27th August - 30th August
We don’t want to go home - YET!
Before we left for Europe we had heard about a small brand new festival for the VanLife Community and on a whim Steve had booked tickets. Our original plan was to wild camp somewhere local to the event, then head in on Saturday morning. But, as we drove off the ferry on Friday afternoon we decided to head straight there.
Sophie and Mark, the legends behind the VanLife Eats brand, were amazing hosts. They have built an incredible community on Instagram around their ethos
“Cooking in a van, campervan, motorhome or any tiny kitchen, it doesn’t mean you have to have a limited menu”, they inspire others to share recipes and van food creations…
VanLife Eats Big Picnic is a festival all about vans and food - two of my favourite things. Throw in some music and some of my favourite vanlife people and we had a recipe for the perfect weekend.
It was amazing to see so many great mates in the same field. We cooked, ate, drank, sang, enjoyed a bonfire late into the evening (early morning), cooked, ate, drank and sang some more.
Vanlife Eats Big Picnic was the perfect end to our European Tour. We pulled off the field, programmed the Satnav for home and set off on our final leg of our Amazing Summer.
26th August to 27th August
It’s all over!
The European Leg of our Summer Tour is coming to an end.
After a lovely relaxed morning playing in the pool with Alex, Amy, Sen and Kieran, we left Hontanas on time, ie with not a lot of wriggle, or specifically traffic room. The 2 hour drive north to Santander was relatively smooth, until we hit Santander. The city roads were busy, and we made the mistake of following the satnav and not the signs.
Top Tip: when you arrive in a ferry or airport city - follow the signs!
Do not let google, or TomTom, or Garmin or any other navigational device fool you into believing they know the best route. They do not. You will miss your turn. You could miss your ferry.
Thankfully, after a scenic drive through the city, we found our way back to the ferry port entrance and managed to check in just about ontime. Getting back to the UK at the end of August 2021 was still quite complicated. We had to provide our Vaccine Status documents, present our PCR test results and ensure we fulfilled all Brexit requirements. Which we did. The only slight issue we faced was when the Guarda Civil decided they wanted to take a closer look at us and our van. Thankfully, we passed what ever test they were implementing and were eventually waved on to the ferry.
We have traveled the route between Plymouth and Santander several times now, each time on the Pont Aven. Although it is definitely a ferry below decks, it feels much more like a cruise ship above deck. For the first time we were able to enjoy the onboard entertainment, all the bars and restaurants were open AND, even the swimming pool was open. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised the ship was fully operational until we started to explore, and by that time it was too late to bring George’s swimming trunks up from the Van.
We always take a picnic onboard and after our evening meal of random snacks I took the boys to see Black Widow (amazing film), and Steve stayed back at the cabin to do some more editing. The rest of the trip was uneventful, we slept well enough, took a nice shower in the morning, and after a pretty awful breakfast we docked back in Plymouth.
Our month long trip to Europe has introduced us to new friends, and given us many many wonderful memories.
Is it time to plan next year’s trip yet?
25th - 26th August 2021
Find this incredible Pool : http://www.hontanas.es/bares-y-restaurantes/piscinas-municipales-de-hontanas
What3Words Link : https://w3w.co/gulfs.vents.emblem
For our last 24 Hours before boarding the ferry back home, we headed back over the border to Spain. Petrol and Diesel are much cheaper in Spain than Portugal so our first stop was to fill up at the most crackers service station we had ever seen! Along with fuel, and snacks, this service station had a huge display of knives and guns!!
From the service station we headed to a tiny village called Hontanas, about 40 mins west of Burgos. When I say Hontanas is tiny, I mean there are only 70 permanent residents. You might be wondering why we would choose to spend our last evening in such a tiny village? The answer is friends. We were there to meet back up with Alex, Amy and Sen, and meet their good friends Kieran and Marielana.
Kieran runs the large municipal swimming pool on the edge of the village and Marielana runs a beautiful hostel in the village square. We spent much of the afternoon swimming, and chatting before moving the van to it’s overnight spot. Rather than just park up, we asked a local family if we would be OK to park near them, not only did they give us their blessing, they also brought us the tastiest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. In exchange we gave them stickers ;-)
That evening we took a 2 minute walk into the village square and spent one of my favourite evenings of the whole trip drinking wine, chatting with our friends and meeting pilgrims staying in the village. Kieran and Marielena are fun and fascinating. They travel in their van for most of the year, and return each summer to run the pool and hostel. This seasonal work funds their travel and explorations. You can follow their adventures on Instagram, they are The Slow Lane
The slow pace of our time in Hontanas was the perfect end to the European Leg of our summer trip.
