Author Archives: paulnjulie

Back in Bath

It is April 5th and we are now leaving France and heading across the English Channel. The van is repaired and tucked away below us as we sit up on the top deck and enjoy the sunshiny day. The white cliffs of Dover wait our arrival on the other side.

My passport was stamped again and I realized I could now stay in England for 6 more months if I wanted. Brilliant but not possible. We stop and have a nice pub lunch and listen to conversations in English. We haven’t had this ability in quite awhile and found it refreshing and somewhat annoying at the same time. Now we know what people are saying.

We settle back in Bath on the top floor at Paul’s parents. It is a cozy space with a private bathroom and a skylight over the bed to view the nighttime stars and moon. We feel comforted, well fed, and sleep peacefully. Paul has work to do but I go and explore Bath again. Springtime suits Bath with all the flowers, canals, and walking paths.

I love browsing the shops and going to small art galleries. I couldn’t resist a show called Trumped- Make art great again at 44AD.  Nelly Mason did some really funny collages.

Paul and I continue running and accomplished running a 50K on the coast of Exmoor. One of the most beautiful but challenging races I have done. Paul does really well and comes in 20th place. I have issues at the end and walk about three miles to the finish. No pictures because I was concentrating on not falling off cliffs while running. Here is a sunset at our camp there.

Paul and I make a trip to visit our friends at Radford Mill farm. We cook a tasty dinner for everyone and enjoy conversation and laughter. In the morning at 6 am I help out in the Pollytunnels with Helga and company. I painted some signs for the farm as a gift and left them to be installed. I will miss the Radford Mill family and plan on returning some day.

Helga recently shaved her head so I gave her my purple wig as a parting present.

One last run on the Limestone Link with a new friend and triathlete, Ger Wood.

 

France: a new love

Paul and I entered France from the south-eastern coast and stopped first in  Montpellier at free aire in town. We got in late and walked to old town to visit with Nick and Tais. We had a lovely dinner at a fancy, expensive restaurant and got back to the van around 1 am. Surprisingly a quiet sleep for being in such a busy city. We enjoyed running the next morning along the river Lez to the coast and back. Then explored the city till mid day.

Paul wants to take me to see the Verdon Gorge so we drive in that direction and stop at another aire, which is really a Carrefour market parking lot. It is raining and there are other campers around so we feel safe and sleep well. Next day we drive and stop in Moustiers-Ste. Marie. We park the van and walk around the interesting town set into the hills.

We decide to go for a run even though its a bit rainy. We run to the start of the Gorge and back. Just amazing. While driving through I took a few photos but it was hard to stop on the small windy roads.

Another free aire in Digne-les Bains by a river and cycle path. Quiet again and other campers. Grey clouds make the next day drive less appealing but its kind of misty and moody. We enjoy the mountains and climbing until the van makes a strange sound, It has little power and we are not sure what to do. We decide to try and make it to Grenoble and a Mercedes dealership.

We make it to Grenoble but we were sweating and the van was super loud and struggling to get power. In the end we had major problems…….

We stayed for the first 4 nights in the van at a popular aire in Sassenage, on the edge of Grenoble. I found a public pool to swim at and shower. Paul and I enjoyed runs along the river and a really long 26 mile run up into the mountains. It took us most of a day but we were in no rush.

We took the van into the shop on a Tuesday and got a sweet air bnb in old town. We thought it would be a one day job at this point. We play tourists and do the city walk, ride on the cable cars, check out the eco district and cool murals, and buy cheese from Les Alpages! A nice dinner at Le Gout Des Autres to finish off our day.

In the end we spend 11 days in Grenoble. We find a cheaper airbnb to hang at and wait out van repairs. Our hosts are nice and we explore new parts of the town. A festival called Detours de Babel was on and we spent time listening to music from the world. I loved the markets, parks and cyclable city. Plus you have a mountain view down every street.

 

 

 

 

Last days in Spain plus visit to Dali’s casa

I don’t think either Paul or I anticipated being so captivated by the beauty of Spain. Such a deep, intimate feeling we now have for the place. Spain made us feel welcome wherever we traveled and we absorbed what we could. Running on trails, cycling and hiking brought us closer to it’s natural elements. Dining out, shopping and visiting cities we enjoyed it’s culture and festivals. All this made it difficult to leave. We decided to do a few short stays on our way out.

