Paw wax on and I was off up the mountain like a startled gazelle. In reality I managed half an hour of trotting up to admire the view and to sniff fences. I am 9 now.

We stayed for a week in a handy car park in La Massana, complete with electricity for the van heating and 10 mins from the ski lift. Dogs are welcome on the first stage gondolas and here’s me waiting for number 20, the perro lift…

Before conquering the slopes we’d been in Cadaques, Spain, always a favourite for it’s clear water and cheap wine (especially the later in winter)

And afterwards we stayed on a farm near Girona. It was beautiful, in a valley surrounded by small rolling hills. It was, however, very noisy thanks to the resident donkey! I searched for the culprit but could only find cows..

We then went on to watch the F1 testing near Barcelona but as that didn’t involve me, sod a photo. Instead here’s one of moi enjoying the sunshine of Pineda de Mar before heading northwards to France once more.

Dogs on slopes: me and all the huskies

Mooching around Montpellier

By tram! I do love public transport, especially trams, like the Tube with a view… Anyway, sadly I had to get off the tram to mooch properly but it was definitely worth the effort. Friends will know that I have been to Montpellier before but this time the town was strangely deserted. Being just after Christmas little was open and the winding streets empty and quiet. I could sniff every step and wooden door without hindrance and ponder which corner to turn. Not that I get to choose of course…

It’s an intoxicating maze of stone and cobble dotted with little squares (triangles/hexagons/rectangles). It has a splendid cathedral, viaduct and modern sector.

Before that we’d zipped our way through the 650 miles from Calais, stopping only briefly.

Chateaudun was pretty, again medieval and cobbled. It too was extremely quiet but we found a small bar for a beer. It was unusually decorated as an aquarium but had a poster of a greyhound behind the bar so no complaints from me.

In fact the only complaint this week has been from Elaine whilst being driven over the Millau Viaduct. It is an incredible bridge but not for those with vertigo! Here’s Chateaudun…

Dogs on sites – Many small fluffy ones, a cat and a rabbit (yep, that was a close one)

Homeward via France!

Sadly our year of adventure is almost over and the last leg is towards the Eurotunnel. 

Biarritz was our first stop. No photos due to torrential rain but a great night out sampling the local bars and nosh. Blaye was next and a wonderful couple of nights parked in the grounds of Chateau Marquis du Vauban. It snowed the second day but we’d bought a box of wine by then. The cat is called Marquis and was a stray in the vineyard. She now, rightly, rules the roost!

Staying wherever we could find an inviting aire, Coulon and Brissac Quince were next. Both villages were pretty closed down and sleepy. The first had canals and the later a splendid chateau. It was closed for winter but we managed a photo before being shooed away. 

Our last major port of call was an area we wanted to visit from the start, Normandy. Mainly for the beaches but Argentan was a fortuitous stop as we caught a stage of the Tour of Normandy cycling.

This is Utah beach and our van..

And our final new stopover before the passport vets and Calais, Omaha Beach…

A sobering visit, we really are exceptionally lucky.

Dogs on the way back home – me and 2 terriers next door.

Santiago to Pamplona

Via checking out the beach at San Sebastian, from which I was barred. Not because of local law but due to my ears already being full of sand. 

Anyway we’d left the wonderful Santiago de Compostela and driven across the northern coast of Spain. Essentially a return pilgrimage. Tapia de Casariego was our first stop and has a huge tidal beach. The source of my too-much-sand-in-ears problem..

Followed was a rainy night in Candas and a noisy night in a Gijon car park. Boy racers in ‘not so hot’ hatches, are a common feature in Spain!

Fancying some peaceful sleep and countryside we found the only campsite open in Los Picos de Europa. We we on the edge of the park but it was stunning and the best cycling yet. A really beautiful national park which phone cameras don’t do justice. 

After a few days we dragged ourselves away towards San Sebastian via Cobreces. Elaine had been before but the €3 a night motorhome parking couldn’t be missed for such a pleasant town. One night in a local establisment, one in a touristy pintxos bar.

Our final stop in Spain was to be Pamplona, famous for it’s bull running and where I met up with my friend Kio the galgo.  

It’s a maze of dark, cobbled streets with lots of bars and restaurants. It’s boho, interesting and a great place for galgo runs. Thanks to a lovely day with Kio and his humans we got a local’s insight into a great city. 

Dogs in car parks – me, 2 cocker spaniels and a van with 8 cats (so their polite notice read!)

Camino Portugués 

After leaving pretty Porto Covo we headed north along the Portuguese coast. One night in Comparta’s dusty car park followed, and a long drive skirting Lisbon (they’d been before and Elaine had no desire to see the impressive, but huge, bridge again). 

Wanting more beach time we found a lovely free aire right on the beach near Lavas. An immense surfing beach just outside the van…

Now, although the beaches are dog friendly in winter, Portugal as a rule isn’t. It’s not the people, but their laws, that ban dogs from all pubs, cafes and many public areas. Such a shame as it became a tad restrictive. Maybe it’s something to do with the amount of loose, barking dogs? 

Driving north we stopped overnight on Praia do Costa Nova, nr Aveiro.  It had a rather splendid boardwork, seen in the first photo. Vila Cha further up had the same…

It was then it dawned on us, we’d inadvertently started following the pilgrim’s way to Santigo de Compostela, the Portuguese route. Miles and miles of these boardwalks have been built along the coast to aid the camino followers. They are pretty impressive. 

So in a rain soaked Portugal it gave us a new route. Slightly inland to Ponte de Lima and, naturally, to Santiago. 

