Week 28 - 31. Going home.

Week 28, 26th April - 2nd May 2015.

It’s been a sad old week after the excellent time spent with Sue’s relatives, we have done very little except go back on the tee total wagon (our livers deserve a rest after the bashing they’ve been getting the last two weeks) and try to get everything back into its rightful place.

We have just realised that our travel insurance has expired. We get a policy that allows continuous absence from UK for an extended period of time. We usually get a three month policy and then extend it in increments of three months until we are ready to come back. We remembered after the first three months but forgot it at the end of that time. A phone call to the broker confirmed our worst fears - it ran out over two weeks ago and although they could swing a day or two a fortnight was asking too much - bugger!!! Insurance generally has to be started while you are in UK and while it is not impossible to get it while already away it can be prohibitively expensive.

We had planned a super route home via Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands then, around September, UK on the Rotterdam/Harwich ferry. That would have then given us about a month to get the caravan and car serviced and the car MOT’d before time to clear out before winter arrived in England.

After much deliberation we decided to return to UK get a few things sorted (Sue had a tooth filling fall out last month) then we hope to head out into Europe with Italy as the goal before returning for the servicing etc in September.

We booked a ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth on the 19th/20th of the month.

The only positive point in the week was an email from Rosemary and Frank saying they were calling in at Camping Alentejo to see us on the way to Santander where they have a Santander/Portsmouth ferry booked and plan to spend the summer in UK visiting family and friends.

To cheer ourselves up we have persuaded Siebo to book a visit to a local restaurant for a “camp” dinner. We have been to one before it was, tasty, plentiful and cheap.

Week 29, 3rd - 9th May 2015.

R & F arrived in time to join us and a number of other campers for the restaurant evening that Siebo had arranged. It was a great night out, the menu was :-

1st course - Homemade vegetable soup
2nd course - Bacalho (Cod Fish)
3rd course - Oven roast lamb
4th course - Secret of the black pig (famous local pork dish)
5th, 6th & 7th course - lots of yummy puddings

With drinks, coffee etc this came to €14.00 (£10.00) per head.


We had taken our car and given a lift to a German couple staying on the site and after a splendid meal the four of us got back in the car and started off for the site. In our car the iPod is never turned off it plays the 3500 odd songs etc quite randomly. Imagine our horror when the BBC archive of the declaration of WW2 started to play panicking we both dived for the “off” button.. Our passengers said nothing, but with the amount they had drunk they probably would not have noticed if Chamberlain had been sitting between them reading his famous war declaration speech. Another point to mention was that it was the anniversary of VE Day!

R&F booked their ferry back to UK some months ago so we were amazed to find we had tried to book the same ferry, unfortunately Sue doesn’t travel very well and as there were no outside cabins, that is cabins with windows overlooking the sea we booked passage on the MV Cap Finistère the following day. As our ferries departures were so close together Rosemary and Sue decided that we would travel together to Northern Spain. A pleasant prospect. The weather has been HOT, HOT, HOT this last week with the temperature in the van reaching over 40ºC, thats over 100ºC in old money and it’s not even summer yet so thoughts have been turning to getting air conditioning installed in the van. Although it’s almost certainly a dream as we simply cannot add another 32kg to the load we are already carrying though when we get back we will weigh the van to see if there is any way it can be achieved.

Week 30,10th - 16th May 2015

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We left Camping Alentejo after four super weeks and headed back into Spain, our destination being Campsite “Camping Parque Nacional de Monfragüe" just outside Plasencia.

The campsite’s main claim to fame is the huge variety of birds that can be seen in the Parque Nacional de Monfragüe. In fact the campsite organises two bird watching safaris each day, unfortunately the weather was still so hot we were advised by the camp staff not to go until the weather had cooled somewhat.

The camp also boasted a large bar/restaurant that whenever we passed was very busy (and the reviews on the ACSI web site were very favourable) so the four of us went for dinner, the menu looked good and the prices were very reasonable. What a pity the food was almost inedible. We can say, without fear of contradiction, it was, by a long way, the worst restaurant meal we had ever had in Spain and in Sue and my case (can’t speak for Rosemary and Frank) the worst restaurant meal we have ever been served - anywhere.

This area of Spain is famous for cherries and at Plasencia market we bought 3 kilos of the most superb tasting cherries for just €7.00 - about 68 pence per pound, how cheap is that? They went very well with the 3.5kg of strawberries we bought for €3.00 (around 39 pence per pound) in the same market.

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After visiting one of the fabulous waterfalls - Cascada de Marta - that abound in the Valle Del Jerte we drove for miles along single track mountain roads with cherry trees as far as the eye could see. The only people seen were small groups of cherry pickers, each team seemed to consist of three people who worked in isolation filling trays with the delicious fruits which they then transported to the local co-op in small white vans.

