|Winter Rally 2017|
Its 10 years since we last went on a Camping and Caravan Club winter rally. While it was ok, we were not sufficiently impressed to do another again
until last year when we thought it worth another try after having visited a site used for this purpose. The site, Marjal Costa Blanca is not in the
best location but we thought it well equipped for a long stay therefore, shortly after returning from our 2016 tour, we booked a place for a month long
visit in February 2017.
Our favourite place of the trip - Camping Marjal Costa Blanca
Days 1 to 4 - Outward through France and into Spain via the Somport Tunnel
Days 5 to 32 - The days on the Rally at Marjal Costa Blanca
Days 33 to 43 - Return journey through Spain and France with a stop off at Camping Kiko Park
Days 1 to 4 - The journey through France and Spain - We left home on the 26th January on a fine day for Folkestone and the Tunnel. Traffic was unusually light and we made good time and arrived early enough to be offered an earlier train. This we accepted and our boarding of the train was immediate and we were soon on our way. I recorded the outward journey from Calais using an App called "Polarsteps" and you can view the detail by clicking here.
Days 5 to 17 - Our first two weeks. After the problems encountered the day before reversing onto our pitch, we soon
settled in and were quite content to chill out in the sunshine for the first few days getting to know our neighbours and the site. The pitches were
serviced with water, grey waste drainage, TV (BBC 1 and 2 plus ITV 1 and 2) and an optical fibre broadband link. The broadband service was not free
and we paid 25 Euros for a months hire of the line and a WiFi router. With this installed in the motorhome we could both access the internet. It
proved to be a good reliable service. Not the norm, but this rally was fortunate to have a Club house and one of the first things we did was to visit
this where an information room had been set up
and the marshalls were in attendance every day from 10a.m. until 2p.m. Most days there was some form of communal activity organised which you could
take part in if you so desired. There was no pressure to do so, you could dip in and out of these activities as you felt like which included fun golf,
boules, film shows every Friday evening, an evening dinner dance every Wednesday, midday lunches every Friday both of these held in the on site
restaurant, escorted bike rides and walks, a weekly coffee morning and a variety of Saturday evening entertainment in the Club house. In addition the
site also provided evening entertainment and you could use the on site gym and indoor heated swimming pool free of charge on weekdays by making a
booking for an hours slot. In our first two weeks, I joined a walk, we both went to a Friday lunch, three courses and a bottle of wine each for
11 Euros and enjoyed the double feature Friday evening film shows. We also went swimming and cycled into the local town, Catral, to familiarise
ourselves with the amenities. We found a good supermarket, numerous cafe/restaurants and a large Chinese run shop which appeared to sell everything
one could think of.
Days 18 to 24 - The third week. We hired a car, a four door Ford Fiesta, for 7 days at a cost of 220 euros inclusive of 70 euros for a full tank of fuel. Hiring via the site reception is more expensive than collecting a car and returning it to Alicante airport but it is more convenient.
Day 18 On the first day with the hired car we decide on an easy drive to a large Mercadona supermarket whose whereabouts I knew of from a previous visit to the camping site of Marjal Guardamar. We stocked up with groceries and then meandered back to site through the local villages to gain an appreciation of the local area. The drive to a familiar area also helped to get used to the car.
Day 20 We drove 100 miles inland to a scenic area around the Cenajo reservoir just to the west of Hellin. The area was easy enough to get to using the A7 and A30 to go north from Murcia to Hellin and then taking minor roads to both ends of the reservoir which is formed by the daming of the River Segura at the exit of a gorge. At the western end there was a good view point facilitating a view of the river entering the gorge. We had a picnic here and were taken aback by how low the water levels were after the excessive rain Spain had recently experienced. Clearly it had not rained so much in this area. After our picnic we drove to the damed end of the reservoir which was approached along a road which passed almond orchards in full spring time bloom. They made a pretty sight. The road enters a tunnel before emerging onto the dam wall from where you can get a good view of the eastern end of the reservoir.
Day 21 Elche was reputed to be not an easy place to drive around and to find parking but we really wanted to visit this place famed for its large palm grove. My sat nav POIs show car parks and I selected one of these near to where a tourist map indicated the palm grove was and we set off on the short drive via Crevillent. We soon found ourselves in narrow one way streets but trusting in my sat nav, and after a couple of wrong turns, we spotted the car park signs and at the same time an empty on street parking spot for the disabled. We nipped into this and I took a walk around to investigate the car parking a bit further. We had actually parked near a not very obvious entrance to an underground car park but I decided we could manage where we were and after getting the wheelchair and Wendy out of the car, we set off for the palm grove. We wandered around what we eventually decided was not the main part of the grove. This we found disappointing because in our view it needed a little more care and attention. We decided to find a cafe for a coffee and discovered we had in fact parked not very far from the old town. Refreshed with a coffee we wandered around what we thought was an interesting old town area before heading back to the campsite where we had booked to join the rally's Valentine's dinner dance. Unlike the Friday lunch we had in the first few days on the rally, the meal wasn't very good but we still enjoyed the evening.
Day 24 Our last day with the car dawned windy and overcast. Regardless of the weather we had already decide we should take this last opportunity to visit a large supermarket to top up the groceries. We chose the Mercadona in Crevillent after which we returned to site for a light lunch in the van. With the afternoon still before us we decide to go for a longer walk along the Torrevieja sea front. This we did parking once again in the harbour car park. A couple of hours parking cost just over 2 euros. After an ice cream and a look at the few shops on the front we headed into town but found nothing of real interest so returned to site for the evening meal.
Days 25 to 32 - The Last week. I returned the car handing the keys over to site reception and we settled down once again to a lazy site routine. During the week, we cycled into Catral once again and we also paid a visit to a nearby nature reserve. We enjoyed another Friday lunch and another evening at the rally cinema. On the penultimate day we packed up, the last act being to return the WiFi router to site reception and pay my electricity bill. The first 4Kw of electricity per day are included in the pitch price, any excess is charged at 35 cents a kilowatt. Our average consumption was about 5.5Kw per day and I was charged 16 euros for our extra usage over the 28 days. Any concern I may have had about remaining on one site for 4 weeks have been dispelled. We enjoyed our stay and our thanks go to the Marshalls of the Camping and Caravan Club for the effort in making this an enjoyable time. It was with reluctance we left.
Camping Marjal Costa Blanca. A very large site which I don't think is as isolated as it looks. If you want the beach then yes it is not for you but I was quite surprised we found enough to do in four weeks. Cycling into Catral was easy and it had all the facilities you would expect of a Spanish town. San Isidro, which is about 3Km away, has a train station from where you can travel into Alicante or Murcia and gave another option for getting out and about if you did not have a car. The site also ran a bus service to the weekly market in Crevillent. I also thought the rally was very well run and gave you lots of options for things to do on top of the entertainment the site had to offer.
In spite of the proximity of a major road, we didn't find road noise a problem and the site facilities were very good and were kept spotlessly clean.
Day 33-43 We left the rally on the 28th February allowing ourselves 10 days for the return journey to Coquelles. We decided to spend the first 5 days at Camping Kiko Park, Oliva and break down the rest of the return journey, via the Somport Tunnel, into roughly 200 mile segments. As with the outward trip I recorded the homeward journey using "Polarsteps" and you can view this by clicking here
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