Orf to Find The Sun 2008

Peter and Family Search for The Sun

How time flies, is it really 10 months since I wrote “ORF TO FIND THE SUN”. Its now time to pack the old kit bag and start on the adventure to be known as “ORF TO FIND THE SUN 2008”

The weather so far this year has not been to good here in blighty, so once again we need to cross the channel and head as far south as we can get, but with the low pound/euro rate and the high cost of fuel it may not be as far as we would like, but time will tell.
Tuesday 15th July is the date set to depart, we are booked on the 20:50 Euro tunnel, so leaving home at 6pm for the hours drive down to Folkestone, stopping at Ashford Tesco’s for last minute fresh food and a bite to eat, arriving in plenty of time to catch the train. Once in France its then the long drive down to camping La Blanchie, Suris where the van is stored, stopping on the way for a couple of hours sleep, breakfast and lunch, arriving during Wednesday afternoon. Keith has plugged the electric in, and turned the fridge on. We leave Thursday lunchtime to take the van to the Hobby dealer in Angouleme, where it is booked in for a service. Staying overnight in a tourist hotel gives us a chance to visit Angouleme centre ville. The magnificent Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) is a beautiful old castle surrounded by flower beds.

Angouleme Hotel de Ville

We also have a walk round the the very popular old town which is a magnet for all around to come and pass away the hours as dusk begins to fall.

Rockers outside the Blues Rock Café, Angouleme

After a good nights sleep, and a hearty breakfast(rock hard French stick and stale croissant), we have a few hours to spare and decide to go to the plan d’eau “Grand Prairie” for an hour. It’s a boating lake with part cordoned off for swimming and makes for a nice setting for a picnic. Another good point with France is that most parking is free, other than the busy city centres.

Plan d’eau “grand Prairie” Angouleme

It is then time to go and collect the van before lunch, and then the two hour trundle down to Chris’s place (camping La Motte).
We arrive at La Motte about 2pm, where Chris made us feel really welcome, It was also nice to meet Trudi(Wombling 2006), who was also there. “leave the van there and come and have a cup of tea,” didn’t need asking twice. Chris says to treat his house as ours, and just come and go as we please. The best welcome we have had on any campsite anywhere. Unfortunately we will only be staying two nights, just to sort the van out before heading off to Spain. Chris has to put up a tipi(pronuc. Teepee) for some youngsters on a horse riding week at the local equestrian centre. On the third time of trying the sky isn’t the only thing that’s blue, but after putting a feather in his hat he gets the knack.

HOW!!! Is the way to do it

It’s a nice warm friendly campsite where anyone would soon settle in, a nice touch was the shower gel in the showers, which were spotless.

Lake at La Motte

Pitch at La Motte

Chris tells us of a lake at Brossac, with a man made beach which we decide to take a picnic to on Saturday. Fortunately there were plenty of trees to sit under in the shade as it was approaching 30deg.

Lake at Brossac

We also had a stroll round the old, clean, town, and took a few snaps.

Brossac church

and high st. Where are all the people in rural France?

Typical French cottage adorned with flowers.

Sunday 20th July arrives and it is time to move on, as there are more places to go, people to see, and things to do, but I’m sure we will return in the not too distant future. We have a 260 mile drive in front of us as we pull out the gate just before 10am, but it is mainly dual carriageway and motorway. As we head south towards Bordeaux white fluffy clouds soon appear, and the further south we go, the more cloudy it gets. As we pass Biarritz it starts to drizzle, and continues until after we cross the border and head for San Sebastian, where we turn left and head upwards into the foothills of the Pyrenees towards Pamplona. During the ascent, we are in the clouds and it becomes very misty, bit of a novelty using fog lights in Spain during summer. As we descend the clouds disperse and it looks a lot brighter. Just past Pamplona we come to Mendigorria, and camping Errota-El Molino, about 5pm, where we plan to spend 3 nights, nothing is booked. Picture the scene, we drive down the single track road towards the campsite, where there are cars parked everywhere. The caravan in front that has just arrived can’t enter due to the parked cars. There is a coach just arrived which is shedding its load of 40 teenagers. I’m now blocking the entrance, and there is a car and caravan trying to get out. Barbara turns to me and says “we’re not stopping here,” but what could I do, I couldn’t go forward, and I couldn’t go back, the receptionist was more interested in chatting on the phone, than dealing with the ever increasing queue of people, utter chaos, but this is Spain!!!

Camping El Molino, Mendigorria, Navarra, Spain.
Once we got booked in and allocated a pitch, Pedro gets on his bike to show us to our pitch, but alas the Spanish weekenders haven’t left yet so we just go on the next one. First impressions were good as it was a lush green, and fairly large pitches (for Spain). The site looks reasonably full, but by 8pm all the weekenders had gone, and there appears to be acres of space.

Pitches at El Molino

The site is split into three distinct areas, the touring field, the mobile home area and the Spanish shanty town.

Spanish shanty town at El Molino

The site is on the banks of a river, and has a park like area with picnic tables under the trees and makes for a pleasant stroll round in the evening, going up to the bar overlooking the river and crazy golf course. There is also a ducking stool for errant campers.

Ducking stool

There is another bar and small shop, and also a swimming pool with the village of Mendigorria, within walking distance, behind it.

El Molino pool with village behind

The one toilet block was kept clean. We were very impressed with the site, and it must be amongst the top sites we have been to in Spain. But if you want to go don’t arrive at a weekend, or during the bull running fiesta in Pamplona.

