Saturday 1 September 2018 Perpignan (France) – Girona (Spain)- Bellvei
This morning we crossed the border from France into Spain. Our first stop was Girona in the Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar. It has medieval architecture, a 14th century walled Old Quarter and the Roman remains of the Forca Vella fortress. After visiting the information centre we walked the Old Quarter’s medieval walls which has several watchtowers with sweeping views over the rooftops and the Pyrenees.
After leaving the wall we wandered the narrow walkways with stone steps and cobbled streets to the Onyar River with its picturesque bridges and the bright colourful houses that line the riverside between the bridges. The reflections of the different shapes of the houses in the river give a quaint appearance.
Leaving Girona, we headed to our campsite for the night at Bellvei which is in the Province of Tarragona eastern Spain. We are noticing that the temperature is rising the further south we venture. Tonight, we had a heavy downpour and for the first time we wished we had air-conditioning in the motorhome.
Sunday 2 September 2018 Bellvei – Valencia
Today we drove to Betera to Valencia Camper, an Aires on the outskirts of Valencia. The complex is very secure with all services, secure storage for motorhomes, a bar and shop with a barbecue and seating area, a beautiful pool and a train 300 metres down the road which takes 25 minutes into the town centre.
After parking the motorhome and buying tickets for the train from reception and waiting for the stifling heat to cool down to a bearable temperature, we headed for the train station and caught the train into Valencia town centre. We wandered the ancient winding streets and laneways with buildings dating to Roman and Arabic times, and past the impressive Mercado Central which is a public market which sells food items and has restaurants and is one of the main works of the Valencian Art Nouveau. The tiles on the outside of the building are beautiful.
Next to the market is Valencia Cathedral built between the 13th and 15th centuries which has very detailed stone carvings on the outside and mainly Valencian Gothic architecture. The cathedral contains numerous 15th century paintings.
We continued walking to the Serrans Gate which is one of the twelve gates that formed part of the ancient city wall built at the end of the 14th century. It is one of the best-preserved monuments of Valencia and also has intricate stone carvings and is massive.
Then we headed to the square where we found a restaurant which had tapas and sangria we then caught the train back home.
Monday 3September 2018 Valencia – Alicante
After another steamy start to the day we drove to Alicante to the Aires Playa de San Juan about 300 metres from the beach. The campsite is secure with amenities. There were 8 other motorhomes within the complex.
After dinner we walked down to the beach where there were people swimming, a beach volleyball competition in progress and others sitting at a restaurant, walking dogs or cycling along the promenade. We walked to the water’s edge and dipped our toes in, the water was around the temperature at home at the end of summer. Still not hot enough for me to go for a swim even though it is quite hot. The waves are only small as it is the Mediterranean Sea but there were some young boys with their surfboards trying to catch some waves. Alicante is a very beautiful, peaceful seaside resort but not a great place to visit currently due to the stifling heat.
Tuesday 4 September 2018 Alicante – Monachil (Granada)
Today we drove to Granada and camped the night in the carpark at Monachil at the foothills of Sierra Nevada National Park with the highest mountain in mainland Spain, Mt Mulhacen and the southernmost ski resort in Europe. It was a lovely cool night for a change.
Wednesday 5 September 2018 Monachil (Granada) – Malaga
This morning we drove to a part of Granada’s old town in the Arab Quarters for a guided walking tour of the famous Alhambra, originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications and then neglected until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century. It consisted of a fortress, a palace and a small city all in one. After neglect during the 18th and 19th century, Alhambra was declared a national monument in 1870 and after being protected was restored, cared for and even improved and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
With the guide, we toured the most remarkable parts of the Alhambra’s monumental complex: the Alcazaba (Arabic fortress), the Nastrid Palaces and the Generalife Gardens. The towers and walls which surround the entire hill of La Sabica are crimson and change colour with the light. Despite long neglect and vandalism, the Alhambra is very impressive with its Muslim architecture. Most of the palace buildings are quadrangular and open onto a central court and are connected by smaller rooms and passages. There are column arcades, fountains with running water, gardens with fruit trees and beds of beautiful flowers, the plaster interior is very decorative with carvings and mosaics of geometrical patterns and the wooden ceilings have similar designs, but the exterior of the buildings are quite plain.
We are glad we went on an organised tour because the information the guide imparted was essential to understanding the complex and without this we would have come away with a totally different outlook.
After our four-hour tour we continued our journey to Malaga where we are staying for an extended period in a campsite, Area Malaga Beach in La Cala overlooking the Mediterranean Sea southern Spain’s Costa del Sol.
