Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Looking Back At Our Two Weeks In Spain.

CaboGataGarden Hotel
We are now back home, and back to the cold dank weather of a UK Autumn. Our two week break in 'out of season' Southern Spain was a great idea, and we have had a fabulous time. The weather has been hot and sunny every single day, and the whole thing worked out rather well - the journey there and back ran like clockwork, hop on a plane at Manchester, two and a half hours later pick up the hire car in Spain, drive 15 minutes to the hotel, check in and relax. The same on the way back, and all with reasonable times, no hanging around.

We booked this independently via, and then put 2 weeks Hertz car hire on top. Booking the flights this way was cheaper than the already cheap scheduled flights booked directly with Monarch. The only disadvantage being that there was no on-line check in facility, as there would be if booked direct. We travelled light, with just our 10kg scheduled flight allowance of hand luggage - a first for us, but with careful planning, it worked out well, and no hanging around at the baggage conveyor.

The whole lot came in at £1180 for the both of us for 2 weeks, flights, hotel and car. We were up-graded to a better car with air conditioning on arrival, and then  the same at the hotel from the ocean view room we had paid for to a full blown penthouse suite. Lucky! We are not big spenders on holiday, and that side of things only came to 140 euros for the 2 weeks, but that didn't include a surprise night out I arranged in a restaurant for 8 of us at only 100 euros. It is so cheap to live in Spain - buy the meal and they throw in the wine for free! On this occasion that equated to 3 bottles of vino tinto and 2 large bottles of mineral water. It works the same at the bars - buy a beer and they throw in a free tapas. The only other expense was £60 worth of diesel for the near 1000km we travelled in the car. This is the review of the Cabogatagarden Hotel on Trip Advisor I wrote as we left......

'As I write this I am sat in one of the comfy leather sofas in the reception area of the hotel on the last night of our two week stay. We have had an excellent, out of season holiday here.
If you are looking for British bars and a vibrant night life you won't find them here as it is set in a quiet residential area, with only a few bars and restaurants a short walk away. That is the main reason we chose it. We had a car for the duration of our stay, and that would benefit getting out and about to the many places of interest in the surrounding areas, such as the Cabo De Gata - Nijar Natural Park. The hotel is immaculately presented, and is situated close to the beach, with just a landscaped area and promenade separating its rear boundary from that. The sand on the beach here is the dark gritty type often found along this coastline, with pebbles at the shoreline. This gets finer as you walk towards Retamar, and a very fine beach can be found a short drive away at Cabo De Gata itself. We chose this hotel because of its quiet, sophisticated location, within a Spanish community, and it has fulfilled our expectations. There were a couple of detail issues associated with our room, such as a loose shower head, and lavatory seat, but when I had to report a more technical equipment failure, this was dealt with very quickly and efficiently, and in a friendly way, with an end result that exceeded our expectations.The restaurant service is buffet, with a huge cold buffet choice, plus at least three hot dishes as well as freshly cooked meats by a chef, and a daily roast. As this was out of season we thought this was excellent, as sometimes midweek the hotel became quiet. However, at weekends the place became vibrant with Spanish guests. The hot buffet was at best tepid, apparently to local taste, so who am I to argue with that. There was however a microwave oven available for self use to give your plate of food a final boost. That proved quite acceptable to me, my wife preferring the cold salads anyway. My biggest issue was that the information on the Garden Hotels website stated free car parking. In reality, this equated to about a dozen spaces at the front, with another six disability bays. These were often full, and all other on site parking was chargeable at 6 euros a day, or 35 euros a week. To me, totally unreasonable at a hotel located well out of the city centre, where space is not at a premium. However, there was plenty of safe street parking as well as a free municipal beach car park next door. We always managed to park, but I could see there may be issues in high season. The pool areas are very well managed by a duty lifeguard who worked until 7pm when the pools were closed. There was daily children's entertainment provided with a nightly bill of entertainment for the adults.Would we visit again? The answer is yes, we had a great stay overall.'

I hope some of that may be of use to others who may be considering an escape from our weather.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Trip That Never Was!

