Friday, 2 May 2014

Viva España

A new month and a new country! 

Up at 5:00am yesterday, we packed the last few things into the few remaining spaces left inside the car, dropped the keys through the letter box and headed off into the first hint of daylight at the end of our ski season in St Jean d’Aulps.

Doris the SatNav, once she had found her satellites and had the address of Richard (Jackie’s dad) and Elizabeth’s house in Altea on the Costa Blanca in Spain programmed in, told us we would be there at 18:00hr – it was 05:30hr! Mmmm, it’ll be a long drive then! It took us 45 minutes before we even got to the motorway, but the drive through our familiar ski resorts of Morzine, Les Gets, Samoens and Flaine were good with the amazing mountain scenery in the growing light of day and on completely deserted roads.

Sea views through the insect splattered windscreen
Once on the motorways we could relax, set the cruise control at the limit of 130km/hr (81mph) and just go! “Continue on this road for the next 300 miles” Doris said and remained quiet for the foreseeable future! Jackie had a doze in the passenger seat as she hadn’t slept well and I just had to wake her occasionally to pay the tolls, which mounted up alarmingly as we proceeded, but the roads were good and uncrowded, so it was worth it.

After six hours of continuous driving and just short of the Spanish border I was feeling a bit jaded and the fuel tank decidedly empty, so we pulled in to fill up. Will fuel be cheaper in France or Spain? we had enough fuel to get over the border, so could do either and the text Jackie sent to Sarah asking if she could check on the internet (the good old BBC!) didn’t come back in time. We decided to fill up in France and pay €1.624/litre. Wrong! 20km later, in Spain and the first fuel station advertised €1.46/litre! At that moment Sarah’s text came in confirming! Oh well!

Arrival: 18:00hr, time: 18:10hr
On Jackie drove and it was my turn to doze, just having to occasionally retune the radio to find the next ‘Rock FM’ or nearest equivalent so we could at least have a sing along and a bit of ‘seat dancing’ (we don’t do ‘air guitar’!). Valencia was my turn again for the final 2 hours, which seemed to go on for ages. Just 50 minutes left, now 45, what, surely that was longer than five minutes, but we were kept alert by the shock of the toll charges and, by the time we got off the final toll section we had spent over €120 in toll charges, plus another €150 in fuel! It would have been cheaper to fly!

Anyway, two rings of the phone, as arranged, to signify our imminent arrival and we pulled onto their drive beneath blue skies and 21⁰C early evening sunshine (it had been up to 27⁰C earlier), just as the clock turned to 18:00hr! Not bad timing eh? We had stopped the car engine only once to refuel at our first change over and a toilet break taking no longer than 10 minutes and didn’t even stop the engine on the second change over. On getting out of the car at the end I could hardly walk and felt very stiff and achy. Perhaps we should have had longer stops and a bit of a walk round.

Richard and Elizabeths house with the Bernia Ridge on the skyline
The Costa Blanca is such a pleasant part of Spain, the Mediterranean colourful architecture, the amazing limestone mountains and rocky outcrops, orange, lime and olive trees and the warm climate, ah yes, this is going to be good!

The view from the balcony
Within 10 minutes we were sitting by the pool on the terrace overlooking the valley down to Altea and the distant Benidorm and the blue glistening sea, huge mountains on the far side of the valley and the magnificent Bernia Ridge with its jagged crest rising just behind the house. The village is built on the side of the mountain containing the Bernia Ridge, so each house is higher than the one in front, giving every house the same panoramic view. There’s fantastic rock climbing, ridge walking and canyon scrambling just a short drive away, the beach and pool are close at hand and plenty of warm sunshine – oh, this is going to be hell!

The mountains across the valley just after sunset
One beer, two beers, dinner outside on the terrace, wine, more wine, lots of chat, lots of laughter, it’s gone dark, the moon’s up, the stars are out, there’s Jupiter up there, so clear and, just as we look a shooting star streaks across the sky. Brilliant! Before we know, it’s past midnight, we’ve been up for 19 hours and it’s time for bed!

Jackie sunbathing
Today is relaxing (actually our heads weren’t too good this morning!), I’m typing, Jackie is sunbathing (she wants a strapless suntan for the two weddings we’re going to back in the UK) and Richard and Elizabeth are out (E seeing her sister, R at a bridge tournament). We’ll catch up with them later, stuff is organised, BBQ’s with their friends and a trip out on a coach on 15th, plus we have climbing and walking plans. Must dash, it’s time for afternoon tea and cake!

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