We stayed almost a week at Los Madriles, exploring the area on our bikes and enjoying the lovely heated pool at the camp site. What we first thought to be a heated sea water pool was, in fact, saline water taken from a geothermal source. The naturally occurring 30° water was pumped to the pool each morning and emptied after the pool closed every evening.
We spent several days exploring Port Mazzarón, 3k along the coast. We also enjoyed the nearby town of Isla Plana which had several restaurants and an excellent supermarket. When we were feeling hungry we lunched at one of the many restaurants offering the menu del dia.
This normally commenced with bread and alioli, then a starter, a main and, if you were still sitting upright, a desert. All this washed down with a bottle of wine followed by coffee all for an inclusive price of €9 a head. On a hungry day we could manage all the courses but often it had to be a beer, salad, main course and coffee – we were always aware that we had to cycle the 3k back to the camp site.
One weekend in Port Mazzarón we came across a fresh fish shop with restaurant attached (only open weekends and holidays). We had a beer and spent some time watching the fishmongers preparing the catch using huge meat cleavers even on the tiniest of fish. Tony chose a starter of anchovies and I had a plate of thinly sliced octopus seasoned with paprika and drizzled in olive oil – accompanied by fresh bread. Then we had grilled sardines that we had personally selected from the fish counter, bright silver with fresh eyes, cooked on the grill with oil, herbs and seasoning. The cost of this feast for the two of us was €15 plus our drinks.
One disadvantage of driving in the warmer weather is the constant barrage of insects hitting the windscreen, leaving wet marks the size of ping pong balls and making it almost impossible to see out unless the windscreen is cleared regularly. These insects must be quite a size as they make a splat noise as they hit the and our washer wipers have to work overtime so we can see where we are going. One of the first jobs when we arrive is to clean the windscreen before the stains set hard in the Spanish sun.
Another day we cycled to Azohia, a small, Spanish holiday village. The day was cloudy and windy, but hot enough to enjoy the bike ride. I don’t know what the place would be like in the height of the season but it was virtually empty and reminded us of an American frontier town, especially as the warm wind blew the dust up into our eyes and pieces of rubbish were swirled high into the air by the wind. A stray dog added to the Wild West atmosphere. You could not describe it has run down because it looked as if the place had never been Up. We liked it, especially as there was an area reserved for camper vans to stay overnight.
We cycled along the coast made up of a series of bays, we passed through the little town of Mazarrón and on to Port Mazzarón where there was a new marina with shops and cafés on a wide esplanade in front of the little town. The broad sandy beaches were mechanically swept at night. It was early in the tourist season and the place was quite quiet but there were enough people around to make it enjoyable sitting in the warm sun enjoying a beer or coffee at one of the many cafés on the seafront.
We continued our journey south along the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona, driving for more than six hours before we reached Elche, then Murcia and on to Cartagena.
We found a campsite in Mazzarón on the Isla Plana coast. The campsite was long and narrow, with terraces reaching up towards the background hills of the Sierra d Almenara. The higher terraces provided delightful views of the Mediterranean but we found the perfect pitch at the far end of the lowest terrace with a view of the mountains set against the blue sky. Our neighbours were two German vans and two Dutch. There were quite a few British staying on the site but they were camped away from us, further up the hill. The site had a large salt water swimming pool. When they had to change the water they emptied the pool after it closed in the evening so the pool stood virtually empty overnight. In the morning three large water jets were turned on and the pool refilled with sea water. I assume the water passed through a series of filtration units as there was no sign of any marine life in the pool – not a lobster or prawn to be had.
We headed south towards Barcelona and found a large resort at Vilanova i la Gelthrú. This site had outside swimming pools and an indoor pool plus a restaurant and a spa. It was a lovely clean site and was the sort of place the British come and stay over the winter months. They even had language and dance classes. It had a holiday camp atmosphere but after two days it felt more like a prison camp and we were eager to hit the road again.
There was a daily bus that took you into Barcelona, a journey of about 45 minutes. We have never been to Barcelona and wondered what it was like. A city? Big? Hot? We didn’t catch that bus.
Weather wise, the next day was a day of all seasons as we drove south, leaving Bordeaux in 24° and heading towards Pau on the D929 and D173 to the Tunnel d’Aragnouet Bielas, which took us through the Pyrénées into Spain. First we saw snow on distant mountains then we travelled through ski areas with melting snow along the roadside. The temperature dropped as we climbed, plummeting to 9° at the mouth of the tunnel. On the other side as we descended it was cloudy and murky, we stopped overnight in the foothills of the Pyrénées but we woke up to rain and temperature of 15°, not cold but miserable. We did not want to linger long.