24-25th August 2021
Natur Water Park : https://www.naturwaterpark.pt/inicio
Castelo de Braganca : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_Bragan%C3%A7a
What3Words location : https://w3w.co/uncork.rocker.variant
After leaving Porto we headed even further north and spent a few hours at Natur Water Park. The Waterpark does have it’s own campsite, but it was expensive and our good friend Pedro (Istas Garden in Porto) had warned us that it isn’t the nicest place to stay. He actually recommended a couple of other Aires that he believed we would enjoy more. So when the boys were thoroughly exhausted from the slides and pools we headed to Braganca.
Braganca’s free aire is lovely and large, it’s set on a hillside over several levels of terraces. Although there is no electricity, all the other services are available including fresh water, gray and black waste points, recycling bins and even daytime public toilets. Although the facilities are excellent, Braganca, like so many other free aires, is all about location as towering above it is Braganca Castle.
Hungry and tired, we set off to explore and hopefully find dinner. Walking up the hill and through the ancient walls we found a stunning Medieval castle which was home to a couple of restaurants, a church and an Abbey. The thing I found most fascinating was the fact that real people still live in the real houses within the castle walls!
While exploring the castle we learned about the Legend of the Princess of the Tower… When the village was still called Benquerença, there was a beautiful orphan princess who lived with her uncle, the lord of the castle. The princess fell in love with a noble young knight who did not possess great wealth. For this reason, the young man left the village in search of fortune, promising to return when he felt he had a worthy fortune to ask for her hand. For years, the princess refused all suitors, until her uncle promised her to a friend, forcing her to compromise. When she was presented to the uncle of her suitor, she confessed that her heart belonged to another man. This revelation infuriated her uncle, who thought of a ruse to coerce her to marry the one he chose. At night, he disguised as a ghost, and went through the ports of the Princess quarters, pretending to be the ghost of her lover, telling her to marry her suitor or otherwise be subject to damnation. As he was about to get an oath from her, the door to her bedroom opened with a bright ray of light, exposing her uncle's treachery. She went to live in the tower and the two windows became known as the Port of Treason and the Port of Light.**
After thoroughly exploring the battlements we continued in search of a pizzeria with lovely reviews. What we eventually found was Big Bobs, and to be honest, despite the unexpected name, the pizzas were very very good.
With contented tummies we headed back to the motorhome for some wine and an early night. The only slight down side we found to this aire was the barking of nearby dogs! I’m not sure when or if they shut up, we were all so tired that we quickly fell asleep.
**Read More Here
21st - 24th August 2021
Campsite : https://istasgarden.com/
What3Words : /https://w3w.co/ripe.touches.shiver
FREE walking tour : https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/porto/free-tour-of-porto/
Amazing Sardines at Taberna Sao Pedro : https://www.facebook.com/tabernadosaopedro
The best francesinha is from Gazel : https://m.facebook.com/cervejariagazela
Oh wow, we thought we had fallen in love with Lisbon, well, Porto is also incredible. Portugal’s old cities are stunning. On our previous trip to Porto we had tried to stay at an unmarked quay aire on the banks of the Rio Douro. This would have been a fabulous spot close to the city centre, however our van was too big, the aire was too busy and we did not get a good gut feeling. So, before we headed to Porto this time, Steve did some research and found an exciting sounding campsite just 10 mins from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia.
We arrived at Istas Gardens and were met by owners Pedro and Claudia whose smiles were even more welcoming than the delicious glass of local wine they greeted us with. Istas Gardens is a tiny campsite with just 10 placements, gorgeous facilities and an indoor pool which is perfect for year round use. We have never met friendlier or more passionate owners! “Istas” isn’t a real word, it’s like the English suffix “ers”, which they played with to create a garden open to all campERS, caravanERS, motorhomERS… essentially open to all travellERS.
Covering over 100,000km, Pedro, Claudia and their two daughters have extensively toured Europe with their caravan. When they decided to build a campsite in their back garden, they cherry picked their favourite elements from the sites they have visited and imported them to create a perfect haven for all.
Within 20 minutes of arriving, we had received a guided tour of the tiny site. Steve absolutely loved the BBQ area. I adored the upstairs kitchen that could be opened to enjoy the sun, or closed to stay warm on winter evenings. The kitchen and BBQ are both fully equipped, Pedro and Clauda even provide salt from the sea to cook with, and a free washing machine (which I’m almost embarrassed to have used to the max). Istas really is created to be a special home from home.
