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Caravan Travels
Winter Rally 2017
Route used

Summary

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.
We set out on the journey to the rally on the 26th January allowing only four days to make the 1200 mile trip. I had intended to allow 6 days but circumstances prevented this and we were left with no contingency to cope with bad weather. Luckily we did not need it and we arrived as planned. The return journey from Coquelles totalled 2,336 miles and used 562.24 litres of fuel at an average price of 1.195 Euros per litre. We used 5 campsites and 5 aires at an average cost of 14 Euros (12.34) per night.

Our favourite place of the trip - Camping Marjal Costa Blanca
Best value night stop - The motorhome Aire at Aire sur L'Adour.
Best value campsite - Camping Les Abrias Du Perche with the ACSI discount
Worst moment Backing onto the pitch at Marjal Cost Blanca
Best saving this trip Booking the site through the C&CC

Contents
If you do not wish to read all of our blog and only have an interest in a particular area you can go direct to individual sections by clicking on the appropriate days below:

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.
The first two weeks passed quickly and were fairly uneventful except on the first Sunday of our stay when the wind got up and quickly turned into a full blown gale. It broke two of the poles of my free standing Kyham quick erect awning and, with the help of the neighbours, I had to collapse it. I repaired one pole but could not fix the second and therefore packed it away for the rest of our stay. On our return home I ordered replacement parts from Kyham and repaired the damage.

Camping Marjal Costa BlancaMainSquare
Part of the rally areaMain Square - Marjal Costa Blanca

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.

Hired car
On the way to Cenajo reservoir

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 19 Today we decided on another short journey to Quesada for some shopping and a snack lunch after which we went on to Torrevieja. Parking was not easy in Quesada, it being quite busy. We had a snack and found the English butcher we had been advised was there and bought a magazine from an English run newsagents and then drove on to Torrevieja. We found parking by the harbour and went for a stroll after collecting a town map from the local tourist office. The sea front of Torrevieja was nice enough for a stroll but there was no beach to speak of and we have visited far more interesting and nicer Spanish sea side towns. I was not impressed with Torrevieja or Quesada and thereafter referred to the latter with its tightly packed jumble of villas as Little Britain.

Torrevieja Street
Torrevieja Street near the harbour car park

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.

Segura RiverReservoir
Segura River from the view pointCenajo 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.

Elche SquareElche Church
Pretty Elche SquareElche Old Town Church
Elche SquareElche ChurchElche Church
Unusual decoration in an Elche SquareElche Old Town StreetElche Old Town Church Entrance
Guardamar Beach

Day 22 Today we decided to pay another visit to Guardamar. We had visited this place in 2011 and had not been that impressed. This time we decided to visit the opposite end of the town's seafront. We had no trouble parking at the southern end of the town where we found a lovely sandy beach. The many holiday homes on the beach front and along the roadside looked empty and the streets and parking areas in front of this fine sandy beach were deserted. A few people were strolling along the beach in the sunshine and further towards town we could see the start of a promenade which we headed for. There were more people about here and we stopped for coffee at one of the nicer looking cafes on the promenade and then strolled its full length before returning to the same cafe for a long lunch. We had an enjoyable three course meal and returned to site in the mid afternoon settling down to relax in the sunshine for the rest of the day.

Guardamar Beach

Day 23 Alicante wasn't far away and we chose a Sunday for the visit because I expected lighter traffic. Rather than head straight up the Autovia, we drove to the coast before heading north past the salt marshes with their resident flamingos and then into Alicante heading for the castle which was the object of our visit. I couldn't find the car park we were heading for by the castle and driving around we accidently came across a vacant on street parking spot in a narrow side street. Getting our bearings we decided to leave the car here and walk down to the sea front and castle entrance. I marked our parking position on my phone's sat nav so we could find it again and we set off stopping on the way to enjoy a coffee at a street cafe. Refreshed we passed the town hall and a short stroll later found the lower entrance to the castle. The impressive castle, which dates back hundreds of years, is perched on a rocky hill overlooking Alicante and from the sea side can be accessed by a lift at the end of a lengthy tunnel dug into the rock. There is a small charge to visit the castle but this was waived for a wheelchair user and carer. The lift takes you up to the central courtyard of the castle which for all practical purposes is about as far as you can go with a wheelchair but it did enable some fine views. Wendy did not wish to tackle some of the steep cobbled areas of the castle so stayed in the courtyard where there was a cafe and I explored further by myself. The visit over we descended via the lift to the seafront once again and had a late snack lunch in an expensive sea front cafe and went for a stroll around the harbour front before making our way back to the car via an avenue of lovely trees and busy cafes. With the sat nav set to take us back to site we had no trouble finding and taking the autovia back.

Alicante Castle
Alicante Castle from the harbour side
Alicante CastleAlicante Castle
The varying levels of Alicante CastleAlicante Castle Iron archer
Alicante Castle
The view north from Alicante Castle

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.

TorreviejaTorrevieja Church
Torrevieja Sea FrontTorrevieja Church

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.

Restaurant
Marjal Costa Blanca Restaurant

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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