Spain - September/October 2010


This is the diary of a 6-day trip to Spain which started on 30 September 2010 and ended on 6 October 2010.  It should have started a day earlier but there was a general strike in Spain and a lot of other European countries but not the UK. Flybe informed us of the change of flights by a voice message on Jane's mobile and the home phone and by email - excellent customer service. We were to be the guests of Tom and Jenny in their villa in Sotogrande.
Click here for the itinerary and interactive maps. If you just want to see all the photos as a slide show click here. Instructions are here.

SummaryNext day Thursday, 30th September - Home to Sotogrande

We are picked up by Craig at 6am and driven carefully through the fog to Southampton airport. Jane has packed our luggage so it can be taken on the plane but it is just too large and has to be put in the hold. We take off at 7:40am and land in Malaga at 11am and adjust our telephones. We go to the car hire place but Espacar is not there. We walk out of the airport and find an Escapar rep. We take charge of grey diesel Renault Clio with just 5231 km on the clock. We take the E15 toll motorway south to Sotogrande and are greeted by Tom at the security gates to the estate. We arrive at Rincon de Luna. We unpack and have a leisurely lunch outside. The temperature is 25C and the sky is clear blue. Tom shows us around his territory including his citrus grove of six trees, one pomelo, one lime, one tangerine, one possible orange and one mango, nearly all of which have borne fruit. The palm trees are much taller than they were when we last visited here twelve years ago. We drive with Jenny up to the Almenara golf club and have a drink on the balcony. The views are wonderful. We return to pick Tom up via the un-gated entrance to the estate and drive up the narrow roads to the castle at Castellar de la Frontera. We wander around the streets inside the castle admiring the views and then return to the villa. After an excellent tagine and Tom's first mango we retire to bed.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Friday, 1st October - Towards Cadiz

After breakfast we drive south on the E15 Autovia, going through the centre of Algeciras, a large industrial port close to Gibraltar. We drive up mountains and past lots of windmills. The terrain reminds us of New Mexico. We reach the southern most tip of Spain at Tarifa. We park close to the port under the shadow of the castle of Garmun and walk across the causeway to the Isla de Tarifa, intending to walk around it. There are sandy beaches on either side As we approach it signs on the path announce that the Atlantic is on one side and the Mediterranean is on the other. The island is shut and is owned by the Ministry of the Interior. We return to the car and drive north west towards Cadiz. Just outside Tarifa we stop to admire a mass of vultures. We turn off the main round and drive up a windy narrow road to the hill top town of Vejer de la Frontera where we park in the Plaza del Espana after asking a policeman if it is OK to do so. He was booking other cars. We walked up the narrow streets to the castle and walked around the ramparts. The views are magnificent. We walk back down to the plaza and have lunch in the Trafalgar cafe, sat on the street under an umbrella. Jane has battered calamari and Graham has battered shark fish (cazon). We end with an ice cream. We drive to another part of the town looking for free wifi but cannot find it. We leave the town and make our way north to Medina Sidonia where we climb up the narrow road to the town on the hill. The streets are cobbled and narrow. We find a car park and walk up to the town centre, a large marble slabbed rectangular area surrounded by palm trees. We walk across the marble and have a drink at a café opposite the town hall. We return to the car and make our way to to the A318 Autovia which takes us back to Algiceras and the E15 north to San Roque. We return to villa via the un-gated entrance. Jenny tells us that none of their guests have ever reached Cadiz. Graham has a siesta. At 8pm we are driven to the El Gaucho restaurant, styled in an Argentine fashion, and eat huge beef steaks. We return replete and retire.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Saturday, 2nd October - North of Sotogrande

After breakfast, the two ladies and Graham walk the 4 km to the Almenara golf club where we have a drink and admire the views again. Tom picks us up and drives the four of us north to the hilltop village of Casares. We park the car on the outskirts and walk to the centre where we have a drink in a bar. We climb up to the remains of a castle perched on a rock overlooking the village. We walk around the ramparts where Julius Caesar once strode. There's a church at the top and more magnificent views. Jane takes photos of some Griffon Vultures flying high above us. We walk back down the narrow streets. Tom takes a different route. When we reach the car. Tom is not there. After several minutes he turns up with lunch - a bag of churros. This is typical Spanish food - long sausages of batter. We drive across the hillside down a valley and up the other side to Gaucin. The temperature has now reached 36C. Gaucin is another hilltop white village. We stop at a Kodak spot and then drive to the first open "venta" we can find. We sit under the shade of an awning and share a large Spanish omelette. We drive back to the villa without stopping at Jemina, another white village. The temperature has dropped to 24C. While Graham has a siesta, Jane has a swim. Tom barbecues a large piece of pork and we have large rum and cokes. We eat and retire after watching the summary of the day's Ryder Cup.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Sunday, 3rd October - Visit to the Golf Club