Before arriving, I had booked us on a FREE walking tour of the city. As we were checking in, Pedro and Claudia shared suggestions for excursions, places to eat and even the best taxi drop off points to get the very best views of the city. It quickly became obvious that our original 2 night plan would be woefully short, they soon helped us plan an action packed 4 day, 3 night itinerary. They even booked our “Fit to Fly” covid tests for us!
Our walking tour was as good as any we have ever taken before. The guides don’t get paid upfront, so they earn their money in tips by being informative, entertaining and generally amazing! Lunch on the walking tour day was a bit rubbish, but we picked a tourist trap and the Franceshina was tourist nonsense. But the next day, we put ourselves in Pedro and Claudia’s hands and ate the best meals of our whole trip.
For lunch we visited Taberna do São Pedro, a fish restaurant owned by and for local fishermen. All of the food Pedro chose for us was incredible, but the BBQ sardines were the freshest, tastiest fish I’ve ever eaten. After lunch we visited Unilabs in Gaia to have our “Fit to Fly” tests done, this was Steve’s first ever covid test, so he was very brave. The boys and I just took it in our strides. Thankfully within 15 minutes we were all certified and declared fit to fly and headed back to Istas Garden to enjoy the pool and do more washing!
That evening, we all headed out again to experience Porto at night. What a beautiful city. For dinner we headed to Gazel, to start we tried Cachorrinho which is a tasty toasted hot dog style sandwich, which was lovely. But then we tried a real Franceshina - wow!! Now I understand why everyone recommended we eat this in Porto!
After dinner we walked around the city, taking in the sites and listening to Claudia and Pedro share stories and explain more of the city’s history. Our final stop before returning to Istas Garden was for ice cream.
What an incredible few days. Pedro and Claudia are amazing hosts, and have created a tiny haven for travellers. Not only is a fantastic place to stay, it is also the perfect base for a trip to Porto.
#Porto #vanlife #Citybreakporto
20th - 21st August 2021
Area : Parque de autocaravanas Silveira
What3Words : https://w3w.co/bluffed.boom.roasting
We, like many people, had heard that all Wild Camping is now illegal in Portugal, and it is. Technically it’s always been illegal, but now the rules are being enforced more “vigorously”. However, that does not mean that it is illegal or even impossible to camp for free in some of Portugal’s most beautiful spots. There are still many FREE and super cheap aires to be found, you just need to know where and how to find them.
While we were in Zambujeira Steve had a great chat with one of our Portuguese neighbours. This neighbour gave us some fantastic advice and a couple of “FREE Aires” to try.
We picked a Parque de autocaravanas right on the beautiful, wide, golden beach at Silveira. This aire has services, at one end of the carpark, by the cafe, there are toilets and and beach shower. Down by the motorhome and campervan parking there is a service area including an elsan point, grey waste disposal, and fresh water tap.
This was a fantastic FREE parkup, and we spend a lovely 24 hours on the beach building sandcastles and splashing in the waves.
#VanLife #BeachCamping #Portugal
18-20th August 2021
Camping Lisboa : https://lisboacamping.com
What3Word Location : https://w3w.co/jogging.oddly.racked
FREE WALKING TOUR : https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/lisbon/free-tour-of-lisbon
Our amazing guide was Rita Jardim. You can find her on Instagram as "RitaTheGuide"
I don’t really associate “city breaks” with camping holidays, and I think this is because it’s so hard to find decent campsites close to historical UK cities. But I need to change my perception as we have found some incredible places to park up and explore some of the loveliest cities in Europe. As we continued our trip north, we stopped off long enough to fall totally in love with Lisbon.
Although just 8 uber minutes from Lisbon's historic centre, Lisboa Camping feels like a forest campsite. It’s situated in the huge Park Florestal de Monsanto and has large, well spaced pitches that are all beautifully shaded by ancient trees.
As well as a wonderful large pool with splash pool, and diving boards, Lisboa Camping also features tennis courts, multi-sports areas, mini golf and playgrounds providing plenty of outdoor activities for all ages. There is also a canteen style restaurant and supermarket on site.
After a good night's sleep we booked our uber and headed into town to meet the incredible Rita from Sandemans Tours. We love a free walking tour, it’s our favourite way to get our bearings and get to know a new city. Rita walked us around Lisbon bringing to life the city’s rich and colourful history. It wasn’t a dry list of dates and locations, but a series of linked stories woven around landmarks and real people. As usual, Harry and I lapped up every detail. Before we left, Rita gave us a list of places to visit and places to avoid.
