We left Morocco on the 11th of September and enjoyed the nice, calm hour and a half crossing from Tanger Med port to Algerciras and up to Manilva and Camping Bella Vista which was another wonderful campsite set up by an English company with no expense spared. It was AUD43 a night which was a shock after the AUD10-12 a night everywhere in Morocco but we were back in mainland Europe.

We wanted a few days R and R and to do the washing etc. We also needed two new front brake pads on the van and had to wait until the Monday to have them fitted in Sabinillas. As soon as we arrived at the camp a little furry friend made her/himself known to us and promptly had a look around the van and then settled on the mat outside. Our first meal was…..fish and chips and peas (not mushy) first time for about three years!

It was a very windy couple of days but we were able to catch up on a lot of things and go for a nice walk into the small town of Manilva with it’s many holiday appartments and marina. There were a lot of English people around and the predominant skin colour was very red over white and the hair colour was bleached blond for the women.
We actually watched a movie on our TV “The Railway Man” the first one of our videos that we had seen since leaving Bali. There was too much to see and do for the last three months in Greece, Turkey and Morocco that by the end of the day after much walking and sightseeing and then cooking a meal, writing my blog and sorting photos that there was no time for a movie.

We had booked in to have the front brake pads changed on Monday morning but the man
couldn’t do it until late afternoon when the parts had come in so we went back to the campsite, had lunch and returned only to find that they were the wrong size so we had to wait while one of the workers went off to get the correct ones. We didn’t get away until 5.30pm and we had a 3 1/2 hour drive up to “Despenaperros” campsite near a national park in Santa Elena. We had a good run and arrived at 9.15pm. Thank God for twilight.

Leaving the next morning we drove a bit of the Autovia and then onto secondary roads with kilometres of olives groves and vineyards on both sides of the road. The grape harvest was in full swing. Towards the city of Albacete there were many abandoned properties and houses – sad to see.
We visited my favourite Spanish department store “El Cortes Ingles” in Albacete, a very clean and orderly city before going on to “Mon Mar” campsite at Moncofa north of Valencia. It was the only campsite at which we had stayed the previous year. It was slowly cooling down, 21degrees in the mountains and 28-31degrees on the coast. The hot weather was nearly over, unfortunately for us and Autumn and the colder weather was not far away.

We stopped at the lovely city of Castellon de Plana which was surrounded by citrus orchards to visit the hairdresser and do some shopping.
As usual the parking spots shown on “maps me” did not show whether the parking was
underground where we wouldn’t fit or above ground so we just drove around the city and luckily found a large free above ground parking area which gave us a rushed 1/2 hour walk back to the hairdressers.

Then on to Torredembarra for two nights on the coast before heading for Barcelona. “Camping Noria” was one of the best campsites at which we had stayed with a lovely sandy beach and close to town. The staff in particular were excellent and even gave Maurice a small lemon slice with a single candle for his 70th birthday on the 18th September before we set off for Barcelona on a beautiful clear, sunny day.

We had decided to have a bit of luxury for three nights at a nice hotel in the city centre so after missing the parking entrance which was not well sign posted and doing a few circles we left Van Mauriceson in the BSM underground bus carpark for 20euros a day and took the metro into the city to stay at the “Hesperia Presidente hotel” on Diagonal in the suburb of Eixample, a very central location only ten minutes walk to the metro.

I had arranged a surprise party for Maurice at “Acces” restaurant not far away and he got a big surprise and shock to see three of his cousins from Ireland and one from Barcelona and his wife and long standing Irish friends from Perth there who happened to be in Europe on holiday and who rearranged their travel to include Maurice’s birthday celebration. Everyone enjoyed the wonderful and plentiful meal and service. Most restaurants in Barcelona well Spain really don’t open at night until 8.30pm so it was after 1.00am by the time we had finished our meal and had cake and complimentary champagne from the management.

We met Maurice’s cousin Caroline the next morning for a long breakfast and then get supplies for more drinks and nibbles in the hotel before going to dinner to “Elche” restaurant to have a paella.
Maurice didn’t feel too well the following day so went back to the hotel after a walk and I continued on to explore the small alleyways of the city and meet up with our friends in “La Rambla” to have a last drink with them before going back to the hotel and taking Maurice to dinner to a local restaurant for dinner.
We took a taxi the next morning to the metro station and made our way back to the van and headed for Pampelonne in the Mid Pyrenees region and our friend Dieter and Heddi for the night. We took the highway on that occasion via Carcasonne and Toulouse as we wanted to get to our destination before nightfall. It was another beautiful clear, warm day.

We went from 25degrees, T shirt and shorts on the 21st September to jeans and jumpers and 14degrees on the 22nd September. It was getting us ready for England.
We left in the mid morning the following day with mist and light rain and that continued the whole day with some torrential rain along the way to Salbris, south of Orleans via Limoges.

We passed many pretty little picturesque villages along the way dotted among the green rolling hills.
We stayed that night at “Camping de Sologne” at the pretty village of Salbris. It was close to the highway on our way via Paris to Dunkirk which we drove in one stretch. Our last couple of nights were spent at “Le Etrans” in the Bray dunes near Dunkirk where it was cold and raining. It was the only time we got bogged and in a camping ground! We were luckily pulled out the next morning by two cheerful chaps and their works vehicle.
We left Dunkirk on the 25th September for England. Security was tight and officers looked in and at the back of the van. It seemed that all the trucks were being xrayed before boarding the ferry. The crossing like most of our crossings was smooth and it was only a two hour trip to Dover.

We went straight to our friends in the Chiltern hills which was like going home. They always made us so welcome and we had a nice relaxing time – sitting in their lovely garden, going out for nice meals and out on their boat on the Thames. For the first time in our 3 1/2 years the weather was really kind to us and we had a beautiful sunny ten days (albeit a bit cold especially in the mornings and evenings). Our last couple of days were spent catching up with friends and relatives in London and doing a bit of retail therapy at my favourite TKMaxx store.

On our way up to the M25 we passed through the “Dartford tunnel” but did not notice the placard stating a toll and as we were about to leave England we were told that we would be fined if we had not paid this within 24hours! Well we were too late for that so we googled it, rang them and paid the reduced fine of 35 pounds (within 14days) or otherwise it would have been 70 pounds fine! I made sure I prepaid the 2.50pounds toll online before we left. We actually went over the bridge above the tunnel but the toll is still payable.

We sadly got news that a lovely friend of ours in Perth had died that morning with his partner and dog by his side after a 7month battle with stomach cancer. It reinforced our mantra to make the most of every day and as Maurice always said it was a day we would never have again.

We left Dover on a cloudy,cold and rainy day on 5th October for Calais and to do a quick run back to Italy to prepare the van for it’s winter hibernation.

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