First we went to Berga where there was a camp ground that had a spa. Perfect for relaxing after the marathon in Barcelona and a nice place to stay for 2 nights. I loved swimming in the pool and the spa was enjoyable. The campground was almost totally filled with caravans yet also almost totally deserted, probably because people rent plots for the year. Still, quiet and mountains in the distance. Next we climbed up a bit more into the mountains to Sant Llorenc de Morunys. We park at an aire in this sleepy mountain town. We are the only ones there.

But look at our free view.

We spend two nights and explore the trails around town. One epic run!!

Now we head East to a campsite outside Olot called La Fageda. I cycle 30 miles of the journey and enjoy the quiet mountain roads. The campsite has a restaurant where we have an early dinner. Paul orders pig’s feet by accident because the menu is in Catalan. Pretty funny.

Its a really cozy, family campsite near trails and a Beech Tree forest. We go for a long run/hike on trails through old village, forest, and farms in this volcanic region. Sleep well for two nights.

Next to the east shore and Roses. Perfectly normal beach campsite, Camping Salata, that is busier than we have seen recently but not unpleasant. They even offer us free welcome drinks.

Here we find lovely coastal trails and also bike paths that wind through marsh lands. Many waterways to navigate. Costa Brava is a popular beach destination but March is still quiet. I only saw a few brave people swimming.

On our departure day we decided to visit Dali’s casa in Port Lligat. Very steep climb in the van but so worth the trip. You can see where Dali got all his inspiration from. The coastline with crazy rock formations and the Mediterranean Sea with its changing light values. The casa was so personal with both Gala and Dali’s belongings.

 

Gaudi and Barcelona

I couldn’t pass up the chance to see some of Gaudi’s work while in Barcelona. I needed to stop by the marathon expo anyways so Paul and I drove the van into Barcelona. I wouldn’t suggest doing this if you are not a experienced driver. There were so many one way streets and nowhere to park. We finally found a place way up on a hill and had to cycle back into town. After the expo, which was nice but not that alluring we headed to Casa Mila, “La Pedrera”. I loved how Gaudi made even the rooftop a magical setting. The exhibit showed some of his design ideas and all the organic forms which came directly from nature. The apartment looked charming and modern enough to live in today. (which people do)

Barcelona has no good camper parks so Paul and I found an aire on the edge of the city in Colonia Guell. Totally free with dumping and fresh agua. The best part is it was a stones throw from Gaudi’s crypt!

 

I woke bright and early and got there before all the other tourists. I had a whole half hour of alone time in this inspiring place of worship. You could see Gaudi was really playing with many of the ideas that went into Sagrada Familia. It is a shame it was never finished  because of funding and family issues. This was my favorite place of Gaudi’s to visit.

I walked  around the charming town of Colonia Guell which has many modernist buildings created by different architects in the time of Gaudi. There is a castle on the outskirts called Torre Salvana built in the 12th century. Now it is in major disrepair but graffiti artists are enjoying the space.

You can imagine it being  a majestic palace with royalty possibly residing there.

Our last day in Barcelona was comprised mostly of the marathon. I signed up the week before and figured it would be fun. I took a train in the morning from Colonia Guell which filled quickly with runners. I was a bit nervous but found it comforting that I was probably not the only one. We got into out perspective corrals for estimated time. I tried to follow the 3:30 pacers most of the way but it was a little ambitious. I thoroughly enjoyed running in the sea of humanity past all the famous sites. The crowds cheered you on the whole way and I had Nick and Paul cheering me too. Afterwards, a shower at the Olympic pool and a massive amount of Indian food and of course, cervesa!

Ocean view

I really wanted to spend some time right on the beach. (directly on the beach) There are not many options for camper parks where this is possible. I did some research on-line and found a place that was just opening. Camping Oasis Mar just south of Cambrils. I was ecstatic when we drove in to find all the beach front spots available. Paul and I quickly set up along the edge of the shore.

It was a pleasure to wake up each morning to a different sunrise. The one that looks red was of course not so good for the day. Red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in morning sailors warning. It was one of the windiest days we have had in the van. I didn’t sleep too well as I kept dreaming of being swept into the sea.

When the wind died down it was calm and perfect. I was able to do some swimming in my wet suit but the water was too cold to stay in long. Nick came to visit and set his tent up one night on the way to Barcelona.

Here’s me being silly with my shadow.