We absolutely walked George’s socks off, and when we arrived back at Lisboa Camping he headed back to the pool for a well earned swim. That night the boys picked a dish number and ate at the onsite restaurant. It was not glorious food, but like everything else at the campsite it was good enough.
When we first arrived, the campsite felt old and tired. Maybe a better description is “very concrete”. But, it’s clean and well tended, and once we got used to it, we realised that it is old, it’s not very modern but it’s clean and well tended and a better description is that it is “of it’s time”. It does have it’s own charm, and almost feels like it could be the setting for an epic soviet spy novel. We genuinely loved this campsite!
#Lisbon #Citybreak #Campsite
17th -18th August 2021
What3Words : https://w3w.co/gravitation.placing.marines
As we head North from the Algarve, the coastline of Portugal becomes more rugged and spectacular. After a quick pit stop at a supermarket we head to Camping Villa Park Zambujeira for a night at Portugal’s answer to Balamorey.
Camping Villa Park Zambujeira is a popular large site with narrow access roads but plenty of shade. Dotted around the site are lots of shared BBQs and picnic tables, we saw 3 different groups use the BBQ closest to us. In addition to touring pitches, there are several brightly coloured one and two bedroom houses available to rent.
10 minutes (probably less in cooler weather) is all it takes to walk from the campsite gates down to the stunning local beach. With cooler water than on the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast provided excellent waves for surfing and bodyboarding fun. Back at the campsite, the pool has a retractable roof for year round swimming.
While we were there, our toilet broke. Poor old Steve spent an hour trying to fix it before realising that something had snapped and the lid was beyond repair!
We only stayed for 24 hours, but Camping Villa Park Zambujeira is one of the friendliest campsites we have visited.
#Portugal #Motorhome #RoadTrip
16th - 17th August 2021
What3Words : https://w3w.co/leggy.stalled.cutely
In our final campsite on Portugal's Algarve Coast we stopped at the pristine Yelloh! Village Algarve-Turiscampo. Set up on the hill above Lagos, the site is a lovely mix of bungalows and touring pitches all set on flat terraces with mature trees providing plenty of shade.
When we first arrived we were met by friendly professional staff who warmly welcomed us. All of the staff members we met during our stay had excellent language skills and were keen to chat and ensure our stay was wonderful. The animation team provided a kids club, daily exercise classes (including yoga!) and evening entertainment.
At the apex of the hill is one of the cleanest and most perfect pool complexes that we have visited on this trip. There is a large open air pool with jacuzzi, and a smaller, but equally pristine pool with movable roof which would provide shelter for year round swimming. In addition to the swimming pools, Turiscampo also has sports facilities including tennis, table tennis, football and basketball.
Turiscampo is a wonderfully thoughtful family friendly campsite. Dotted throughout the site are small play parks to keep small children safe and entertained while camping chores are completed. I understand that in winter it is a popular site with long term winter sun seekers.
#Algarve #Portugal #Campsite
13th - 16th August 2021
What3Words Link : https://w3w.co/flannels.forcing.poking
We were warned when we arrived that we may never leave this place. As you probably know, we rarely spend more than one or two nights in one location. But, from the moment we drove under the “Mikki’s Place to Stay” sign, the quirks and magic ensnared our hearts and we stayed for 4 amazing days.
At just €18 per night, Mikki’s place on paper should be a simple Aire or Autocaravan Park, essentially a secure carpark maybe with electric and motorhome service area. But there is so much here! Reception is in an huge open plan building that houses the bar and kitchen. First impressions are of beautiful mismatched furniture, giant fans circulating high above your head and lots of smiling faces.
Mikki’s is famed for its Exotic Universe home to chickens, doves, donkeys, wallabies, goats and even lamas! The pool is a glorious salt water outdoor pool, created to look natural and oh so welcoming. The pitches are all well spaced and the bathrooms are clean and efficient. Spread across the whole site, the gardens and pitches are dotted with art and ceramic sculptures. Wherever you look there is colour; clashing and complimenting drawing the eye to new nooks and crannies.
George and Steve obviously enjoyed the pool for the whole time they were there, but if you were to ask the big boys what they loved most about Mikki’s place they would say the bar area. They stayed up late into the night playing pool and table football making friends with other guests and living as teenagers did before covid came and changed the world. Each evening we ate at Arno’s Restaurant. Steve ordered the chicken shawarma kebab every night, while the boys and I tried to work our way through more of the menu.
