! This week was no different, but added to the usual mix of work, (home)school and packing we also squeezed in a BBQ Pizza night with great friends, a mini MK food tour with Darren; The Urban Motorhome, and a couple of appointments for a nasty foot injury!
Baring in mind our standards have slipped since March, home schooling started off really well this week! On Monday George's new teachers sent him a letter introducing themselves and asking him to write back. He worked really hard to produce a lovely letter which answered all their questions.
Our week took a bit of a complex turn on Tuesday afternoon. I'd spent the early afternoon making and proving pizza dough ready for a socially distanced pizza party with the lovely Marchants. 10 minutes before his bast mate Alex arrived, George's bare foot had an entirely predictable "coming together" with his scooter.
After reminding him of all the warnings I'd issued over the preceding 3 days, we drugged him up, and RICE'd it assuming he'd sprained it and enjoyed the pizzas, wine and great company. The next morning he came crawling on his hand and knees for our usual snuggle. As he struggled to stand I decided we needed a trip to A&E.
It was odd going in to the hospital when it's so quiet. But we both put our masks on and I piggyback carried him from the carpark to Childrens' A&E. We were triaged really quickly and sent for an XRay. Within an hour and a half we had it confirmed that George had a nasty sprain, but a couple of weeks of rest, ice and elevation and he would be back to normal (except wearing shoes when riding anything with wheels).
On Wednesday, Darren and his motorhome arrived. Back in February, he and Steve had had several conversations weighing up the various pros and cons of different restaurants and burger joints. They hatched a plan to try out some reliable favourites, and although the Covid-19 crisis delayed the plan, they never forgot!
On Wednesday we took Darren for George's favourite 5 Guys burger! Thursday was all about German Donner Kebab, and Friday before we left Milton Keynes we had to make sure we visited Caz Bar. It was all delicious, but I think it has took two days to emerge from a meat coma.
Friday was quite dramatic, the Caz Bar trip was nearly cancelled! At 11.03am I was sat at the dining table filling out Covid-19 Declaration forms for our entry to Spain, surrounded by piles of "last bits" that need taking out to the Motorhome, when a Milton Keynes number called me. After staring at it in horror for 10 seconds I actually answered it. A lovely lady from the fracture clinic was calling me to check in on George and explain that the consultant had reviewed his XRay and spotted a fracture
We had a lovely chat about managing the next couple of weeks (more rest, ice and elevation) and she suggested that he needed a nice sturdy pair of shoes to support the foot as it heals. I explained that we are leaving to go travelling for 6 weeks and would make sure that while we are away we find him some new shoes as he only has a single pair of sliders that still fit him. She didn't judge, she probably has her own feral lockdown children.
By 11.20 we were at the fracture clinic having a boot fitted. We left at 11.52 complete with new boot and walking practice! We were home less than 1 hour after receiving the phone call. Our NHS is amazing.
Thankfully we arrived home in time to join Darren and the boys for Caz bar. Steve and Darren both had the world famous CazBarBurger, which I understand is all the meat and some breakfast bits precariously balanced in a big soft roll. Harry opted for a "normal" size burger, Eddie and George had their usual Chilli, Chips and Cheese, and I stuck to my favourite Peri Peri chicken salad wrap.
After lunch I finished the Covid forms, the boys helped load up the last items in to the motorhome and finally at 3pm we rolled off the drive with our fingers crossed that we haven't forgotten anything.