January sun

11th January saw Roger and I heading off in the camper to Portsmouth to catch the ferry to Santander, off to get some winter sun. After a couple of nights on the ferry we arrived and drove through the mountains to Toledo. The weather was chilly in the mornings and evening, but comfortable in the day without the addition of hats and scarves. Toledo was beautiful, a walled city on a hill, similar to those in Italy we’d seen last year. The buildings were built almost on top of each other with beautiful facades only being partially glimpsed as you couldn’t get far enough away to see them in their entirety. Definitely worth a visit if in the area.

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After two nights we packed up and headed southwards to Alfaix in the Almeria area. We drove through the Spanish desert which was flat and hot eventually arriving at our studio flat for two weeks enjoying the welcome warmer weather. During our stay there we visited loads of the local villages, taking delight in the street markets with all the sumptuous fresh produce, particularly the oranges and peppers. The market in Turres appeared to be run mostly by Brits who had brought over all sorts of tat from England and flogging it to the Brits enjoying the sun!
We found a lovely Evangelical church in Turres, run by Brits who welcomed Roger and I with open arms. We enjoyed two lovely services there and enjoyed meeting the congregation who chatted to us and gave us lots of advice about where to visit. Highlights of our stay in this area were Lubrin, a walled town which was enjoying the Fiesta of San Sebastian. This involved crowded streets, a parade of a statue of San Sebastián and bread being thrown from people in balconies which led to desperate struggles on the ground to either jump and catch them, or crawl around on the floor to retrieve them. All a bit mad but good fun. We followed the procession, gathering bread as we went. We learnt that San Sebastián was the Saint of the village and fed the village. The festival celebrated this and it was considered lucky to collect 12 bits of bread, 1 for each month of the year which you then hung in your house until you replaced it the following year. Quite mad but great fun.
After the procession we settled in the square with Lynda and Richard, friends we’d met at church for a spot of lunch and found ourselves next to a group who’d been part of the organisation who insisted in sharing their picnic of local food with us, and tempted us to try a bit of wine tasting.
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We loved Mojacar Pueblo and Mojacar Player – the beach where Roger had a quick dip in the med. Cold I think!

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We had a great trip to Almeria enjoying the Alcazaba – an old fortress. Wonderful views over the Med and a beautiful city. We drove back driving around the Cabot de Gata which we loved so much that we went back again.

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Other highlights were Cortijo Cabrera and a couple of lovely walks we had.

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Too soon it was time to move on from Alfaix and we headed to Granada where we found a campsite in the city. We had a lovely wander on the day we arrived and we’re glad that we had, as it rained the following day which was the day we were booked to visit the Alhambra. We did like Granada but the rain did dampen our spirits a bit. The Alhambra was very ornate with lots of ceramic tiles and stucco plaster and lots of fountains.
We travelled down to Fuengirola where we hoped to meet up with my friend Jean. Fortunately we did find her and enjoyed a lovely Sunday afternoon with them before heading off towards Gibralta.

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We camped on the Spanish side and walked over the border control into Gibralta. We walked up the rock and found a lovely, but quite difficult footpath up to the top of the rock. We couldn’t seem to get to the very top as these spots were all fenced off, but the walk had been lovely. On the way down we saw a large number of Barbary Macaques who appeared to be friendly. I was a bit nervous of one who tapped me on the head when climbing down though.

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We then headed to Cadiz which again we really liked although didn’t spend long there. We had planned to go to Seville but couldn’t find a camp site so instead diverted to Córdoba which was a happy accident as it really was lovely. We visited the Meziquita, the cathedral, getting up early to take advantage of the free entry before 9am. A real mix of Muslim and Christian architecture and quite stunning. Lots to see in the city and lovely to stroll through the old town watching the world go by.

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Our last stop was in Aranjuez, described as the Spanish Versailles which lived up to its description. The Palacio Real was huge and imposing although we decided against going in. A quiet town, and disappointingly no where to watch the first match of the 6 nations which had to be followed by live feed – not quite the same!
We caught our ferry from Santander back to Portsmouth on Sunday 8th having had a lovely break, enjoyed some winter warmth and saw some lovely places. Definitely worth another visit another time.

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