Trying to put a finger on why Mikki’s Place is so special is incredibly difficult. YES, it’s beautiful and bold. YES, it has all the facilities you need close at hand, but so do many places. I think that actually it’s the people that make Mikki’s place so amazing. We met so many people! There were families with friendly teenage children (hurrah), older couples, younger families, single travellers and even Brazilian TikTok creators. The relatively small size, and huge communal area provided a natural meeting place. Lots of Brits had come to visit, and instead of leaving were now working in the bar! There is an incredible sense of acceptance and community
Mikki’s Place To Stay is a beautiful and friendly camper stop with a glorious pool, relaxed bar and great restaurant. During the summer it is busy and bustling with international travellers, in the winter the expat and long term travellers come together to create a wonderful community.
#Algarve #Camperstop #MotorhomeAdventure
12th -13th August
What3Words Link : https://w3w.co/kennels.repeats.haven
After such a long frustrating day yesterday, we decided to do something we rarely do… We returned to a campsite we’ve visited before!
We arrived mid-morning and reception was already busy. Before we could even check in, Eddie and Harry had to complete negative Lateral Flow tests and Steve and I had to show our Covid Passports. Eventually we reached the front of the queue and were allowed to drive through the gates.
Camping Albufeira is a large resort style campsite. There are very few “formal pitches”, and campers are allowed through the gates and are sent to find their own camping area. We selected an area shaded by mature trees and set up a lovely pitch to welcome our good friend Renato for the evening. We first met Renato 5 years ago when we pitched up next to each other. He and his fiance spent many hours playing chess and football with the boys and chatting long into the night with us. Every summer his family head south to spend summer at Camping Albufeira.
Camping Albufeira is set on a hill, with a fantastic leisure complex at the apex. The swimming pools are glorious, there are several lovely restaurants and a bakery and spa too. The Animation team were full of summer energy and the whole campsite felt busy and fun. Initially it was difficult to relax, being so close to so many people after 18 months of social distancing was really tough. But once I remembered that everyone there was either vaccinated, or had completed a negative test I was able to chill, relax and enjoy this fantastic family campsite.
Walking around the site it was lovely to see a broad mix of nationalities. There were fewer German and Austrian campers than usual, but we heard lots of French, Dutch and even several British families too. Camping Albufeira is a fun campsite with excellent facilities ideally positioned for a trip to the Algarve.
11th - 12th August 2021
Well, we finally found the crowds! At the start of our trip, we found many quiet campsites and camper parks. Don’t worry though, we’ve found everyone, they are all right down on the southern coast!
We planned to spend one last night in Spain. We had a pin on our map for a beautiful looking Camper Park with a lovely pool, but unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was full. So, next we tried an amazing looking campsite, but when we attempted to book in we realised we had left our passports at the previous camperpark and had to return to collect them. By this time it was quite late in the afternoon and we didn’t want to pay full price for a luxury campsite.
So we pushed on to another aire, but this time the one way system was working against us. Feeling ever so slightly defeated we made the decision to leave Spain and hop over the border into Portugal. We were relieved when we crossed the bridge and there were no passport of covid checks. Hurrah, we’ve arrived in the Algarve! Boo, there was no way to access an electricity supply at the first aire we came to.
Our final failed stop was a beach carpark. As we drew closer, memories started flooding back of a wonderful afternoon spent on the beach with our good friends Nick and Sarah and their boys Jacob and William. We also started to remember that this was “day parking” only. Before we even arrived at the gates we were met by a “Grumpy Attendant” and turned sharply away.
After a long and frustrating drive we finally arrived at the Algarve Motorhome Park in Tavira. This new motorhome park features lovely well spaced pitches, modern facilities including a decent sized laundry room and electricity and water to each pitch. As well as safe overnight parking, the Algarve Motorhome Park Service Area is also accessible for motorhomes passing through.
10th -11th August 2021
Camping Playa Las Dunas : https://www.lasdunascamping.com/
What3Words Link: https://w3w.co/screamed.scoring.remarked
Usually when a campsite is full, we get back on searchforsites.co.uk and look for another option. BUT, Camping Playa Las Dunas was recommended to us by one of our fabulous subscribers. Rather than miss an opportunity to explore a recommendation we accepted a parking spot in the site’s overflow carpark and set up a very very basic pitch.
