We headed on the Autostrada north west as we wanted to get into France and down to Spain fairly quickly. We later regretted the decision to take the Autostrada as we didn’t realize that to go through the Frejus-Mt Blanc 13kilometre tunnel would cost us 59euros and it took us an hour to get to the tunnel with all the traffic!
The 37degree heat in Pavia in the morning dropped to 19degrees through the Alps with torrential rain that had set in for the late afternoon and the first rain we had seen for a couple of months. We continued through Chambery and to the north of Grenoble to the campsite beside a lake called simply “Au Bord du Lac”. The rain started again in the night and continued in the morning so we took off for the long trip (about 7hours) down to the south of France to see Dieter the brother of my best friend who I hadn’t seen for about 30years.

We took the Freeway with several tolls and stopped at a large “Aire”- the wonderful rest stops all along the highway which are parks with picnic tables, toilets and many times include the service stations and cafe/restaurants. We unfortunately took the wrong entry to continue our journey and found ourselves going back towards Lyon and through the tolled tunnel again before we could turn around and resume our trip which lost us an hour. We covered a lot of the French regions in the day- first of all the Rhone-Alps,the Auvergne and through the Loire valley, Limousin, the Dordogne area and down to the Mid-Pyrenees region to the small town of Pampelonne north of Toulouse. We passed a lot of grazing and cultivated land as well as travelling through the heavily forested mountains and hills. We ended up putting on jumpers as the temperature stayed at about 17degrees all day and there was heavy cloud and some rain during the day and into the evening.

The Tom Tom led us unfortunately to another Pampelonne and when we discovered our mistake we had another 2hours to travel and got to
Dieter at 9pm so we had a late meal (luckily it was a cold collation). We spent a nice evening and the morning with Dieter and left France for the Spanish Pyrenees via Albi and Toulouse about 12noon.

Dieter was telling us that the dialect they spoke in the area he couldn’t understand as it was a mixture of Spanish,Catalan and Basque.

We enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery of the Pyrenees and with luck on our side we arrived at Morillo de Tou just before 8pm, the time the office closed. We got the last spot in the camping
ground with no electricity but we were just glad to not have to drive further that day. The twilight helped and it did not get dark until after 9.30pm.

Diesel prices were more favourable in France at 1.13euros litre and in Spain at 1.09 euros almost 50 euro cents cheaper than in Italy.

A lot of French holiday makers were also going south and we avoided a turn off where a traffic jam was caused by a major accident with a car on it’s roof and many emergency vehicles at the scene.
People were being treated on the road – a sad start to their Sunday.

On the 11th August we left the Pyrenees and set off for Zaragoza (a city I had always wanted to visit) an hour and a half south of Morillo de Tou. The mountains gave way to vast plains with what
looked like piggerys and large cultivated land with fodder. There was very little traffic along the way and coming into Zaragoza parking was easy just across the river Ebro from the old part of the city. The Basilica del Pilar dominated the skyline and was a very opulent basilica which looked from the outside almost like a mosque with rounded turrets. Walking around that part of the city was comfortable with large pedestrian areas with more churches, museums, fountains, sculptures and lots of cafes and restaurants. We wandered the relatively empty old city for a few hours in the hot sunshine.

My very basic Spanish got a workout when we called a campsite to make a booking. We were surpised that no other language was spoken there but I got the message that there was no space so another
campsite purporting to be the highest in Spain had free spaces so we made for “Los Corralizos” set high up in a pine forest near Brancholes in the Sierra de Albarracin. The weather had returned to
hot and sunny although the nights were quite cool. We walked from the campsite up to the “Sierra Alta” at 1850metres and got a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

We had to get used to different hours as the Spanish don’t have lunch until about 2-3pm and dinner until about 10-12pm. If there was music this would sometimes go on until 1-2am and children were
usually running around until late. Mornings in the campsites were the quietest time with most people not rising early!

We left after two nights and drove through the mountains to Albarracin a fascinating town with buildings hugging a mountain on all sides. The only tourists we encountered in and around that area
were Spanish ones and we saw no tour buses. We drove on south via the vast orange orchards of Valencia and on to Santa Pola, south of Alicante for a few days which turned into a week. Santa Pola lies on salt flats which range from white to pink and there were thousands of flamingoes in the lakes of the surrounding wetlands. Nearby was a large shopping complex and it was very sad to see

it as most of the shops had either never opened or had closed because of the economic crisis.