Today's planned day out was a visit to Alcazaba Castle, which is located in central Almeria. We knew it would involve driving through the centre of the city to get there whichever way we chose to access it.
Before setting off I planned our route on good old Google maps, to bring us in from the motorway in the north, thus missing out much of the city centre. We exited the motorway at our designated junction and headed in the direction of the castle according to the map we had studied. However, all that happened was we found ourselves driving around a web of narrow one way streets with no signage to indicate we were near our target. After following a 'site of historic interest' sign, (in Spanish of course), I decided to park up and have a walk in an attempt to achieve our goal. As I reversed into a parking space, Margaret said to me, "just look around you". Having taken my concentration off arriving safely at whatever our destination would be, I looked around and saw barred windows, both at ground and upper floor level, graffiti, and vehicles placed on bricks with missing wheels. We looked at each other and simultaneously said "perhaps not"!
We pulled out of the parking space and drove on, very shortly finding ourselves back where we started, back at the motorway. A mutual decision was made to abort our trip and head back, rather than go through all that again.

Once safely back on the motorway we decided to stop off and have a walk around Costacabana, an upmarket residential area on the coast not far from El Toyo, and our route back. Villas here are on the market between 700,000 and 1 million euros. The above images are of that stop on the coast.

That was our first abandoned trip of our two weeks here, so not bad I suppose. Alcazaba Castle will have to wait for another visit, but I am informed it is worth the effort, being the 2nd largest Muslim fortified building in the country, second only to the Alhambra Palace at Granada, (which also happens to be near enough for a day out from here).

Today is our 33rd wedding anniversary, and has been one of the few times I have remembered it!
To mark the occasion I arranged a surprise night out at one of the best restaurants in this area, together with six friends. A fabulous evening was had by all of us, and Margaret's face when she walked in and saw everybody waiting for us to arrive:-)
Unfortunately, the only image I have of the occasion is the sun setting over the bay as we walked there.

Tomorrow, being Saturday once again, will be lunchtime drinks and Tapas at the country bar we visited last weekend with around a dozen friends.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Roquetas De Mar

Today's outing involved joining the A7 motorway again, but this time heading towards Malaga. After an hour driving we arrived at Roquetas De Mar, the next largest town in the area after the City of Almeria. The drive was very easy, well signed with quiet roads, even the motorway. We must be doing something very wrong in the UK with all our congestion. One thing I have noticed is the city roads all have lay-by parking, so not to interrupt traffic flow, but then, on the pavement side of the stationary vehicles, there is usually a cycle lane to keep them totally away from traffic. The speed limit in residential areas is also usually 30 kph, slower than ours, but still mainly ignored by the locals.

Images today show the plaza de marine, (promenade), as we walked towards the marina for private boats, where we found a couple of Poole, Dorset, registered cruisers, namely Sealine F43's. I wonder if they arrived by sea or low loader? I think I would prefer low loader, than the sea passage here in a (relatively) small but capable cruiser.

"I wonder if this hose will reach our narrowboat"? Token operated, some things in the marine world are the same the world over, and are the basis of similar discussion.

On another matter, as we leave this hotel on Sunday, it will close to the public, and film director Sir Ridley Scott will move in and take it over with the cast and crew of his latest blockbuster movie 'Exodus' which stars Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver. They will be filming in the area for three months from October 21st. This is how the local paper reported it....

The countdown has started for the arrival of Exodus in Almeria.

Director Sir Ridley Scott will begin filming the blockbuster in Almeria on October 21st. The date has been chosen to follow on from several days of filming in London.

Shooting will start in Tabernas and will continue for about three months in different locations in the province, although most of the filming will focus on sets that are completed in the Sierra Alhamilla.

The extras chosen are happy at having the opportunity to participate in a film that will make history as well as give a financial boost to the province. The movie is also notable for the actors chosen by Sir Ridley. These include superstars Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver. Also in the cast is young Spanish actress Maria Valverde who is to play the role of  the wife of Moses played by Bale.

Hotel rooms in Almeria City are already filling up fast with the recent arrival of the twice Oscar nominated artistic director Arthur Max. The New Yorker is a key member of the team and has worked on many films previously with Sir Ridley including Black Hawk Down and Gladiator.

I wonder if Sigourney will be using our suite? Mmmmmmm.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Film Locations Around Almeria

Today we set off early again for a trip to Rodalquilar to follow the 'Movie Triangle', a 10km route through the mountains on corrugated dirt tracks. This area has been used for the location filming of over 400 major movies. See:

Unlike anything you would find in the UK, all this is set in the mountainous desert region within The Cabo de Gata - Nijar National Park. Hold your nerve as bitumen road surface gives way to corrugated gravel, the width narrows, and the inclines steepen. All of a sudden, after driving through narrow mountain passes, some with sheer drops, the vista in front of you turns into a lush green plain laid out before you, with mountains all around in 360 degrees, in complete contrast to the barren landscapes you have been picking your way through.