Camping Playa Las Dunas is a lovely mature site, with wonderfully shaded pitches, a huge swimming pool and lots of great facilities for campers of all ages. Our absolute favourite feature was it’s location. Right on the beach! We spent a wonderful morning splashing in the sea and building the most epic sandcastles. The boys even created a new ball game!
This is an excellent base for a visit to Cádiz, it’s very family friendly and even has a small supermarket on site. But as we weren't overly excited about our pitch, we stayed just one night, setting off the next morning to squeeze in one more Spanish Campsite before heading into Portugal.
9th - 10th August 2021
What 3 Words : https://w3w.co/coverage.sockets.manufactured
Steve and I share a long term dream of living fulltime in our motorhome and travelling the world. There are 3 main reasons that we haven’t already taken steps to make this our reality. 1. Eddie, 2. Harry, 3. George. Our children are bright sociable young people who actually love school. Also, having spent much of 2020 in “home school hell”, I absolutely do not want to take full responsibility for their education!
But, during our trip around Spain and Portugal we spent a fantastic couple of days with Alex and Amy from the YouTube channel; KiteVanMan. In 2020 Alex found himself locked down with his gorgeous dog Sen in Morocco, he eventually escaped back to Spain where Amy joined him. For the majority of 2021 they have been living fulltime right on the beach in Southern Spain, but as the world has opened up again, they are planning to explore and share their adventures on their new channel With Alex & Amy.
We met up with Alex and Amy at Playa de Cala Sardina, one of Malaga’s loveliest beaches. There is a split level relatively flat carpark on the hill overlooking the beach, and it’s completely legal to wild camp on the top level. Obviously it’s not encouraged to set up a full pitch complete with awnings and sunloungers, but overnight parking, and sleeping are still completely legal here.
George absolutely maximised his time at the beach, playing, wave jumping, body boarding (though it was quite calm), and we all went snorkeling together. After a delicious meal at the beach restaurant we sat up chatting late into the night.
Playa de Cala Sardina is a fantastic beach stop, there are seasonal toilets and showers down on the beach, but I wouldn’t recommend camping there unless you are entirely self sufficient.
7th - 9th August 2021
Area El Hornillo Playa : https://www.xn--reaelhornilloplaya-xrb.es/
What3Words : https://w3w.co/scores.skateboard.unfairly
€12!!! Just €12 to park up right on the beach… Though we did have an adventure before we even arrived.
The cupboards were once again bare, so before picking our next campsite we headed into town to find Aldi. Luckily enough, Aldi was right next door to McDonalds and we killed two birds with one stone allowing the boys to experience an “authentic Spanish” McDonalds. With full cupboards and full tummies we set off back to the coast to find a campsite for the evening.
Now, you may have heard us say this before (possibly several times), but we don’t often make bookings in advance. We also firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. And this day was a classic example of those two philosophies colliding to make magic.
The first campsite we had in mind was full and actually when we arrived it was too small for us to maneuver around easily. The next couple of sites along that stretch of coast didn’t inspire us to stop, so we revisited www.searchforsites.co.uk and looked for Aires with Services. In the few miles along the coast leading up to Malaga there are several options but for some reason we were drawn to El Hornillo. There were no reviews, and the photos weren’t very inspiring, but my spider sense was tingling and we decided to investigate.
Arriving was… umm... dramatic. SearchforSites showed the entrance to be on the seafront. This entrance isn’t actually accessible to large motorhomes like ours. We followed a very narrow, very winding road with cars parked either side along the sea front. Steve even jumped out at one point, moving a jeep by releasing it’s handbrake and pushing it a couple of feet out of the way. Eventually we arrived at the entrance and the turn in was so tight other cars had to be moved so we could maneuver and line up with the gates, and then we got stuck AGAIN. The drop from the beach into the campsite was so steep we almost lost our exhaust and whatever gubbins we have under the van. Thankfully the owner and several guests and even one or two locals came to our rescue. They helped place a couple of pallets under the back wheels, which lifted us up enough that we could pass over the ridge safely. Phew.
Once on site we found a piece of heaven. Area El Hornillo is a brand new family run aire with services. It had only been opened a few weeks, no wonder there were no reviews or photos! Anna and her Uncle Antonio, in fact the whole family made us feel so welcome. The services are basic, but spotless - which is exactly what we expect from an Aire.
Even though we had been shopping, that first evening we decided to head to local beach restaurant La Isla. We enjoyed a wonderful fish meal and delicious wine. The restaurant was fully booked later in the evening, but being the Brits we are, we were the first to arrive and ate before most of the locals even left home!