We could cycle to the nearest town Cambrils.  They had a large selection of restaurants and we enjoyed lunch at El Pati. I bought a new pair of trail shoes at Olympus Running. The owner, Carles, was very friendly and told me about running in the Barcelona Marathon the next weekend.  Hmmmm….made me think. There were some nice murals around town in all sorts of random places.

We enjoyed one last sunrise before heading toward Barcelona.  A wonderful 9 days on the beach.

Cycling and free parking

Although Paul and I have solar panels on top of the van, we do enjoy warm showers that camp sites offer. Especially after a long sweaty trail runs. That being said, going off road and exploring places not in the tourist guide books can be exciting. We tried a few aires in France and Nick’s friend John told us about an app called http://www.park4night.com/ . Most times you can stay for more than a night and there is a huge variety of places to stay. Nick and I decided to cycle to one such site next to a dam.

J

Nick’s friend John was already there and Paul beat us there in our van. Nick and I did enjoy a leisurely ride through vineyards and up mountain roads both paved and rugged. We saw another smaller dam on the way up.

The space was super quiet especially after being in a camper park for the last week. We saw a few lovers come up to park and some sporty cyclists and runners. That was about it. We were blessed with some spectacular night skies.

We took advantage of the trails around the dam to run in the mornings. Just hanging out on the dam was pretty nice too. Many small birds to watch, trains going by in the distance and lights of a mountain town at night.

The dam seems to be a failure as there is not much water.  It is situated above the town of El Catllar. An oil company Repsol owns it and it is mostly a nature area now.

Nick can sleep anywhere.

Vilanova i la Geltru/ Pat’s 80th birthday/Carnaval

Paul and I park the van in Vilanova and head to Barcelona for the night. We run 6 miles along the beach front and love seeing all the people out on Friday night exercising. We shower and then head off to see Thievery Corporation at Razzmatazz. Packed club so we hang by the sound mixer peeps. Good show, sleep at hotel and take a train back to camp the next day. Everyone is in full birthday party mode. Vanessa arrived from London plus Toby (Pat and Terry’s son) and Verity, Nick’s friend John and Jim from Bath. Paul’s Aunt Pat turns 80 years old! We celebrate with delicious food from Lynda and then relax.

Vilanova i la Getru has much to offer. Paul and I enjoy running on trails up into the mountains. There are easy buses into town where you can dine at nice restaurants or do a bit of shopping. The waterfront has a marina and on the playa you’ll find a pretty bizarre sculpture of a bull with a woman inside.

I enjoyed going to a museum, Espai Far, a lighthouse keeper’s old home. Many oddities and great old photos of how the town used to look. Near by there are wonderful coves to swim in. Nick, John and I spend an afternoon in one sunny cove.

Carnaval happens all over Spain but every town or city has their own version of the celebration. On Friday night I went to a performance with arrival of the King (and his concubines). It was a large event with fireworks, followed by a huge parade that winded through the streets. Everyone was dressed in festive costumes and each float had dancers behind it and bands playing loud music. I enjoyed a delicious sausage sandwich and a cup of vino. On Sunday, Paul and I went to Les Comparses. We rode our bikes into town and were greeted with streets filled with candy.

Really there was candy everywhere. Music and bands came out of every side street all waiting their turn to fight in the big Place de la Vila. Its a mock fight where each group has their own flag, file into plaza, throw candy at each other and the crowd, then dance!

Paul and I have never seen anything like it and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

 

 

 

Benicassim-Castellon

Our next pitch is at Bonterra Park in a town called Benicassim. The park is again pretty full so we have spots at the very back. I don’t mind as its somewhat quieter but a bit longer walk to the bathrooms and cleaning up sinks.

We immediately head out for a run on the via verde (green) trail. This is a really nice bike route that goes up the coast, has tunnels, and cuts through the cliffs making it easy to cycle or run on. It took us up to the next town Oropesa which looks pretty dead this time of year. Benicassim has a bit more going on. We enjoy a movie and also an interesting Piano concert by Santos and Borras at the Cultural Center. Heading south is a bigger town called Castellon. Nick and I cycle there on Valentine’s Day so I can find a gift for Paul and he needs a phone store. The town has lots of fun things to see like this cool sculpture.