This is what is known as the salad bowl, and is an irrigated fertile oasis within the mountain range, where all kinds of vegetables are cultivated. Drive by this, heading towards a pass out of the 'bowl', and you shortly arrive at the now derelict Mission building which featured in the Clint Eastwood 'Dollars' series of spaghetti westerns.

From here you could follow the track towards the disused gold mine and the surrounding area that was used in the movie Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, we found the track to be badly eroded here, with very tight turns and sheer drops, so would require a 4X4. Rather than risk our little Citroen, we backtracked to the bitumen road, and followed the coast road to the entrance of the mine from the other side. It was well worth the effort. There are records available to view in the small visitor centre that date back to 1902. On the approach is a whole village, all now derelict, that once housed the mining workforce. When mining ceased in the 1960's, the village went with it.

A model of the mine as it was when working.

The movie epic Lawrence of Arabia was filmed down the dirt track towards the coast, famously shipping in two whole railway trains complete with rolling stock and track, to shoot the 'blowing up of the train' scenes. Almeria City was also used in this movie for the Cairo scenes.

An excellent day out.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

When In Spain.........

Esta tarde vamos a tener amigos visitan el hotel para planear una cena para 8 el viernes, el dia de nuestro aniversario de boda.

Asi, esta mañana hemos visitado Almeria por segunda vez, de estar de vuelta para el almuerzo, a tiempo para nuestros amigos.

Debido a esto, las fotografias de hoy son un poco aburrido, por lo que pido disculpas.
Sin embargo, la ultima imagen es la de una hermosa puesta del sol que se pueden encoutrar en esta region.

Servicio normal se reanudara mañana.
Gracias por su paciencia.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Do You Know The Way To San Jose

No - not the Californian subject of the song, but the one here in Andalucia.
Today we had an early start, as the day was looking as though it would be hot. We planned to head to the coastal village of San Jose, calling at the National Park visitor centre on the way.

If you are ever in this area with a car, as the visitor centre is out in the desert, it is worth the detour off the main road to have a look.
This arid part of the region has been the location setting of some famous Hollywood films. Lawrence of Arabia was shot on location here, as were parts of the Indiana Jones movies, as depicted in one of the information displays.
After our look around, it was off to San Jose, for a walk around there, again parking roadside on the outskirts of town for ease of parking.

Again, another pleasant town to stroll around, with a popular beach set within a bay, and a marina for private leisure boats.

It was then back for cheese and biscuits on our new very spacious balcony, before relaxing around the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A Birthday Party Outdoors

Today, being Sunday, was a leisurely day. We awoke in our new surroundings, wondering were we where, (see yesterday's post), and got up to have breakfast before moving into the hotel reception lounge to use the free wi-fi there.

We were invited to a party a few kilometres away, for 1.00pm, so Margaret spent the time preceding reading, (a real book), while I messed around with my iPhone.
We jumped in the car at around 12.45pm and drove out into the country, arriving at our destination around 1.15pm.

The drinks flowed freely, (Coca Cola for me), and a very merry time was had by all. As the light began to fail we said our farewell to arrive back at Retamar before dark, although I suspect the party is still ongoing as I write.

Another great day, and thanks to all concerned for making us feel so welcome.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A Pleasant Surprise

We feel like we have fallen off the Co-op and landed in the Divi.

We encountered a problem with our room air conditioning last night, and as a result, didn't get much sleep.
I reported it to the reception desk as we left for our day out today, enjoyed the day, and returned at about 3.45pm, where the receptionist collared me to inform us that the motor had burnt out in our air conditioner, and couldn't be fixed immediately. Bugger! I thought, more sleepless nights to follow.
How wrong I was. In her next breath she said "so we have moved you to one of our suites". She handed us the key to our accommodation for the next week, and what a difference. Two of everything! Two sinks, shower and a bath, two fridges, two very large flat screen tv's, a bedroom, complete with a bigger than King size bed, a study, a lounge, and the biggest wrap around balcony with not only table and chairs, but our own sun loungers as well! The following are pictures of our old room....

Next, our new room (rooms) for our remaining week...

And best of all....... I can now make important 'phone calls while engaged in the Throne Room!

This hotel and it's staff are the tops!