Vilanova & the Van

10th-18th June 2017

We left our Valencia site with no regrets and were rewarded with a nightmare drive through Valencia city trying to pick up the route to Barcelona. The satnav was playing up and the traffic lights, huge roundabouts with confusing lanes, one way systems and small side streets all piled on the pressure We just wanted to get out quick and tempers were tested but eventually Danny navigated us out and onto the toll road that runs all the way up the coast to Barcelona. Not cheap  – a hefty bill of around €35 by the end of the day – but cut hours off the journey.

Half-way through we stopped at a town called Vinaros, a coastal town where we visited Decathlon (again), Norauto (again), Bricomat (DIY) and Carrefour (again). You’d think we liked shopping! After all the essentials had been acquired, including a rather cool snorkel-mask for Danny that covers the whole face and allows normal breathing (thanks Peter & Alison) we had lunch and resumed toll-road progress.

Vilanova Park campsite, just outside Vilanova i la Geltru some 30 miles south of Barcelona was a surprise. The entrance area has its own roundabout and private security, and a big reception together with airport-like queues. However, once settled on our pitch – escorted by man in buggy – we realised how well laid out it is. There are distinct parts for vans, caravans, static chalets and even some tents, and each part has its own private feel. The site has 2 large pools, a ‘wellness centre’, bar/restaurant and excellent supermarket, and also its own bus-stops with regular buses to Barcelona and Vilanova town centre and beach.

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Later that night we also found out that our pitch was a bit too close to the weekend disco for our taste – apparently there’s only so much “Birdie Song”, “Agadoo-doo-doo” and “Oh Macarena” we can take, although the DJ played them all twice so they must be popular with someone!

Sunday was a van day, with DIY top of the agenda. The man of the van fitted hooks and brackets of varying shapes and sizes to improve the storage in our ‘garage’ which made a huge difference.

We also met 2 Pete’s. The first Pete was the owner of a huge Winnebago with pop-out sides front and back, who introduced himself with the phrase “Can I ask you a question?” which appears to be something that english van owners use as an introduction when they see a UK reg. He had been there since last September! Later another Pete, also a southerner asked us the same question. He and wife Susan also own a huge Winnebago and were assessing this site’s suitability.  Between them we got lots of tips on Nice couple accessing TV abroad via the internet, wi-fi, site practices and over-wintering in Spain.

During the afternoon the Spanish on the site started leaving and our part was largely empty and very peaceful until we were serenaded by the evening disco. Then next morning at 7am we woke to a new sound and realised our pitch was backing on to a timber yard complete with sawmill. Oh dear. Not very loud but intrusive enough.  For once, we asserted ourselves and by mid-afternoon had changed to a nice, quiet little cul-de-sac in a very different part of the site. We had exchanged the noise of the disco and sawmill for some barking dogs and a donkey with issues at a nearby property – but we liked it.

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It also had 2 trees of just the right girth and spacing for us to finally hang our Mexican hammock and its new mosquito net. Worked a treat after a bit of web-based research on knots. Danny needed no encouragement.

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Vilanova i la Geltru is at least a mile downhill from the site and our first mission of the week was to find the town’s health centre where, with remarkably little trouble Kate received her B12 jab. We then tracked down an electrical store for satellite cable and connectors – done with much gesticulation, drawing and pacing out for cable length by Danny. Next an english speaking hairdresser where appointments were duly made for the following Saturday.

On the main street, the ‘Ramblas’ , it was clear that this was a working Spanish town not a holiday or ex-pat place, and it was full of shops and cafes with local people sat outside sipping coffees and munching on bocadillos. We cycled  through the town to examine it and its beaches and harbour, before the long hot cycle uphill.

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The matter of our gas re-emerged.  N&B had responded to our warranty query by advising, to our surprise, that the problem was definitely contaminated LPG so it was not a warranty issue. After a number of emails and a telephone call it turned out that Caravanas Cruz had indeed identified the gas regulator was contaminated with paraffin oil but had not told us. It was uncertain whether they had cleaned out the pipes and they certainly hadn’t emptied the bottles or fitted a filter as we understood they should have if contamination was an issue. We were now 500km away, so we turned off the gas not wanting to damage the new regulator, postponed the planned BBQ and went to the site restaurant for a very average dinner.

We then had a couple of days of hassle, not wanting to leave the site where we now had decent wi-fi for one device, whilst we juggled between a local caravan shop, N&B and Travelworld. A public holiday in Germany didn’t help. On the plus side, on 15th June the nice people at Giffgaff told us that data roaming charges were now the same as in the UK so the need to stay on site was removed.

