Bessie on the pitch

Camping El Jardin in El Campello – Month 1

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This blog describes our first month at Camping El Jardin in El Campello, Costa Brava, Spain

If you haven’t read the Week 1 blog you can catch it up HERE and the Week 2 blog HERE and Week 3 blog HERE.

The last blog ended after we had arrived at Camping El Jardin after a leisurely two week journey to get here all the way from Argyll in Scotland. For the uninitiated we have been coming to this site in El Campello for a number of years now and made a number of good friends who we hope to see at some stage of our stay here. Having said that we have never been here as early as September before and some of our friends will not be coming out until much later to beat the worst of the winter weather back home!

I originally thought of giving a daily update on our time here in El Campello but some days nothing happened and other days were very similar i.e. went for a cycle to Mercadona / had a soak in the pool or sea / had a barbecue / sat outside till late drinking wine, you get the picture…

So, in this blog, I’m only recounting events that don’t fall into the above category and to us at least are memorable.

Home made pizza 1

Friday 24th of September.

I mentioned in the first blog of this series that I had bought a new Cadac Safari Chef barbecue and have to report it’s fantastic and a huge improvement on the previous model, but one of the accessories I’ve had for a while but not used much is a pizza stone and we came organised to use it by buying packets of pizza dough mix to make our own base then adding our toppings.

The first attempt did not go exactly to plan as I heated it on too high a heat but that aside it tasted delicious. Next month you will hopefully see a video of a load of different dishes cooked on the Safari Chef.

 

This is our first Friday evening at Camping El Jardin and with no chums to have Friday Night Drinks with, we (The Navigator) decided we should have a walk down to the beach to experience the refreshing cool breeze that usually blows in off the sea. Having already had a cycle this morning this was to be a doubling up on the daily exercise quota but it had been so incredibly warm today I put up no resistance. (It would have been futile anyway!)

So, after dinner and with the light fading, we set off, getting to the beach in darkness to find, yes, you’re ahead of me, there was no cooling breeze, not even a warm breeze – no breeze at all. Hey Ho!

We walked to the right and then crossed the tram line and road to head in the direction of the campsite. When we arrived back there at around 9pm, the outside seating area at the bar was full of people eating and drinking and the whole campsite was buzzing as the weekending Spaniards were in full attendance and meeting and greeting each other.

Now the difference between we Northern Europeans and the indigenous Spanish population is that we tend to eat between six and seven o’clock and the Spanish much later. As we extended our walk by going down one of the avenues which is exclusively populated by the seasonal Spanish caravan pitches, nearly every one had an awning full of people talking at machine gun speed or others were watching massive TV screens fixed to the side of their caravans. I knew we’d be in for a long night when in one of the awnings a woman was setting a long table with a dozen settings and it was about 9.30pm now.

The noise from all these social gatherings went on until midnight when it quietened down but there were still voices to be heard at 1pm until a rain shower dispersed them.

Then, to cap a disturbed night’s sleep, we had the most incredible thunder and lightening storm with accompanying heavy rain drumming on the roof of the van.

There are certain world events that you will always remember where you were and on the first night of the first Gulf War I was in a hotel in Woking watching the bombing of Baghdad live on TV. The reason I mention this is that the hour long thunderous noise right above us and the lightening flashes reminded me of that night in Woking. The Navigator slept through it!

Tuesday 28th September

Bessie is not very well I’m afraid to report!

The symptoms more or less started when we arrived here but were not initially apparent. You may remember that I mentioned in the last blog that we had hired a Spanish gas cylinder from the site and this was going to mean that we would not be leaving the site to fill our Gaslow tanks.

The first symptoms appeared a few days after connecting it when we could detect a whiff of gas both inside and outside the van. The second symptom became apparent last Friday when the 11.8kg tank was empty – only four and a bit days after connecting it!

Had the site given us a half full cylinder? I ruled that out as the cylinder was very heavy when I connected it.

Was the fridge burning far more gas than usual to try and keep cool in this daily 80 degree heat? That theory was ruled out as the other British couple on the site were still on their first cylinder after three weeks here.

Ian, the other British person on the site came round to have a look and between us we think there are two problems.
1. There is a gas leak in the pipes somewhere.
2. There is a fault with the fridge as the ignition is not sparking on gas.

There is a local mobile caravan / motorhome repair service that can come to the site tomorrow and is a qualified Dometic engineer – and the bonus is that he is English.