After breakfast the two ladies and Graham march up to Almenara Golf Club, have a drink and it starts to rain. Tom is called and we are driven back to Rincon de Luna and change. We are driven to the new port of Sotogrande where we walk by the market. Unusually Tom buys a belt. Jane buys some toys and Jenny unusually keeps her hands in her pockets. We drive to where we moored eleven years ago and then go to Tom's golf club where we have a buffet lunch. Some of us retire to the lounge and watch the Ryder Cup. In the evening we eat the tastey left overs, watch Antiques Roadshow and George Gently and then go to bed.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Monday, 4th October - The Ryder Cup

It's cloudy and during the night it rained heavily for a short while. Jane and Jenny walk to the Almanera golf club. Tom goes off to play golf at his club. Graham volunteers to stay at the villa so he can pick the ladies up. An hour later he does and we return to the villa. Graham is dropped off at Tom's golf club and the ladies go shopping. Tom hasn't played golf but has watched the Ryder Cup instead. Graham joins him and they both watch it to the exciting end - Europe 14.5, USA 13.5. After such a strenuous day it is decided to have a firkle at bridge. Following the black bean chicken stew and roasted vegetable meal we have a few hands of bridge, watch the news and retire to bed, almost exhausted.

Previous DaySummaryNext day Tuesday, 5th October - Gibraltar

After breakfast the ladies and Graham drive south on the E15 and turn off to La Linea. Tom prefers to stay at home. He has an aversion to Gibraltar. We drive around La Linea and park inside a blue line and pay for the privilege. We are near the border post which we walk to. We show our passports to get into Gibraltar and walk across the airport runway and through a short tunnel in the city wall. We have arrived in Casement Square. We walk down the crowded Main Street and stop for a drink. We stroll to the end of Main Street, spot a Barbary ape , and visit the Trafalgar cemetery where many of the injured from the southern Spanish sea battles have been buried. We retrace our steps to the place opposite 177 Main Street to await our rendezvous and quench our thirsts. On the way we buy Tom a bottle of gin at ÔŅĹ3.50. They use Sterling in Gib. We discover via a phone call that the rendezvous will not take place till 1pm and it will be in Casement Square. Jane leaves us and buys a bigger suitcase than the ones we have taken to Spain. We make our way to Casement Square and there in the middle of the square we meet Bryan, Caroline and Sarah who have arrived by boat, the Oceana. They are on a Mediterranean cruise. The rendezvous is a surprise for Bryan. The cruise was also a surprise for Bryan who is close to the end of his seventh decade. We quench our thirsts again and are joined by the Fribbance's neighbours, Trevor and Marjorie. We say good bye to all and walk back to the car. An Easyjet plane is taking off so we wait a short while to cross the runway. We drive back to the villa but stop on the way at a mirador to take a photo of the rock. At the villa we have lunch and a short siesta. Jane starts packing our belongings. Tom drives us to the nearby town of Pueblo Nuevo where the ladies shop at Lidl and the men look for a light fitting similar to one which has to be dismantled at the villa to replace a bulb. The men are unsuccessful so make there way to Tom's favourite watering hole, the Moncayo. It sits on a street corner. The ladies join us and we quench our thirsts again. We return to the villa via a short diversion to La Cañada municipal Golf Club. After a short rest we go out to the XXXX fish restaurant and have a wonderful meal, mussels, squid, turbot. We return to the villa and have a short firkle at bridge, then retire.

Previous DaySummary Wednesday 6th October - Home

We say goodbye to Tom and Jenny at 8:40am and head north on the E15. We stop to put 10 litres of diesel in the car so that we can leave it at the airport with a quarter full tank. We arrive at the airport at 9:50am but get lost in the cargo area. Eventually we find our way to level 3 of the car park and leave the car with one window slightly open. We take our belongings out of the car and drop the car keys through the window. This is how one returns a rental car to Espacar. Bravo Espacar. It takes us nearly an hour to check in and get through security. The plane is about an hour late taking off. We land at 2pm in fine weather but have to stay on the plane as there has been a security alert so we have to stay on board till the police arrive. We get off the plane within half an hour. Derek meets us and whisks us home where we arrive at 3pm.

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