Something strange was going on with the right side of my face – infection, teeth and wasn’t sure so made a dentist appointment which was difficult as August is standard holiday time in Spain. After a few trys got into one for Monday 16th August so we decided to just enjoy our time in Santa Pola from Thursday 13th. It was a warm 40 degrees with a hot wind when we arrived so the airconditioner went into action straight away. The campsite was enormous and we got one of the few remaining of the 500 odd sites. We were right at the top of the hill (quite a climb when walking back from town) which was pretty quiet thank goodness except for a loud Spanish party one night.

We walked down to “Merce China” a warehouse run by Chinese and full of everything you could every need and it was really well set out! The Chinese shops in Italy are more of a mish mash but here all the goods were very well displayed and categorised. The locals in both countries complain about the Chinese taking over but there are always lots of locals in their shops because of their prices.

We went to catch the bus but because of the big holiday in Spain (as well as Italy)on the 15th August, the services were reduced so we waited a while before finally one arrived to take us to Elche a non tourist city south of Alicante and a big centre for shopping unlike Santa Pola.

We had a long walk from the bus station and a lot of the shops were closed so we opted for a big lunch instead. We asked a local for a nice restaurant serving local specialities and were directed to “La Granaina” where we ate at a long bar with the locals. It was a very upmarket bar with Moet in ice buckets on the counter. The food was delicious and very well presented. The giant gin and tonic and large glass of Sangria went down a treat too.
We started with marinated almonds and three courses starting with gaspacho with shrimps,fried cod,pork belly and their special baked rice with sausage and chicken, drinks and coffee and at 71 euros we thought it was excellent value. A pity the Australian dollar was not doing well against the euro.

The bus took us to “El Cortes Ingles” a wonderful enormous multi storey department store more like a shopping complex which had a large hardware store “Brico” on a lower level and a very large
supermarket as part of the store.
The shop assistants and security guards were all so helpful and cheerful that it was a pleasure to shop there. One security guard phoned us a taxi and as we could not take our trolley out of the

building, she went and got our euro for us from the shopping cart.
We ended up with some useful things for the van – new good quality sheets and a new clothes airer.

It was a shopper’s paradise with such variety and many sale items.
We caught a taxi home as we had too much to carry back to the campsite from the bus stop. Two luxuries in one day – a wonderful meal and a taxi ride. Maurice liked being driven for a change.

The long evenings were lovely but at 7pm it felt like 3pm, still warm and very light so we always seemed to eat later and later but never as late as the Spanish.
There were mainly Spanish family groups at the campsite. They explained that because they live in flats in cities close by and come to the campsite to get together where they can swim and be
together with much more space and the children can ride around on their bikes in a secure environment. They did a lot of communal cooking in enormous pans.

We thought we would replicate our great day from two days before but it was not to be. We to wait an hour in the sun for the bus so opted for a taxi after 45minutes to take us back to Elche. The restaurant we wanted to go back to was closed (a Monday) and both shoe repairers had gone on holiday. My good walking sandals had given up the ghost. We didn’t have too many days like that so
we cut our losses and went back to the campsite after my first dentist’s appointment where they discovered a wisdom tooth that needed extraction.

We had forgotten how many sets of twins we had seen in Spain the previous year until we saw four sets in two days?!

The tooth came out without much fuss on Wednesday leaving me with a sore face for a few days. Dr Orts did a great job and at 50 euros
for xrays and the extraction I couldn’t complain..
We took a mixture of the highway and small roads when we left Bahia de Santa Pola for Estepona, our last night’s stop on our way down to Algericas. The scenery was very varied with stark mountain ranges, gorges and valleys first full of citrus orchards and then olive trees from tiny new ones to very old trees on our way down through Andalucia. We didn’t think that Spain would ever run out of

We came across the strangest theme park called “Fort Bravo” with an enormous “Texas Hollywood” sign on the side of the hill. There was a large wild west town and we thought it might have also been used for spaghetti westerns.
It was lovely seeing the coast again near Marbella before we arrived at Estepona and the campsite.

It was a long day so we opted for a seafood paella at the camp restaurant for our last meal in Spain. It was delicious.

On the 21st August we drove down to Algericas to board the ferry to Tangier in Morocco.

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