Nothing else for it but to retire to the beach for the afternoon where the sea was warm and calm and we were not likely to get gassed down there!

Gaslow external Spanish setup

Wednesday 29th September

Paul arrived as promised and the situation was explained to him and he set to work. Unfortunately he was not too familiar with our Gaslow system as most of his customers are from mainland Europe and Brits in caravans at Benidorm who don’t have Gaslow. Having said that by a process of elimination and a bit of luck he found out where the leak was.

That was easier than actually fixing it as the leak was in the Gaslow filler point, but on the inside which could only be accessed from under the bench seat. It took more than an hour to get access and then fix it and I was glad it was him and not me doing the work as it was baking hot (again), he had a dodgy knee and the work was fiddly.

Paul from Caravan Care

After putting all the fittings back together again and testing the system, both with our internal gas bottles and the Spanish external tank, all was well again.

Unfortunately he could not get the fridge to ignite on gas and there is a two month waiting period for the Dometic part he thinks is needed to fix this issue so we will have to run the fridge on electricity until we get home and get it fixed there.

If anyone needs a caravan / motorhome or camper van repair in the Costa Blanca region I can recommend Paul who is based near Benidorm and can be contacted on 65 000 65 65

After Paul left we had a cycle round to Mercadona to top up on drinks as this incessant heat requires a high liquid intake, and most of it is non alcoholic!

There was a big influx of motorhomes and caravans today including some of the usual Belgian contingent, a very friendly Swedish couple, Michael and Helena and John originally from New Zealand and his French wife Annie-Claude.

Just as an aside for the Camping El Jardin regulars who, for one reason or another, are either not coming at all this year or coming later in the year, ALL the staff are still here, from the two sisters who own the site, Veronica, Fabian and Matteo to the two hard working cleaners, and all are as friendly as ever.

Friday 30th September

Today we ventured into Alicante on the tram for the first time on this trip. The contrast with back home is quite stark in that everyone, seemingly without exception, wears a mask on public transport and in all buildings. The air conditioning on the tram was working overtime as the temperature reading on the information panel was reading 29c while it was a mere 26c outside!

Tram to Alicante

Today’s one and only mission was to have lunch at the same Chinese restaurant (Zhong Hua) we found with Garry and Carol when we went into Alicante one Saturday night to see a festival. This time it was to sample the ‘menu de dia’ and we were not disappointed. Three delicious courses and a can of pop for €8.95 each and it was great value for money.

First course was a huge spring roll that was a meal in itself, followed by what you see in the following picture, a dish of noodles, rice and two chicken dishes. The third course was either a ball of ice cream or tea/coffee and then, as we were stuffed we declined a complimentary peach schnapps.

Mission accomplished. Lunch over and it was time to have a wander about down at the marina and the Passeig Esplanada d’Espanya with the great wave effect created with millions of tiles. The Navigator, being The Navigator could not resist browsing in two of her favourite shops out here, Tiger Tiger and Ale Hop but I found a shady seat for the duration.

There was a massive P&O cruise ship in the harbour and the predominant language we heard was English, for a change.

We both sat in the shade at the front until it was time to get the bus back to El Campello. It was great to be back in Alicante again but boy was it hot!

Alicante Marina
Alicante Marina
Alicante Esplanade

In the evening after dinner, The Navigator retired inside as she has developed an attraction for the local mosquitos but I decided to have a ‘turn’ around the site and at the end of one of the rows came across Michael and Helene, a Swedish couple we have been on nodding terms with for a few years. Michael had taken an interest in our gas woes a few days ago and invited me to sit down for a beer and a chat. Thankfully the two of them speak excellent English as my Swedish leaves something to be desired.

Being a Friday night the site was buzzing with chatter as the weekending Spaniards were here in numbers again so no-one was going to sleep soon, except maybe The Navigator so I phoned her to come round and join us. We had a very pleasant evening drinking and nibbling on wine gums and popcorn – a new combination for us but when in Spain being entertained by Swedes…

Wednesday 6th October

Last Wednesday we cycled into El Campello market but this week we didn’t need to go shopping there but that wouldn’t stop The Navigator going into El Campello on the tram for a ‘real’ Spanish lunch. If you’ve been following ManVanNoPlan since the last time we were here in El Campello in early 2020 you may remember seeing the following picture of a group of us having lunch at the Social Club in the centre of El Campello.