Ponte de Lima, as it’s name suggests, has a bridge over the river Lima. It’s a medieval footbridge on the pilgrim’s route. It is a lovely old town and goes back to Roman times. Still doesn’t allow dogs in bars though, pfft.

And the finale, Santigo de Compostela …..

It poured with rain, the cathedral had scaffolding but what a truly wonderful old city. It’s tiny but perfectly formed. Stone arches, walkways and narrow streets surround the stunning cathedral. I imagine if you’d walked all the way it would be quite emotional. We spent a great afternoon exploring and toasting the city.  

Dogs resting after El Camino – just the one..

Seville to Portugal 

The above beach is at Porto Covo, south of Lisbon and at the north end of the Alentejano national park. The sand was fine and the bay deserted. Bar for a few villages, and the odd ugly power station, the coastline is untouched. Houses here are either pretty blue and white, traditional style or abandoned concrete shells. It was well worth the drive following a couple of nights in the Algarve. 

Singing in a cave after a picnic…

Before reaching Portugal we stopped off in Humilladero, Spain. A sleepy interior town where sheep dodged boy racers and dogs barked (a lot). It was a great place to stay for a few days. The local barman had to be persuaded to let me in but after a jolly night he was chasing us down the street to give us stickers. Yes stickers….. randomly friendly. 

Seville, after Humilladero, was a fabulous, and unplanned, stopover. We realised there was a city centre car park for vans. For 10 euros a safe overnighter walkable to the sites. The buildings are impressive and it’s all quite compact for a mooch in the sun. Tapas and a few beers always help! 

And so to Portugal and a drive up the Atlantic coast….

Dogs on site – me, yep just me. Just me on the beach too.

It’s snowtime! 

There’s only one thing more fun than chasing a tennis ball, 

and that’s snowballing! 

Before the heady giddiness of the Sierra Nevada, we visited Gibraltar for the day. We’d expected Monaco like glamour with yachts, but you couldn’t see the sea for building work. The town was a town centre similar to most back home and dogs weren’t allowed up the rock (fair enough as it is a nature reserve). Glad we went though, as the view as you drive up is iconic..

And, so to the stunning heights of the Sierra Nevada. Pradollano and the parking was above 2000m, the slopes over 3000m. Not particularly great for Elaine, who’s vertigo spiralled into a meltdown on the drive up, but thankfully calmed at the ski station. Needless to say she doesn’t ski! 

I mostly did this all day….

What a wonderful spot to park up for a few days, even when -11° ….

Dog on slopes – Huskies (of course) and labs, including a gorgeous black puppy with a family. If you look closely you can see her happily sledging on the girl’s knee….

No carbs before Marbs

Well, not quite Marbella yet but just north along the coast. Maybe we’ll make it but sitting in the sunshine outside nice bars and curry houses is hampering the diet!

Dragging ourselves away from the heady sunshine of Benidorm we meandered south in search of our next call. Spanish sites are relatively tricky to access as usually tightly designed with lots of trees. Many, it appears, are also naturalistic. Not wanting to upset anyone by going ‘textile free’ we drove from packed site to rammed site until settling in Mojacar (thankfully fully clothed).

In the summer the strip is obviously full of disco beach bars but in quiet January it’s rather pleasant. A nice prom, bars and a tunnel to the beach…

Moving further south towards the Sierra Nevada we found another nice site in Castello de Baños. A review had mentioned the cycling which took you into Vuelta climbing territory. Stunning roads (although not for Elaine thanks to an annoying torn ligament).

After 3 nights it was time to move on again and head towards Malaga. The campsites were increasingly full or uninviting so a night wild camping in Torre del Mar beckoned. I say wild but hardly, you’re in a huge dusty car park with other vans next to some dog friendly beach bars. The wildest element was the wind….

And so forever southwards we go…..

Dogs on site – forget dogs, too many CATS! Cats in vans, cats on sites, cats on beaches, cats in bars (thankfully I no longer buckaroo when I see one).

9 months & finally Benidorm!

We hadn’t planned Benidorm but as we headed south it just had to be done! 

First came a quiet couple of days in Cambrils, a pleasant resort on the Costa Dorada. Already the British influence was creeping in….

Driving down for our next stopover, a night in Castellon de la Plana. I’m sure it’s perfectly nice in parts but we pitched up in the free car park with fellow vans and the area was, well, a port. 

And then…. the unique Benidorm! In January it’s full (only a handful of pitches out of 700) with retired Brits, Dutch and Belgiums all sunning themselves, drinking and zipping around on mobility scooters. They’re having a ball and who can blame them! We stayed for 6 nights and Avenida de Doz was perfect for people watching…

The weather was glorious, everyone friendly, the beach spotless and there was an Iceland. What more could you ask for eh?! 

Sadly we had to leave our sunny Wetherspoons (aptly described by a friend) to head further south.

Dogs on site – hundreds 

Wildlife on site (yep in Benidorm) – hedgehogs, bats, chocolate brown squirrels (lots, grr) 

And, yes, of course we found the Solana Hotel! 

Happy New Year 

My Christmas highlight caught on camera….helping myself to raclette. Serves them right for waving melted cheese around!

France was smashing fun, fireworks to carols, wine, sunshine and, of course, drunken petanque. Thanks to my French family and apologies to Tigger the cat whose home I infiltrated ( ie TOTALLY took over)

I hope everyone had a lovely festive season and here’s to 2018. May it be full of Yorkshire Puddings to bury at leisure.