During our two night stay we enjoyed many wonderful hours at the beach splashing in the sea. Two days after we arrived we packed up and left through the main entrance at the back of the site. This road out of the site is also very narrow and winding but there are less cars and it’s not one way!!! The What3Word link above takes you to the correct exit from the main road.
Anna and her family made us feel so welcome and we would thoroughly recommend this camper stop to anyone, especially at just €12 per night!
6th - 7th August 2021
Camping Mar Azul : https://www.campingbalerma.com/en/
What3Words : ///solos.tenfold.singer
Myself, Eddie and George have all been struck down by the sickness bug poor Harry started with just a few days ago. We need air conditioning, fresh water and a nice toilet block, so we leave Vilaricos and head for a campsite further around the coast.
Camping Mar Azul is a wonderful family friendly resort. Situated right next to the beach it has a kids club, swimming pool, sports facilities and a lovely cafe with really really good coffee. During the summer, the site is full of families and family fun, during the winter the owners assured me the site is full of long term and touring British and Northern European adults enjoying the winter sun.
Unfortunately as we were so sick, only Steve really got to use most of the facilities, but I can assure you that the toilet and shower block were clean and actually very lovely. This is a campsite we would absolutely recommend for year round fun and community.
4th - 6th August 2021
Situated in the south east of the Province of Almeria (Andalucia) in Southern Spain, Villariocs is a small unspoilt fishing village with a harbor at each end. Our good friends Graham, Sue and their children Abbie, James and Joe own a wonderful property and one of our all time favourite Spanish activities is meeting up with them. This year we joined them for 3 days and 2 evenings of fun filled activities and the odd hairy moment!
When we arrived we were lucky enough to find a perfectly positioned parkup overlooking the pretty harbour. This isn't a good parkup at the weekends as Villaricos host a wonderful market each Saturday so that road needs to be kept clear, but for a cheeky night or two mid-week it was exactly what we needed. Arriving late morning, we spent an amazing afternoon at the Luna Water Park, which is a fabulous manmade waterpark with giant inflatables, cable wakeboarding, kayak and SUP boarding and a nice bar for a chilled glass of wine while your family tire themselves out.
For dinner that evening we headed back to one of our Villaricos favourites; Lucky Bar. Steve and Graham both tucked into Lucky Bar's famous moussaka and I absolutely adored my calamari. It was during dinner that our first disaster struck! Steve bit down on his fork, and a crown fell out. This is a crown right at the front of his mouth that had last been repaired almost exactly a year ago in France!
Disaster 2 struck around 1.30am, when Harry's tummy bug from the day before landed with me, and then George and then Eddie. We were all vary sick that night and felt very sorry for ourselves for much of the next day too. I spent most of the night sitting on the harbour wall, dangling my feet into the sea while hanging on to a bucket.
The next day dawned beautiful and clear and Sue helped Steve find a local dentist who could help him with a temporary fix. While Steve and Graham visited the dentist, the boys and I relaxed with Sue at the pool.
Returning from the dentist Steve was inspired by a fantastic idea, or as I like to call it Disaster 3. He thought it would be fabulous to move the van down on to the beach and wild camp down there for our second evening! And it probably would have been if I had been well enough to add my usual "caution" to his impetuous energy. While in my delicate tummy bug state, I wasn’t thinking quickly or clearly enough, so before I had fully processed his idea and assessed the parkup options, he had driven us right on to the beach and got us stuck!! Luckily, Sue has an incredibly calm approach to life and suggested that we ring our breakdown cover and request a tow. Thank you so much to Comfort Insurance who provide our breakdown cover as well as our travel insurance.
Within 1 hour of making the call, we were being hauled off the beach to safety. It is very little consolation that the man pulling us off the beach was experienced at dealing with this kind of rescue! Good old Sue and Graham again came to the rescue by ordering pizza for dinner and making sure the boys were safe and fed while Steve and I watched the rescue.
I cannot imagine that Sue or Graham will be excited for us to visit ever again, but we did love our time with them, and hey - what doesn’t kill us...
2nd - 4th August 2021
Camping & Bungalows Bellavista, Aguilas : http://campingbellavista.com/
What3Words : https://w3w.co/collect.ranges.scoots
Our first choice campsite was closed until September, so we pushed on down and made it all the way to the coast. We found a lovely little campsite with a great pool. BUT, Oh No! A tummy bug has landed in our van and poor Harry is so sick.