Social Club El Campello

For €9.50 you get a choice of 3 starters, 3 main courses, a lot of desserts, bread, half a carafe of wine each and a coffee to round it all off. This was today’s menu. What would you have had?

The starters were a cold tomato soup, a seafood concoction, but they lost us on the mention of octopus, and a chicken salad, which we both had. It consisted of strips of chicken on a bed of lettuce with tomato, cucumber, sweet corn, onion, pears, pineapple chunks, croutons and a dressing. A novel combination, but delicious and filling.

The 3 main courses were a salmon dish, sardines or medallions of pork in an apple sauce which I had, while The Navigator had the salmon, surprise, surprise!

El Campello Social Club Meal
El Campello Social Club Meal

The waiter read out a long list of puds and The Navigator chose profiteroles and I had fresh pineapple. As I don’t drink coffee The Navigator, who likes to get value for money, told me to order one as well and she polished both off!

Excellent food and great value, but Billy no mates this time…

We walked down to the beach and along the esplanade as far as Lidl where I searched in vain for their raspberry jam but to no avail again. Hey Ho…

Thursday 7th October

Just checking the weather back home…

Bear Weather Warning

Oh dear, never mind…

Friday 8th October

Regular readers of this blog will remember this picture from our Week 2 Blog of this trip to Spain when we met Garry and Carol for lunch and we were involved in the incident with their car.

Garry & Carol

We left them thinking they were going to spend October touring France but look who popped in to see us today! Their change of plan was motivated by a need for some relaxing warm sunshine and catching up with friends on the Costa Brava, including us. They are on a campsite at Villajoyosa further up the coast and took the train/tram down to meet us for lunch and drinks.

And talking of drinks, the following picture shows two smiling people in the front of the picture and two people not smiling as much in the rear. Guess which two people in this picture had the best part of two bottles of white wine by this stage?

El Jardin Drinks with Garry & Carol

We were later joined by the Swedish couple Michael and Helena for even more drinks. Garry and Carol will be joining us on Camping El Jardin for four days on the 20th before they head home.

100 Montaditos Again

Sunday 10th October

On Friday we had intended going out to lunch at 100 Montaditos but never quiet made it but today Garry and Carol came back down in the train from Vilajoyosa and after a walk around the Sunday Market we made it down to the esplanade for a great value lunch at 100 Montaditos. It was even better value than normal as due to a glitch The Navigator and I had eight items for only €6!

After lunch we had a stroll along the esplanade in the direction of the marina when we bumped into Alex and Maggie who were other Camping El Jardin regulars but who have now purchased a property here. After a chat to them they headed of for their Sunday lunch and we stopped at a little seafront cafe for a refreshing drink.

Monday 11th October

Today I had a Eureka moment and it will change the course of our holiday for the better. When we had Paul out to fix our gas leak, our fridge stopped working on gas although it did still work on electricity, but with a warning light on. This was a real setback as we had hired the external gas tank from the site to keep our costs down as the metered electricity is far more expensive than the bottled gas.

Today however, my Eureka moment solved the problem by switching off the fridge, the system’s control panel and the van’s electricity control panel then switching them on again after a few minutes in reverse order and the fridge came back on in gas mode. Paul the engineer had thought either the fridge’s control panel or the electrical ignition panel would need to be replaced at a cost of a few hundred pounds plus the extra cost of running on electricity for the rest of the holiday so our Montadito’s budget will not need to be curtailed now which is good news for The Navigator.

We can now use the external gas bottle again and the other positive thing is that we can ‘wildcamp’ on our way home rather than use expensive sites to hook up to electricity as we will use our own Gaslow system.

Today saw a huge influx of mostly Spanish caravans and motorhome onto the site but we have new neighbours on either side of us. To our right we have a Belgian couple who managed to reverse into a huge tree prompting a proper domestic between them trying to apportion blame, and on our left I helped guide a Welsh couple onto their pitch without any trauma.

13th October 2021

I mentioned above that we had saved a tidy sum of money by getting the fridge to work on gas again. The Navigator decided to celebrate this fact by blowing a chunk of our children’s/grandchildren’s inheritance on a top notch lunch at a restaurant recommended to us by Ian and Dee, the other long term Brits on this site.

The venue in question was called Mordida and is round the corner from the Dia supermarket for those that know this area.

When you arrive at a restaurant just after 1pm you expect it to be buzzing with customers but there was no one there at all. Hardly an encouraging sign!

