We had planned to complete some of the nearby walking trials that surround Abla to explore more the Sierra Nevada. However, the continued rainfall played our hand to continue driving and we even managed to get an early start. We also achieved quite a respectable distance and we got as far as Cabo de Palos in the Murcia region. We did not have any ideas what this stop over (free) was going to be like, we only knew it was coastal (Costa Calida) and near La Manga. As the photos suggest, the stop over is in an amazing location, with sea and the La Manga strip in view from one side and the light house in the other.
Cabo to the back of us
La Manga to the front
This stop over was also made more pleasant as we met Wendy and Chris from Wales who joined us on the car park. The Cabo is surrounded by small beach coves and that is where Sharon chose to do her sunbathing by day, and where the Anglo/Welsh foursome chose to drink some wine whilst watching the sunset at night. I really liked Cabo de Palos, but I always seem to have a soft spot for small fishing ports (Saundersfoot, Carteret, Grand Camp-Maisey etc etc).
One point I don’t want to forget is the road to the Cabo (RM332) which I think wins the prize so far for the best coastal road of the trip.
RM332 towards Aguillas.
The next stop was the Costa Blanca, particularly a holiday destination called Mil Palmeres where, when I was much younger, we used to spend lots of our family holidays. I was in two minds whether we should go back to see this destination as even after 28 years, which was the last time we were there, I still hold happy memories and it would be a shame to ruin them as I have heard that this region has deteriorated. The drive from the Cabo to Mil Palmeres took us through La Manga/Mar Menor and up the coast on yet again the RM332. Even though progress was quite slow with all the roundabouts we were rewarded with coastal views and also a glimpse of how the coast changes as you head north, in both natural aspects and in it’s inhabitants.
Once at Mil Palmeres I was pleased to find that in my opinion very little has changed. The beach was quiet and still looked pretty amazing. The little street with bars and restaurants looked the same as in my memory, however Mercado do Mercedes is now a German restaurant (closure of Mercedes could be linked to the huge Lidl just on the main road out of town!?!) but the La Pirata bar and the La Pescadito restaurant were still looking like they were fairing the time well, as did the whole resort in general.
Matt at Mil Palmeras
View from Playa 11 steps of Mil Palmeras beach.
“Cheers”, El Pescadito restaurant.
We had planned to stop the night in Santa Pola but when we got to the stop that is recommended in Camper-Contact it did seem to be a little out of town and basically on an industrial site. The next town we tried was El Campello where we found one stop over completely closed (Camper Stop Europe book, listed as ‘Camper Park Alicante’, Carrer Llauradors 113) and the other in the town a paid for ‘motorhome sardine packer’ behind a 10 foot chicken wire fence. So, as it was still early we decided to continue north further into the Costa Blanca. As both these places (Santa Pola and El Campello) only had ‘paid for’ sites and were pretty built up coastal towns where the main resort’s beach is lined with restaurants and bars with high rise apartments above we decided that if this was going to be the common factors of the towns on this part of Spain’s coast then we may as well go the old queen of all of them…………wait for it……….BENIDORM.
We ended up on a campsite just above Playa Levante which had about a 20% motorhome to 80% permanent resident mix. The residents are 99% from the UK and use old caravans with massive awnings as homes escaping their UK lives and enjoying the cheapness and sunny climes of Benidorm.
After Benidorm we continued a little further up the Costa Blanca to Xabia which is another resort but not as large or ‘intense’ as Benidorm however, it did share the ‘English Menus, fried breakfasts, Indian restaurants and kebab shops’ all serving the British holiday makers. In summary, my takeaways (excuse the pun) from this region of Spain is that I am mildly shocked by the density of the British invasion. Many restaurants do not even have a Spanish menu and there are British owned supermarkets popping up everywhere selling sliced white bread and tins of beans.
In a strange twist to the very Britishness of everything that we saw, I managed to spend some time with a Spanish group of guys who were on a stag do (festa de despedida). They stormed onto the Benidorm campsite in file, the Stag wearing a Borat green mankini, with a massive dish of paella. They were staying in a chalet near to us so I went to investigate as paella is one of my favourite foods. Obviously this led to me being invited to sit down and join them for a late afternoon lunch (and wine)……..very nice too.
Xabia, La Arenal beach, which overall is quite a respectable holiday destination
As mentioned above, after Benidorm we continued up the coast towards Valencia and stayed at Xabia (Javier in Spanish). We have noticed that the further we move towards Valencia, evidence of the Catalan language becomes more provident and therefore testing, improving even, our Spanish language skills further. Xabia was chosen as it was a free stop over and near the coast, but that is all we knew. Once there we were pleasantly surprised to find a relatively calm holiday resort with a beautiful beach and clear blue sea, in which we went into several times a day and this was probably the highlight of this stop.
During this time though we had the opportunity to refocus our thoughts on the tour and we both agreed that we wanted to see more places off the beaten track. This is one point most tourers will probably agree on is that you can’t see everywhere and you will always miss something. Also, when you don’t have a fixed itinerary as we don’t, and to some extent we are governed by our water and chemical toilet levels and require at times stop overs with a service point, sometimes you don’t always pick the ‘best’ places, whilst sometimes you do. We are learning that is life on the road……