Rather than drag a poorly boy out on the road, we decided to make a base a Camping & Bungalows Bellavista in Aguilas, Murcia. The campsite is a lovely site just across the road from the beach. We all had a lovely time splashing about in the pool, playing table tennis and generally relaxing.
Unfortunately, as Harry was so poorly, we didn't get out and explore the local area, so we have saved this for next time.
1st - 2nd August 2021
Camping Los Viveros : http://www.campinglosviveros.com/
What3Words : https://w3w.co/whirlpools.weekends.embalmed
Madrid was incredible, but 1 day was enough and it was time for a big driving day. After almost 4 hours we used SearchforSites to find a small campsite in the mountains with a pool to cool off in.
Camping Los Viveros is a family owned site surrounded by nature 350m above sea level. We didn’t really fit on any of the available pitches, but we were fed up of driving, and the family were very keen to help us and eventually they found us a makeshift pitch with electricity and a bit of shade. It was all we really needed for a 24 hour stay.
While the boys set off to enjoy the huge pool, I stayed back to take care of some washing. The toilet blocks were large, clean and very convenient, and although there was a restaurant across the road, we stayed near our van for a home cooked meal. Walking around the site we spotted a lot of long-term or seasonal pitches. There was a lovely relaxed vibe to the place and lots of large groups of extended Spanish families.
To be brutally honest, I think we were all still very tired after our hot day in Madrid and after a swim and dinner we turned in for an early night. Before setting off the next morning we were reading the campsite reviews and realised we were very close to a very special monastery. Before we left the region, we took the 5 minute drive down to the monastery to see it for ourselves.
Set in to rock caves overlooking the River Segura, the Sanctuary of the Virgen De La Esperanza is one of the most beautiful centres of pilgrimage in the Murcia region. Legend states that back in the 16th Century a shepherd discovered the image of the Virgen de la Esperanza “La Pequenica” or little one inside. Exactly how the statue ended up in the cave remains a mystery. When the local townspeople were unable to move the virgen, the sanctuary was built around her.
Camping Los Viveros was a nice enough campsite with lots of potential for hiking and biking and outdoor activities. And and although we loved the pool and enjoyed our visit to the sanctuary, we were excited to leave and get back on the road!
30th July - 1st August 2021
Area de Autocaravanas Las Cigüeñas | Polígono atalayuela, 28031 Madrid, Spain
Free Walking Tour : https://www.neweuropetours.eu/madrid-walking-tours/
We love city camping! There is something very special about being able to take your home to a new city and use it as a base to explore. Neither Steve nor I had ever spent any real time in Madrid, I had organised a couple of events there but hadn’t seen anything outside of the hotel walls so we were both very excited to explore the Spanish Capital.
We don’t mind paying for great campsite facilities when we know that we are going to use them. But when we visit cities we plan to be up and out of the van early and not returning until late, so our number one priority when looking for a city parkup is security. We just want a safe place to park, oh and electricity. Electricity was actually very important as the temperature in Madrid in August is typically in the 40*s - Ooosh!
Rather than picking a fancy campsite, we found an Aire on Park4Night. Area de Autocaravanas Las Cigüeñas is brand new and we couldn’t even find a website, but we could see it on Google Maps. Thankfully when we arrived there was plenty of space for us to park up and relax. At some point in the future, this aire will have toilet and washing facilities and probably even a small pool. But for now, the area is just a carpark with a fence and a lovely couple running the site.
After a nice cool night’s sleep (thank you Air Conditioning!!!), we booked an Uber and rode 15 mins into the city centre. One of our absolute tip top favourite activities is a FREE walking tour. We love that the guides are local experts, they are fantastic at bringing the city and it’s secret (or not so secret) history to life. Technically they are not free as you pay in tips. The better the guide, the more we like to tip - not that we have ever had a bad guide! The city tour covered only a small geographical area, but Madrid is quite hilly and we were all grateful that we picked a day where the temperature didn’t raise any higher than 27*.
For lunch we dined on the local speciality of Calamari Sandwiches and Potato Tortilla. The omelette was divine and became a staple of our lunches for the rest of the trip (Lidl’s own is excellent!). Tired and hot after our day of exploring, we caught an uber back to the van and enjoyed a relaxing evening listening to the owner on his decks.
Area de Autocaravanas Las Cigüeñas is a brilliant and convenient no frills park up perfect for a visit to Madrid. For now, it’s only good for visitors in self contained units, but in the future it could be open to everyone.