I find a nice shirt for Paul, Nick gets his phone in working order and we have a coffee. Siesta time so we check out a park. No grass to lie on but we lay down on a bench to nap. The park has strange looking trees that have been recently trimmed.

A couple of love birds on Valentine’s Day xxoo

After napping we walk our bikes towards the Contemporary Art Museum. We stop along the way to admire buildings and eat mussels at an outdoor cafe.

The museum has an exhibit about skateboarding. The photos are from all over the world and black and white. Here is outside of the building. A pretty collaborative mural Eltono Modo No. 6

Nick is the navigator for another epic hike into Desierto de las Palmas. It is a pretty steep climb up and down. There are old forts, walls and monasteries. You can see pretty far from up top and look back at the ocean and towns. Then you remember that you will have to climb back down. I was pretty sore the next day.

Javea – Mountains and the Sea

I am really digging the options for trail running and/or hiking in Spain. So far along the coast we have encountered numerous trails with variable skill levels. On easier days around Javea we would go behind our camper park and run through the orange groves without having to climb very much. You also have the sea front option but it is only flat for about 2-3 miles. Paul’s parent’s enjoy hiking so we spent one lovely day hiking up to the Molins de la Plana. (windmills)

We stop along the way to eat some lunch and enjoy the view.

The camp site in Javea has nice trees. We would prefer the sun as it is still a bit chilly in the shade.

A wonderful museum to visit in Javea is Museo Arqueológico y Etnológico Soler Blasco. It is in Old town and free! A lot of information about the town’s history and great displays. 

Here is a picture of the waterfront with the mountains in the background. Our next destination is up in the mountains at a sweet camping spot Vall de Laguar. Nick and I cycle up there through the orange grooves and almond trees. I love the small town, its market and the old washing areas that are situated along the hill sides.

We stay for only a few days and have time for one long hike with Lynda and Derek. I will end with some hiking photos and one of the campsite. Nick pitched his tent next to the van.

Camper Parks

This journey is unique for us and all its participants. Paul and I normally travel alone in our van and sometimes we stop and visit people along the way. This trip we are following Paul’s parents (aunt and uncle too) and going to places that they have been and enjoyed. Mostly this is in Southern Spain along the coast. After Seville, we meet up with the parents in Cabo de Gata. This is our first camper park experience.

Paul and I enjoy some coastal runs, some easier than others. The small store at the camp ground has some interesting items and a good amount of local food.

Our next stop is Los Madriles. This is a busy camping spot but we get three pitches in a row. There are many amenities like, hot showers, ping-pong tables, super clean bathrooms, and a heated salt water swimming pool. I swam 5 times while here as they have an indoor lap pool and an outdoor pool. The store has most things you need, vino, fresh bread, and a weekly farmers market. Although the site had many people, I enjoyed my time here a lot.

Here are a few photos of the water front and hiking in the mountains behind the campsite.

Lynda and Derek are experienced hikers and their friends John and Reena joined us on a 10 plus mile hike. The weather got cold and we had some rain but they were fine and dressed appropriately. I on the other hand got cold by the end and Lynda was kind to offer me her gloves. I will be better prepared next time! Here is Lynda and Derek making their way up the hill.

Our next stop is in Javea or Xabia, the town with two names (Xabia is the name in Valencian, which apparently is essentially Catalan). We are unable to get into a camping spot so we all find places to park on the street. This is common and the police do not seem to mind as long as you are not directly on the waterfront. We park outside of Nick’s airbnb by the Mercadonna. Quiet at night but it gets busy in the morning with traffic.

Paul and I figure we can’t get into the packed campsite in Javea so we head up the mountain towards Denia and find a quiet sweet spot very near the water. Camping Los Pinos. Rustic place with friendly people and friendly cats. I even got to hold a sweet baby girl for a long time while her parents packed up the van. We had 2 pleasant nights there.

We try to do a hike/run over the mountain to Javea but find it more difficult than expected. This seems the norm. We end up going up to the top, watching a bike race (Vuelta de Valencia), climbing back along the coast to Cova Tallada. In some places there are ropes and chains to help you not fall off the cliffs. From there we climb to Torre del Gerro. There is a road back down to the camp so we have it easy the rest of the way.

After a tasty dinner by Paul and some healthy…sleep, we wake and head back to Javea. We are able to get into a spot near the family this time and here we all pretty cozy. Paul and I are parked next to Pat and Terry.

More to come on Javea…..