After confirming they were actually open we perused the menu and guess what The Navigator chose? Regular readers will know she always goes for a fish dish and today it was sea bass while I, being more of a carnivore, chose the Iberian ribs.

Throughout my career when staying away overnight I invariably dined out at a Chinese restaurant and had spare ribs as a starter so I speak with some authority on the size and taste of pork ribs. What was served to us was probably the largest sea bass The Navigator has ever had and without any doubt this was the largest serving of ribs I’ve ever had.

The ribs were really delicious and dare I say it almost had too much meat and not enough sauce. That said, I manfully polished them off as did The Navigator with the sea bass.

We had missed out on starters but The Navigator was not going to forgo the opportunity to have a dessert after the recommendation from the aforementioned Dee so I had a cheesecake and The Navigator had a lemon flavoured dessert that was well worth the 6e each (the price of a 100 Montaditos lunch for 2)!

Breakfast the next day was the next solid food we had!

CHECK OUT THE NEW WEEK-TO-VIEW-DAY 2022 DIARIES FROM FYNE EDITIONS

Friday 15th September

Today we took the bus towards Alicante but got off at the far side of San Juan Playa with the plan to walk all the way back along the esplanade. We headed to a great statue we have been to many times before but usually we’ve cycled here.

It is also the location of a picture I took in late 2017 which I turned into the cover image of my Kindle book, ‘Six Months Touring France, Spain & Portugal in a Motorhome which is still selling well on Amazon 3 years on and as I type this is sitting at 107,377 in the overall Amazon book chart, not bad considering the millions of books available there.

After taking the obligatory selfie with the statue we headed off along the esplanade and in a few hundred yards The Navigator was delighted to see a brand new Ale-Hop store and one of the largest we’ve seen.

Ale Hop, Playa San Juan

€13 poorer for the stop, we continued on to 100 Montaditos for another great value lunch.

100 Montaditos Again

Suitably refreshed, we continued on all the way along to Carrabiners where we normally catch the tram but this time we sat on a bench looking onto a quite deserted beach, considering it was a local holiday, although we didn’t know it was a holiday just yet!

Back at the van the Samsung Health App confirmed we had walked 10,254 steps and 7.63 kilometres which earned us a cuppa in the shade. It was then decided that our exercise wasn’t over for the day as we now cycled to Mercadona for a few things to see us over the weekend – to find it was closed!

We found out from Veronica back at the campsite that it was a local El Campello holiday. She found it very funny that this was the second time in a week we had cycled there to find it closed for a holiday.

In the evening a Belgian, who is next to us, took a load of equipment over to the cafe area and put on a disco for three hours, mercifully finishing at 8pm.

Sunday 17th October

Shock Horror. Today when we opened the blinds it started to rain, the first daylight rain we have seen in a month. It lasted all of two minutes.

Today is four weeks to the day since we arrived at Camping El Jardin and we have enjoyed every second. The only negative has been the lack of Brits to socialise with but a few may be arriving in the next month.

The campsite is filling up with all the usual wintering suspects from France, Belgium and Germany in particular and the French, along with French speaking Belgians are the majority by far. Some have said it is because the ferry routes to Morocco are still cut off from Spain so the French are staying on the Spanish coastline. Either that or they are escaping the Covid rules and regulations for a much more relaxed Spain. The constant 80f heat may play a part as well.

CHECK OUT THE NEW PAGE-A-DAY 2022 DIARIES FROM FYNE EDITIONS

We have another month on Camping El Jardin and there is still a lot we want to do before we head home. Day trips on the tram to Benidorm and Villajoyosa and further forays into Alicante are on the cards.

More of the walking and cycling we have been doing will continue, and as I type this The Navigator is away striding out around Playa Muchavista topping her steps total.

The beach is still an attraction and will remain to be as long as the sea temperature continues to be warmer than the pool we look out on and speaking of the pool, it was noticeable that it was pitch black outside at 8pm last night where only a week or so there were people still swimming at that time. As we Scots say, ‘The nights are fair drawing in’.

Pitch
Alicante
Vuelta

CHECK OUT THE NEW NOTEBOOK RANGE FROM FYNE EDITIONS

ARGYLL TO EL CAMPELLO - THE ROUTE WE TOOK

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COMING (NOT SO) SOON ON THE NEXT BLOG...

The next blog will detail our final month before we head for home Join us again to see what we’ve been up to and if any other Brits turn up…

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