December 2017

We were still in Adelaide at the start of December, staying until the 13th. We went to Victor Harbor, about 85km south of Adelaide, to see Michael’s parents and celebrate his mother Phil’s birthday. Michael’s dad is struggling with dementia, but Phil is well organized and doing a great job of looking after him at home. We enjoyed a fabulous time staying with recently retired Sue & Chris Greening at Goolwa and admired their new boat. Chris has recently had the 2014 Yalumba Signature wine named after him. What a richly deserved honor! We also had a brief visit with Jude & Nigel Ibbotsen at Victor Harbor, who had just returned from three months in Africa.

Michael had a very busy schedule of lunches and drinks and a great day at the cricket at Adelaide Oval watching Australia play England. He saw the first ball bowled and had a terrific time catching up with mates and networking. He saw his close mates for their annual Christmas lunch at Parisi’s on King William Road and an advertising mates get-together on the Parade. He even managed to survive catching up with the ‘girls’ from his old radio days.

While we were in Adelaide we went to see our nephew Sam Bekerta’s new house at Basket Range, set on a large property with a stunning stand of trees. We were jealous of their chooks and orchard/berry farm. We also had a lovely meal at Tom & Marnie Raggatt’s new house in Burnside.

While we were in France we had really missed spicy Asian food, so we made sure to get our fill while at home. Sue and her sister Lindy enjoyed a meal at Gyoza, Gyoza and another with Nina at the Shanghai Teahouse. Michael and JB haunted Madame Wu’s.

Lindy and JB were incredibly generous hosts, letting us stay with them and come and go for three weeks and cooking all our favourite things (like lamb, lamb and more lamb!) We can’t wait until they join us in Portugal in May!

On December 13th we headed back to Nice. We had a great flight – a solid 8 hours sleep on the first leg, good movies, great food and wines as well as individual attention on the Dubai-Nice flight, as it was only half full.

Our arrival back in France went smoothly. Thank you to Patrice Ryder, owner of Nice Caravanes for doing everything we asked and more. Our ‘camping car’ was back in tip-top shape!

As you can imagine, Grubie was very pleased to see us. Coco had put the other dogs outside so Grubie could jump, lick and do laps without interference. Pension des Cabots had kept her healthy, happy and great at socializing with really big dogs. She was pleased to see us and has soon slipped back into our touring routines.

Thanks to Tom and Marnie Raggett for recommending the restaurant Le Frog, in Nice. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch of snails, frogs legs and lamb and really enjoyed chatting to the owner and the patron next to us. Apparently we were sitting at ‘his’ table.

After staying in Villeneueve-Loubet for a couple of days getting organized and for Grubie to have her teeth cleaned, we headed to southern Spain, chasing some warmer weather. We drove four days for about 450km a day. We did have a day’s break in Benicassim to meet up with Phil and Kate, an English couple we had met in the Camargue. They managed to help us sort out our phones which had been playing up since we returned. Like many people we have met in campgrounds, they were flying home briefly for Xmas before spending the rest of winter in Spain. There were some massive motorhomes in the campground there.

We finally arrived in Torrox, near Nerja and about 60km from Malaga. We are in a very friendly campsite – and all the campsites in Spain so far have much better bathrooms than in France. Bliss!

We have unpacked the bikes and ridden down an incredibly steep hill to explore Costa Torrox (the beach town) where we found a great churinguita, or beachside bistro. They had a wonderful charcoal BBQ that wound up and down and made Michael green with envy. Good thing we aren’t just on a holiday or the design would be BBQ number 8 at Wooly’s Bar & Grill! We had a fantastic bbq whole fish each and booked for Xmas lunch.

We rode the 8km to Nerja to see Erika from Adelaide, who lives there now. She had worked really hard and is pretty fluent in Spanish now, with many Spanish friends, so she was able to give us lots of insights into the issues of the local area, as well as good tips of places to see.

On the drive south we were struck by the landscape. This part of Spain is very dry, with red dirt and is quite hilly (we would call it mountainous).  Think the Flinders Ranges meets the Mediterranean. The Catalonia region and around Barcelona is very industrial and has millions of olive trees as well as almond groves. The Valencia region is mile upon mile of oranges. How do they ever pick them all? When we got to the Almeria region we were amazed at the agriculture. There were literally hundreds of miles of plastic glasshouses covering every available bit of reasonably flat land. It looks like whole valleys have been wrapped in plastic! They grow hydroponically lots of fruit, vegetables as well as mangoes and avocados. There is a lot of discussion about irrigation and what its doing to the water table.

The roads and motorways in Spain are amazing! Apparently it’s all from ‘EU money’ and in the south not many people use them because the other roads are good and free. But for travelling long distances they are wonderful. We had that weird feeling of ‘what don’t we know?’ when we seemed to be one of the only ones on the motorway.

Prices in Spain are quite a bit cheaper than France. Its only 11EU a night for our campground, you can get a decent meal for 10Eu and the alcohol is very cheap, as are most things at the supermarket. We haven’t been to any local produce markets yet due to the holiday season, but we hope to get to one soon.

Xmas Eve rather than Xmas day is the important time in Spain as well as much of Europe. We had a quiet evening but did hear fireworks from the local parties. The other important day here is the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. There are parades all over Spain on the Epiphany Eve. We’ll be in Torres del Mar and plan to enjoy a parade there.

We celebrated Sue’s birthday and Xmas Day in Torrox with a sleep-in and a breakfast of bacon & eggs followed by a bottle of Moet, before walking to the beach for another BBQ fish and a surprise tiramisu birthday cake. Thanks Michael! The day was sunny but very cool – about 15 degrees – and we moved inside after the main course. When we got back to the campground the Poms were starting to cook their Xmas dinners -  “now it’s not so hot”!! 

The local bar was really deserted when we went there for a Xmas night drink, but we met an Englishman who was travelling alone after his wife died a couple of years ago. He had just arrived, avoiding the sadness of a lonely Xmas by driving from Salamanca. It made us count our blessings and realize that travelling together as a little ‘family’ has stopped us from getting lonely or homesick.

Now we are having a ‘chill-out’ time. Sleeping in, going for walks and rides, enjoying the occasional meal out and planning our itinerary for the next few months.  We walked up the steep escarpment to Torrox Puebla for a lunch of tapas and wine and drove to a nearby town for grilled sardines on the beach. On New Year’s Eve we went with an English couple to an English pub for a traditional Sunday roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Not what we were expecting to do in Spain!

While Sue stayed home cuddling Grubie through the fireworks, Michael slipped up to the local bar where the party didn’t start until midnight. Sue felt fabulous the next day!

You may have guessed that there are thousands of English people ‘over-wintering’ in Spain. Sometimes it feels like a county of England and in Torrox there is even an English supermarket! The camping ground we stayed in was mostly English, Dutch and Danish with the occasional French or Italian vehicle. The man next to us is from Sweden and at his home it’s currently -22 degrees. No wonder they escape to the south!

We are really looking forward to getting into more tourism and travelling for a few weeks with our friend Craig, who is joining us in January to tour the Malaga, Seville, and Gibraltar regions.