After a couple of nights in Monfragüe (we will certainly return but not to eat in the restaurant) we moved to Camping Fuentes Blancas for an overnight stop on our way to Camping El Helguero, on the northern coast of Spain.

This area of Spain is one that most Brits rush through on their way to the southern costa’s but it is an area that deserves greater attention. It is (in summer at least) warm and dry(ish) with a somewhat alpine feel.

Our only trip out in the two days we stayed here was to Santillana del Mar, a medieval gem - very touristy but no less worthy of a visit for that. The Sunday we visited the the locals were having a “quilting and appliqué” day with dozens of women sitting in various locations in the village busily working on favourite projects many of which were stunning.

Week 31, 17th May - UK

Rosemary and Frank’s ferry left Santander mid afternoon Monday so they left direct from Camping El Helguero. We would have stayed another night and gone to Bilbao from there on Tuesday morning but the gate was locked until 8.00am - “. . .sorry no exceptions sir . . .” - so we left and went a bit closer to Bilbao and stayed on a site, Camping Laredo, that also would not open the gate until 8.00am but it was just 50km, around 45 minutes from the ferry so no problem.


We arrived at the boat in plenty of time booked in and got on the right queue (or the wrong queue perhaps) and after a short delay drove on the ship. Rather than as the first time we went on this particular ship, the MV Cap Finistère, we did not go on to the large open vehicle deck, turn round at the bottom and face the door - no this time after entering the ship we went up a steep and very narrow metal ramp, onto the upper car deck to the back of a quite small deck and turned around and went to the front of the ship onto an almost external deck. The deck was actually an oval with lifts, stairwells etc going up the centre.

The passage for the first 14 hours was the roughest I have been experienced (on a ferry) since 1986. I fortunately do not suffer from seasickness but Sue, though not actually Moby Dick had a thoroughly miserable passage and spent the first 20 hours of it in bed. As we had taken a picnic with us for dinner I thought it would be better not to eat in front of the sufferer so went to the bar and had a liquid dinner, but as I had had cereals, rolls, full english, croissants etc for breakfast and another four croissants for lunch I figured I would not starve, particularly as I had a repeat of yesterdays breakfast this morning.

Arrived back in the jolly old UK late (adverse weather conditions given as the reason) and on going to the car deck found that after we had parked they had packed lorries around us and even on the slope that had been raised with hydraulics to a level position. There were four other caravans behind us, but in front was a hydraulic roadway so we assumed we would go out that way but I and the guy behind us was concerned that the lorry alongside us was only 6” away and to access the roadway would need a route that would certainly cause the backend of the van to swing to the left and clout the lorry along side.

The front exit roadway was never opened, the hydraulic ramp was lowered and the lorry on it driven off. All the motorhomes, caravans and cars on the same deck as us that had loaded first had in fact done two 180º turns and were in a position to drive forward do another 180º turn to bring them back to the ramp. Once they were all off and on their way the lorries alongside us were reversed out, you have to admire those guys it was such a tight space to work in with a huge arctic, and they went down the ramp and away. The arctic in front of us then had to manoeuvre across the deck as he could not reverse with us there and neither did he have space to go round the oval, I and the four vans behind us then had to wiggle around that last remaining truck while executing a very tight 180º turn drive up the back of the oval another 180 and we were at the top of the ramp just a few minutes later we left the ship, the last five vehicles and over an hour after the ship started unloading.

Adventure number four was over, now how about adventure number five!

For the sad among you a few statistics,

Time away = 221 days

Total distance driven = 10,333 miles between a third and a half towing the caravan.

Total diesel used = 1841.49 litres (405 gallons)

Economy = 25.51 mpg, this figure is in “old money” as who understands litres per kilometre? The figure appears on the low side but includes consumption when towing two tons of caravan.

Ferry fares (Plymouth/Santander, Bilbao (£510.10)/Portsmouth (£557.10) = £1067.20.

The dearest litre of diesel = €1.294 (94 pence)

The cheapest litre of diesel = €1.069 (78 pence)

New car tyres, set of four = €680 (£491.79). Buying in Spain saved us around €58.00 (£42.00) on UK e-tyre prices (the cheapest UK supplier we could find).

Car 50,000 mile service = €365.00 (£261.00) I don’t know what a standard 50,000 service is in UK but the 20, 30 & 40 thousand mile services carried out in UK were all a lot more expensive.

European camp sites visited = 24

Last updated Sunday 21st June 2015                                                                                © S W Ghost 2015