Author Archives: paulnjulie

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 . 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.


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.





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…..











Trail Running in Southern Spain

Paul and I love exploring new areas and one of our favorite ways is to run. We run at a speed where we can take in all the surroundings and stop when we feel like taking breaks. Southern Spain does not disappoint us. While heading south from Seville we stopped at a recommended hike/run that Gene Dykes had done. We had to climb a huge distance up in the van to get to the Nature Park, El Torcal de Antequerra. We are up so high there is snow! Local children and adults are having fun throwing snowballs at each other. There is a visitor center and the paths are easy to fine. Amazing rock formations and views of the valley below.

Heading West we arrive in Cabo de gata which is near Almeria. Here there are pretty easy flat runs you can do along the beach on hard packed sand trails. We wanted to climb a bit so we headed to the lighthouse on our bikes (nice climb too) and locked them up there. We ran 5 miles north over some nice size hills and back. The trails themselves were easy enough to follow, just a lot of up, up, up, then down, down, down.

On the way to our next camp spot we decide to try another trail somewhat on route. We park our van in a small town called Agua Amarga. There we followed the trail sign south over the cliffs and spent the rest of the run ooohing and aaaahing as we rounded each corner or crested a hill. We reach Cala San Padro which is only accessible by foot or boat. There we find a rustic encampment that probably grows in the summer months. Sweet hideaway from the world.

Time to clean off the feet and jump back into the van, heading North up the coast.






Travel time, now the journey really begins. We leave Bath on January 13th and drive to Portsmouth where Paul arranged to meet up with an old professor he knows. We do a short run on the waterfront then Paul goes visiting. I watch the sunset, drink hot chocolate at a cafe and stroll around the Southsea  shopping area. We meet up with Paul’s family at a camping spot, Dible Park, outside the city. Paul rides his bycycle to get us a tasty fish and chips dinner.

We wake up early and head to the ferry. All of us line up and the ferry is on time for an 8:15am departure. (that’s Lynda and Derek’s van in the first picture) The ferry itself is surprisingly cozy and clean. It has a restaurant, 2 theaters, game room, shopping and more. I especially like sitting on the top deck, relaxing on a bench in the sun and wind. Very peaceful. After a 5 plus hour journey we arrive in France. We head south to a rustic Aire and camp for the night. Up early before the gang is awake and head out on our own.

We do a long day of driving before stopping at a free Aire in Briviesca, Spain. Hard to find at first but it was next to a bull fighting ring and soccer field. Some kids threw mud balls at the van but other than that it was quiet, police patrolled and had just one other camper.

One more day of driving and we arrive late in Seville at Hacienda el Burgo the home of Rodrigo Charlo. We get shown around his amazingly beautiful home and then escorted to a guest room. He would not hear of us sleeping in the van and we were easily persuaded. At about 9pm (Spain’s dinner time) we head into Seville for Tapas with his son Rodri and daughter Bebe (Angela). Our first glimpse of the city and I am excited to explore more. Back home after midnight .

Our time in Seville was brief but we enjoyed it immensely. Here are some photos of highlights.

Metro Parasol created by Jurgen Mayor H. in 2011,  at the Plaza de la Encarnacion

Plaza de Espana, tile work, fountain, a must visit and next to Parque de Maria Luisa

The Real Alcazar, this palace is crazy big and has labyrinth rooms and gardens that are so much fun to explore.

This palace has also been in Game of Thrones, as the Water Palace of Dorne

A view from the Seville Cathedral. Needless to say, Paul did not climb up the tower with me. The views are incredible and the interior breathtaking.

Lunch at Mercado Lonja del Barranco was tasty then we crossed the river to Triana.  We checked out Mercado de Triana but it was closing time. Good thing the Centro de la Ceramica de Triana was open. Very inexpensive to enter and we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit on the history of tile making in Triana. plus there are remnants of the old factory, kilns etc.

We want to thank Rodrigo and his family for welcoming us in their home. Also, to my sister Bridget who is Rodrigo’s longtime friend and our connection. Thank you Rodri for playing some original music for us at dinner one evening.

On our last night Rodrigo took us to eat at Puerte Galeta where he has his photos from Africa displayed. Delicious tapas and much vino. We love Seville!!!

Wales and the Elan Valley

After a lovely New Years eve in London with Vanessa and Victor, Paul and I set off early to pick up Hannah and then head to Wales. We rented a sweet cottage, Grofftau Holiday Cottages, near the Strata Florida Abbey.  Our plan was to meet up with Paul’s dad and spend a day together. Hannah and I had never met John Davis, her paternal grandfather. We met John in Aberystwyth early in the morning on January 2nd. It was a cold morning so we all jumped into his car while he took us on a whirlwind tour. We got to Devil’s Bridge around lunch time and had coffee/tea and the lunch afterwards.


From there we went to see the Red Kites feeding at Bwlch Nant yr Arian visitor center. Beautiful day for Wales in the wintertime. At sunset we went town to watch the starlings by the pier. We met up with Paul’s half sister Karen and had more coffee/tea. Our good-byes felt awkward but real like the song, “who knows when we shall meet again”. Afterwards we walked back to our parked car. The night sky was crisp and dark which made the stars glow seem even brighter.

DSCN1812 DSCN1807

We spent the next day relaxing in our comfy cottage. Paul and I ran a bit on the local hills, Dinner was in the closest town, Pontrhyfendigaid (yes really) at the Black Lion Hotel. Very Good! We drove the next day through the Elan Valley and stopped to see sights along the way. It was rainy but still the valley has so much beauty you can enjoy it in any weather.


The Elan Valley is a place of beauty, mystery, and life. I can see why people come to visit then stay and live near the water, hills, and fresh misty air. The sheep are smart too.