Friday 19th – Friday 25th May 2017
The site has lived up to first impressions. Peaceful, set amidst mature pines, with excellent facilities. The beach is 1.2km from the site, a gentle 20-minute stroll down twisting lanes through the village of Zahora, passing a handful of bar-restaurants and 2 tiny supermarkets. Turning the last corner you see the sea ahead, pass another couple of bar/restaurants and some stalls selling jewellery and beach stuff, and go down onto a beautiful, nearly empty sandy beach with Cape Trafalgar and its lighthouse a mere half a mile away along the sands.
We were going to stay for 3 or 4 days but ended up staying 11 nights, and had to drag ourselves away. The area does get a fair bit of wind – from stiff breezes to howling gales – but we still liked it. When it’s hot on the beach, a good breeze is much appreciated, although one day we were forced off the beach when the sand-blasting got too severe. We did a lot of reading and relaxing, both at the beach and at the van, avoiding the sun between 2 and 4pm when it was at it’s hottest and often staying down until after 6pm.
The site has its own nice bar and restaurant, but Danny couldn’t resist the sign ‘Hoy Caracoles’ (Today snails) on the way back from the beach one day and again tucked into one of his favourite snacks.
The site has an excellent laundry and one windy day we spent round the van doing essential laundry and tidying out the van. We emptied the contents of the garage (our storage space at the back of the van) which was a surprising amount when laid out before us. We found bits we had lost and re-organised it all creating a space for a drinks cellar, if it survives! Another windy day was devoted to the excitement of cleaning out our toilet cassette. A huge amount of limescale had built up and as the chemical toilet facility here is the best we have encountered we spent a happy hour learning our toilet cassette and getting it like new. Non-caravanners/motorhomers will go ‘yuk’ at this point I know, but it’s a very important piece of kit. We also washed down the van, did a bit of hand-washing – it dried in no time – and after all that excitement, a bit of reading and sunbathing around the van.
In the ongoing adjustment to Spanish produce we found that they do handy packs of mixed pork & beef mince which are perfect for bolognese. Coriander is not an option however. Gail has warned against buying “pollo entero” as this would involve unwrapping the chicken to find head, feet and giblets all still firmly in place. They also do great bags of mixed frozen shellfish especially for paella which are great .
Got chatting to our neighbours of a few nights as they walked their chihuahua back to their van (an 8.8m, tag-axle Knauss S-Liner, 4 yrs old – the same age as the dog) and ended up wandering down to the site bar with them – Richard (56, retired 22yrs ago after selling his gold & silver trading business) & Jerry (64, used to deal in retro-clothing) from Lowestoft. They left their chihuahua with attitude, called ‘wi-fi’, ( pronounced wee fee ) at home. Danny later escaped a nasty mauling from it by stepping over the 2-foot fence that contains it outside their ‘van. Danny learnt from the experienced Richard that he had plugged our TV aerial into the wrong socket as we had the wrong connector, which led to us hunting down new connectors and getting some TV reception. We told them we are newbies and they gave us lots of tips on where to get stuff, including chinese supermarkets which don’t sell food but do sell electrical and household stuff. The search is on. They also advised on possible sites, and said that if we want to spend winter in Spain we need to book now! Drifted back to our vans at 0100 when the bar kicked us out.
One day a huge Concorde 6-star ‘Liner’ had turned up and churned up the ground getting onto the pitch which it only just fit. It was nearly 10m long and a lot taller than us. This was a monster. Next day the German owners were ready to leave but it wasn’t that easy. His first effort saw him dig his rear 4 wheels deep into the soft, sandy earth as he had failed to get it fully onto the paved runners the previous day. We really felt for them and Danny went over to offer them our grip-mats, but she kindly explained to him that at 15 tonnes, our little plastic mats would not help. 15 tonnes! Huge!! Should have got a picture but is seemed mean when they were struggling to get out. Even the efforts of the site 4×4 seemed puny next to it. Eventually with the assistance of 6 men, some spades and the 4×4 the monster heaved itself out amid smiles of relief, leaving the workers to repair pitch, filling in the huge holes and replacing the paving.
After one particularly wild and windy night we got up early intending to go for a bike ride to the hilltop village of Vejer but it was just too windy. We had been warned against cycling in the winds as it is dangerous on the road but we had been there a week and not used the bikes so we ignored the good advice and set off. Less than 2 miles later we were forced to admit defeat and turned back – serves us right. A couple of days later we made it, cycling uphill, to that very picturesque white village about 7 miles away by rough track and minor roads. We passed through farmland and scrub and as we climbed had lovely views spreading out below us. The village is a mixture of touristy stuff in the old town, and working Spanish in the rest. There was a market on when we arrived which was largely clothes and bedding and clearly targeted at the ladies of the town – we have never seen so many bras & panties on display (3 bras for €8 was the best deal we saw) going on for stall after stall. The old town was very nice to wander round, we really appreciated the old architecture.
Richard & Jerry’s pitch was eventually taken over by a very nice Austrailian-English family – 2 kids, 2 golden retrievers – with their hired motor-home. The day after their arrival they went out for the day in their van and in their absence a Spanish family who had actually been allocated the pitch opposite took over their pitch. We returned to find them trying to put up a large tent on a huge groundsheet. When the Austrailian-English couple returned they were too nice to have them moved, even though the site offered, and they ended up crammed in at the end of the site next to some noisy neighbours. It was a lesson for us – always show your pitch is taken, and don’t let people get away with taking liberties no matter how many small children they have in tow! Our Australian-English family re-instated themselves after the other family left the next day which we were pleased about. They had a nice, easy way about them and we hope they take to the motor-homing life.
Our only other adventure there was to cycle out to Cabo de Trafalgar, site of the famous sea battle. We have lived in the village of Parkgate which Nelson’s mistress, Emma Hamilton, frequented as she originated in nearby Ness; we toured HMS Victory on our way to the ferry and photographed the spot on the ship where Nelson was mortally wounded; we visited Cadiz where the Spanish & French ships sailed from to give battle; and now it felt right to see where it all happened. But first, lunch at Las Dunas bar,a surprisingly bohemian place with lots of driftwood, a pool table and a large circular indoor fire-pit. Bocadillo’s (bread rolls) fortified us for our walk out to the lighthouse on the promontory of Trafalgar, a lovely spot. The beach was busy with Spanish families but the lighthouse was quiet and there was a great view both ways along the sweeping sands – to Canos de Meca to the left and Zahora to the right. Below the lighthouse, about 30 people were body-boarding the breakers which was great fun to watch. It was odd to try to picture the huge sea battle that took place within sight of this point, 212 years ago. What on earth would those sailors have made of body-boarding? On the other hand, they may have loved it.
There was a function on in the gardens of Las Dunas when we got back there and we had a couple of Tinto de Verano while people watching in the shade. The staff worked very hard and the BBQ guy fully deserved the cold beers he kept supping whilst cooking pork, chorizo and vegetables on the BBQ. The lucky guests also got huge plates of fresh prawns and cups of chilled Gaspacho.
Did we like Trafalgar – yes we did! Hopefully we’ll be back, but not in winter!!!!