We had good weather for our drive from Malaga to “Reina Isobel” a lovely camp site in Zubia only 15minutes from the centre of Granada by bus. We took a “hop on hop off” bus the next day to get a general overview of the city and the weather had turned wet so it was a good way to stay out of the rain. We still managed to walk around the city for a while and find a few bargains in the arabic “souk” part of the old town where we had mint tea and hoummos in a couple of atmospheric moorish style cafes. We found people in Spain in general to be very welcoming and helpful in shops, cafes and
when we occassionally needed assistance with directions.

I had tried unsuccessfully to book entry tickets to the “Alhambra” which is listed as the number one tourist “must see” in Spain and later learnt that some people had booked months in advance. We therefore opted to get up the next morning at 6.30am (unheard of for Spanish people!) and we caught a taxi in the dark to where there were already a couple of hundred tourists waiting in line at the ticket office. There was luckily an open cafe which served good coffee while we chatted to our neighbours in the queue. When the credit card section opened at 8.30am I purchased our tickets and we were allocated a time of 1pm to gain entry into the “Nazrid Palace. Even then we had to queue for half and hour before so many people were admitted to the castle. The rest of the palaces and gardens could be visited at any time although the “Generalife” castle could only be accessed once. This is because of the large number of tourists visiting the Alhambra. We easily spent six hours exploring the various parts of the palaces and beautiful gardens, having lunch in the garden of a little hotel before continuing to climb the Nazrid tower. The views over Granada were spectacular from many of the vantage points in the Alhambra. We didn’t feel crowded at any time as the castles and grounds covered many hectares.

The “hop on hop off” bus was valid for two days travel so we opted for this to descend into the town and back to the “souk” where
Maurice had left his hat the previous day. The little tram unfortunately broke down so we got off and walked making our way through the narrow winding streets back to “Kasbah” cafe.

We left Granada on the 24th September to “La Garrofa” right on water near Almeria via a slight side trip to Almunecar where Helen had visited about 40years ago.
We could not believe the vast areas of hot houses which stretched in some places, metres from the sea and into the mountainsides for over a hundred kilometres. The only people we saw around this amazing food bowl were a few Africans either cleaning the soft roofs of the hot houses or cycling around the area. The mountains all along the coastline were very dry and rugged.
Unlike France the lay bys at the side of the road where we could stop for picnics were littered with rubbish as there were no rubbish bins. This was in great contrast to the small towns and cities in Spain which we found to be very clean and tidy.
The two days we spent at Almeria were very relaxing and we even managed to have a swim on the one warm day. The water was rather
cool but we were determined to at least have one swim in the over five months that we had been in Europe.
Francoise and I caught the bus into Almeria a nice large town with a wonderful fresh food market were the entire basement was dedicated to fish and upstairs was fruit,vegetables and specialty items.
We decided to try the set menu around the corner for lunch which proved to be a feast for a total of 10euros. A plate of Paella,a plate of marinated capsicums with bread followed by two plates of grilled squid and salad, water and a coffee with a large biscuit – such good value and the couple running the little restaurant were very pleasant.
In order to have a bit of contrast from the seaside we decided to head to El Berro in the Sierra Espuna national park where we spent two nights. It was a very rugged, olive and almond growing area and they had the first rain for the season after five dry months the day we arrived! It rained heavily that night and well into the next day. Francoise and I had planned on doing a ten kilometre walk but that was unfortunately quashed by the rain. We had a very nice meal the following night at one of the two restaurants in town where we tried a number of tapas and the man running the bar was so friendly we decided to return for a lovely breakfast the next day before we left town. The staff at the campsite had little English but were helpful that we managed with my Italian and smattering of Spanish.

The nice thing about staying in campsites and moving around with the campervan is that we have found some good food markets where we bought various interesting foods to try and fresh fruit and vegetables. I mostly made lunch and dinner in the van or in the bungalows where the girls stayed and we would have the occassional restaurant meal to try the local dishes.

We arrived in Campello to visit my old friend Baerbel after spending a couple of hours walking around Alicante. We split up
the next day with Helen and Francoise taking the train into Alicante and Baerbel and her tennant Klaus took Maurice and me
up into the mountains past Benidorm (a sea of high rise appartments and hotels) to Guadaluce, a small town built into a very large rocky outcrop. It was quite a touristy place but facinating to see. We found a restaurant called “Casa Paco” away from the tourist area and where only locals were eating.
We had wanted to try a good paella since arriving in Spain and Baerbel knew exactly where to find one so we enjoyed that and a couple of jugs of Sangria that night before farewelling Baerbel and Klaus.

It was going to be a very long drive to our next stop of Barcelona so we broke it into two sections staying one night at an excellent campsite “Mon Mar” in Monofra about 45kms north of Valencia. I don’t know if they were all “Valencia” oranges but for hundreds of kilometres on either side of the road all we saw were orange trees. The mountains until just before Barcelona were very rugged and then suddenly the landscape changed to more forested slopes.

We arrived in Barcelona at our campsite 20 kilometres towards the east at the “3 Estrellas”. We caught the bus which took 20-30 minutes into Barcelona city and bought our discounted metro tickets 10 for 10euros which got us around the city and to “Sagrada Familia” the Gaudi designed church which is more like a museum. The structure is quite incredible and the inside is a large vaulted area with tall pillars and a lot of stained glass. I was disappointed that although the stained
glass did throw lovely light around the church it was only coloured glass without any design. We had printed out our tickets in advance and we had to choose one of two towers to ascend. We picked the Natividad and we did get lovely views over the city
to the coast and up into the mountains.
A lift took us to the top and we had to walk down but luckily the narrow round staircase was enclosed so I didn’t suffer any virtigo. The church was still to be a building site until about 2020 by which time they hoped to have 18 towers as part of the church. I did wonder if Gaudi had this in mind in the late 1800’s. Some people thought it the most beautiful building they had seen. It was an amazing structure but with all its turrets with fruit and vegetable like decorations it seemed more a folly than a church.
We made our way to the older part of the city and walked down the lovely wide avenues lined with trees and then stopped for lunch in “le Pain Quotidien”.

Our second day in Barcelona was spent wandering around the wonderful markets of “La Boqueria” which was teeming with tourists
and Spanish shoppers buying “jamon”, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and other fresh produce. We had brunch at a cafe there before strolling along the wide boulevards of “La Rambla” and then down the narrow passageways to the Picasso museum which was most interesting. We did attempt to walk to the funicular to have another view of the city however it was closed so we walked back to the bus and the campsite.

The third day Maurice opted to stay and do the washing and rest his arthritic ankle and the three of us caught the bus back to town where thousands of people were taking part in a free yoga session from the “Plaza D’Espana” up to the national museum.
It was quite a sight to see the people sat on their yoga mats in such a large area. We walked to the top of the hill and had a coffee while enjoying the beautiful views. We returned to the “La Boqueria” market where we had lunch and another look around the and then did some shopping as we wandered down a few of the narrow alleyways.
We were lucky that our three days in Barcelona were warm and sunny and it was only in the early morning of the 5th October that we had a storm and heavy rain before the girls caught a taxi to the train back to Paris and then plane back to Perth
and we took the motorway to Les Issambres near St Tropez to see our friends there for a couple of days before returning to Italy to see my relatives and get the van ready for it’s stay over winter in the garage in Roccamandolfi.

We had expected a warmer month for our stay in Spain but despite some rain and the cooler days we enjoyed the variety of seaside, city and mountain areas.

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