Whilst waiting to sort it out we ordered a good single electric hob which arrived within 3 days and bought from the site shop, a CampingGaz single hob. Hey-presto, our ability to cook was back.

We also continued our research on flights and storage for July & August which is when we planned to visit mum, as we were missing her and vice-versa. This wasn’t very productive and, as this site had well rated secure, undercover storage we decided to store here and fly to mum’s from Barcelona. A seven day trip home now would still give us just enough time to get across to Italy in time to meet Daryl & Rachel.

The heat here in mid-June is 30C+ during the day and mid 20’s at night so we have been using a product we bought at a show – the Transcool – an alternative to spending £2,500 on air-con which is not only expensive but heavy and uses a lot of electricity. The Transcool is basically a box with a reservoir and  filter that blows air across water to create cool air. It is also low energy so can be used when wild-camping. It certainly helps. We have been told by locals that it is abnormally hot for the time of year and these are the temperatures usually experienced mid-July and August. Makes us feel better about our difficulties in coping with the heat when even the Spanish say it is too hot!

The saga of the gas filters continued. After much frustration we were advised by N&B we needed 2 filters and fixing sets at a cool £398 including delivery.  We then spoke to someone with sense at Travelworld (thanks James) and found we didn’t need them and he could sort us out with the requisite parts on our trip home for us to have fitted locally on our return. A fraction of the price.  For the first time in days we felt we were getting somewhere.

On the positive side, cooking outside the van on the gas burner and with the Remoska has been a pleasure in the heat.IMG_1656

We have visited the town beach a couple of times. The first time we got the bus from outside reception which took us on a 20-minute round-about tour of the town when by bike it would have taken 10 minutes. Fascinating the number of elderly ladies who got on the bus with their light-weight beach chairs, prepared for a day in the sun. After that we did it by bike.

The beach has lovely fine sands, no rocks, no deep water, and mum would have loved it although she’d have had to walk out a long way for it to get above her waist! The water is lovely and warm and a pleasure to dip into when the sun gets too much. We managed to catch up with some reading down there along with all the people-watching – it gets busy after 5pm with the locals.

One morning we went into nearby Sitges as other people on the site had said how nice it was and the Rough Guide listed it as a highlight of the Costa Dorada, a must see, with a huge gay scene. It was also pitched as ‘Barcelona by the Sea’, where trendy young things from Barcelona descend for the weekend – a good reason for us not to visit it then!

The air conditioned bus from just outside site reception took a leisurely 25 minutes to get us to the centre of Sitges.  It is a large town which has grown up from a fishing village. We saw the old black and white photos of the old village and it was lovely. There’s actually nothing wrong with the place now, except that we don’t really like towns that much. It has nice boutique-type shops and foodie type places, and a nice beach – it has more than one but we were too lazy to explore in the heat preferring a cold drink looking out to sea and wandering the shaded alleys looking in the occasional shop. Our trip there was slightly spoilt by ongoing issues with N&B so we didn’t really do it justice.

The Saturday morning we got the bus into Vilnova and stood for the whole 50 minutes at enjoying the people-watching and getting the views we wouldn’t get if seated.

We made our hairdressers appointment and were greeted by Tony who is savvy enough to advertise his english speaking capabilities at the campsite. Danny got on with him really well – he likes to travel and does photography as his hobby. Among other things he explained that flamenco, bullfights and sherry were a southern thing, done by the ‘traditionalists’ and that further north, like Vilanova, bullfights and flamenco were for tourists and sherry really isn’t ‘in’. Danny was very impressed with his cut – scissors and cut-throat razor – and it was the first time we had both had our hair done together.

Afterwards we had lunch at a place Tony recommended, a little restaurant called Genito’s, where we were clearly lucky to get a table as although it was quiet when we went in it was packed within 30 minutes. The food was very good but there was was twice the amount there should have been due to translation issues. Danny loved the tiny fried fish in the lightest of batters with 2 fried eggs and some smoked paprika on top. The local Vilanova Prawns were delightful. Then came the bread topped with olive oil and tomato that we didn’t know we had ordered (but had looked at on the next table) and was hot and beautifully charred on the base, and then Galician Octopus we had queried on the menu but which our waitress obviously thought we had ordered. Very nice but too much! We did get a nice glass of sherry as well though.

Bus back and an evening in the hammock with a bottle of Cava. Bliss.

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