After booking in we walked to the small village of La Cala where we found a small Spanish restaurant, La Alegria de La Cala which serves amazing Spanish food and Sangria and is unbelievably inexpensive. Everything is homemade, the ambience is welcoming, and the service is fantastic.
Thursday 6- Tuesday 11 September 2018 Malaga
Today we caught two buses to the Carranque Stadium to watch and support our friend, Mark, aka Flash, whilst he competes in the 60 Men’s division decathlon events over the next two days. He competed in 5 events today and is coming 9th out of 30 competitors in his age group, which is a fantastic effort.
We caught the bus back to La Cala and visited the same restaurant as last night and once again the food was spectacular.
Friday, we caught the bus from the centre with Mark and Anastasia for the second and last day of competition. After the second last event Mark was coming 9th and with his pet 1500 metre run the last event of the day. He ran a personal best time, and this moved him into 7th place in the World overall. Competing in a decathlon is no mean feat because you must be able to perform each event with a certain degree of skill. It was lovely to see competitors offering advice to others and acknowledging achievements even with a language barrier.
Tonight, we had a celebratory dinner at Mark and Anastasia’s local restaurant, where the staff gave us all a complimentary drink to celebrate the occasion, a lovely gesture.
Saturday, we returned to the centre and with Mark and Anastasia and visited some of the city sights. We climbed the long and hilly path to the foothills of Mount Gibralfaro to the Castle of Gibralfaro overlooking Malaga city and the Mediterranean Sea. This has been the site of fortifications since the Phoenician foundation of Malaga city in 770BC. It is famous for its three-month siege in 1487 by the Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella when hunger forced the Malaguenos to surrender. The most visible remains of the Castle today are the solid ramparts where you can see the historical buildings of the seminary and the Alcazaba (palace- fortress) and La Malaqueta (bull fighting ring). Inside the former gunpowder arsenal of the Castle is a little museum which shows the castle’s history over the centuries.
Retracing our steps from the castle we visited Alcazaba which is an extensively restored palace-fortress dating from the 11th century Moorish period. We meandered along the paths amid bougainvillea, palms, jasmine bushes and rows of orange trees, through arches, courtyards and bubbling fountains which are common to this period of history. The patio area in the palace is a very similar layout to Alhambra.
Next to the Alcazaba is the ruins of the Roman theatre which is the oldest monument and the only ancient ruins left in Malaga. Next to the site is a visitors centre which explains the history of the ruins and its subsequent excavation, but it was closed at the time we visited.
Lastly, a visit to La Malaqueta, the bullring, which held its first event in 1876 but alas It is currently undergoing restoration and is closed for the year. At least we could see it from the top of Mount Gibralfaro and see the 16-sided hex decagon with the arena able to hold 9,000 spectators. When it is open it hosts events during the Spanish-style bullfighting season.
For the remainder of the afternoon it rained so we had lunch at a restaurant and then walked the streets of the old town between showers. After saying farewell to Mark and Anastacia, we headed home via our local restaurant where we had a small meal and drink whilst listening to a band playing.
Sunday, we completed our housekeeping and then relaxed as the rain once again set in. Late in the afternoon the sun was out so we sat and watched the waves gently roll in.
After a busy few days we decided to use today as a day to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the seaside. We went for a pleasant walk along the boardwalk which runs along the shoreline for kilometres and ended up having dinner and Sangria at our local restaurant up the road.
Today we caught the bus into the centre to visit the Mercado Central de Atarazanas which is a covered market with a variety of food items: vegetables, fruit, seafood, nuts, olives and meat and several tapas bars. The items are arranged in specific food areas and the tapas bars are intermingled. We ordered the garlic and chili prawns and a gazpacho which were delicious, and we purchased olives, almonds and jamon.
We then walked through the narrow winding lanes to the Museo Picasso Malaga which is a museum in the city where artist Pablo Picasso was born and where 285 of his works are on permanent display. With an audio guide we walked through the galleries and saw amazing and unusual paintings, sculptures, drawings, sketches and ceramic pieces, but unfortunately no photos of the collection are allowed. The museum provides a great overview of his work.
Next, we headed to the building where Picasso was born in 1881 and lived until 1884. This building houses works and personal belongings of the artist and his family.
We then walked to Malaga Cathedral which was built between 1582 and 1782. It is huge even though it was never finished due to lack of funds. In front of the Cathedral is plaza del Obispo and the Episcopal Palace which was built in 1762 and one of the most beautiful colourful baroque buildings.