Things to do in the area:-
With only 3 nights/2days we do not have long for a good look around, but do our best. There are some nice drives to be had round the country lanes, and old hilltop villages. In this hilly terrain the view changes with every twist in the road. There does not seem to be much of any interest, unless you have a day out to Pamplona with its museums and other tourist attractions (we didn’t). 30 miles away is the town of Olite with its fairytale castle, which we visited in “ORF TO FIND THE SUN” last year. The best we could come up with was the roman bridge “Puente de Reina” in the village of the same name.

Puente de Reina

It is where two roads meet on the pilgrims route from France to Santiago de Compostela. The old village made for an interesting stroll round in the coolness of the evening sun, with its churches and narrow streets.

Church and narrow street in Puente de Reina

During our stay here there was a constant, strong, unpleasant wind, although we were assured this wasn’t normal, else you could spend a few days just relaxing on the site with all it had to offer.
Wed 23rd July arrives and its time to hitch up and move off, today we have 300 miles to travel on mainly autopista’s, and autovia’s via Zaragoza and Teruel and down to the Mediterranean at Moncofa, 30 miles north of Valencia. A word of warning here, we went for nearly 200 miles without seeing a garage or rest area, without turning off the road. We did pull off the main road to find a picnic area to have our lunch at.

Ideal spot for picnic lunch

After leaving at 9am we did well to arrive at camping Mon-Mar about 4:30, for our 8 night stay that is the only site pre-booked due to our daughter flying out to join us for 10 days.

Camping Mon-Mar, Moncofa, Valencia.
The site has about 200 pitches (small by comparison to some Spanish sites), they are all marked by trees, and a bit on the small side. It has a small shop where you can order bread for “manana”, a bar doing cheap “platos combinados”, three small, clean, toilet blocks and a nice pool. The site itself looks clean and tidy with tarmaced roads and gravel pitches. There is also a sink between every two pitches. They have rules and regulations which are strictly enforced, such as no parking on the roadways, and silence after midnight. It is about 200 yards from the shingle beach, and a mile walk along the prom to the village centre.

Pitch at camping Mon-Mar

Pool with bar on left and toilet block on right

What to do in the area:-
Saturday is market day, time for the women to spend hours looking at bags and dresses.

Hustle and bustle of the Saturday market

Being a coastal site the main thing in the area are the beaches, although Moncofa is sand/shingle/pebbles, there are some lovely sandy beaches in the vicinity.

Beach at Moncofa

Beach at Benicassim

Beach at Castellon

Beach at Chilches (our favourite)

Moncofa is about 30 miles north of Valencia, where our daughter flies into for 10 nights, is well worth a visit. What we usually do is drive down to Sagunto and then catch the train in to the city centre. We went in on Sun 27th July, the day they were having “The battle of flowers”, a procession of about 60 horse drawn floats.

Float in “The battle of flowers”

One of Valencia’s plaza’s

Thur 31st July, its time to move on again, this time the short 50 mile drive inland to camping Villa de Viver in the Alto Palancia region of Valencia.

Camping Villa de Viver, I wrote a lot about this site in “ORF TO FIND THE SUN” last year, which I will not repeat here so if interested please see TOPIC…..
But here are a couple of pictures

Pitch at Villa de Viver

Pool at Villa de Viver

Here we met up with Terry & Shirley (FM02MZO), who we saw at Twinlakes last year. I was pleased to hear they were enjoying themselves as they were generally following in the footsteps of our travels last year.

Things to do in the area:- There are lots of villages in the area which all have their fiestas in July/August, and you never know what you might come across. Whilst we were there Viver had its crowning of their Queen.

Crowning of the 2008 Queen of Viver

After the ceremony, it was time for the fireworks, which didn’t start till 01:15, no good if you want to be in bed by ten.

Fireworks in the middle of the night

There is some nice scenery in the area, rivers, gorges, waterfalls, all which make for pleasant drives in all directions. We had a day out to Montenejos, a spa town with swimming in the river.

Swimming in the river at Montenejos

Picturesque village on bank of the dammed lake

Old walled village of Mora de Rubelios

I hope this has given you a taste of the area, and why it is one of our favourite places in Spain.
Mon 4th Aug, and its time to take our daughter down to Valencia, for her flight home.

She’s leaving, on a jet plane
Don’t know when we’ll see her again

Wed 6th Aug, its time to move on again. Today we intend making the 250 mile drive south to the thermal spa town of Fortuna, and an English owned campsite that we found in the caravan clubs’ Touring Europe Vol 1. After doing about 200 miles by 2pm, we decided to pull into a service area for a bit of lunch. This is where our problems began, as we were robbed before we had even got out of the car. I won’t go into it now, but you can read about the incident in Topic……………..
We decided to stick to our plans, and carried on to Fortuna but couldn’t find the campsite. By this time we were feeling pretty low and just wanted to go home. We didn’t know what to do, we felt that in the circumstances we would prefer a predominately English site. The only one we knew of in the area was Florantilles at Torrevieja, but knew it was only bookable through the Caravan Club as they do not accept passing trade. We rang the Caravan club at 4:55 UK time and fortunately were able to book 7 nights, starting immediately. This was not in our original plans, and having the feeling of insecurity we hardly left the site for the whole 7 days.

Camping Florantilles, Torrevieja
Its quite a nice site that is mainly used for long term winter stays by Brits with permanently pitched vans, and is fairly deserted during the summer months. It has a bar/café, a shop, tennis court, and pool. The pitches are all fully serviced, and on the large size for Spain. English is the language of the site, with quiz nights, bingo and raffles, and also fitness sessions and Spanish lessons. A few pictures of the site:-

Pitches at Florantilles

Pool at Floantilles

Just to show banana’s don’t grow in Tesco’s

Wed 13th Aug, we had originally planned on going further south to Mojacar, but due to being robbed we just wanted to get to an area we knew well. We amended our plans to travel the 180 miles back to Moncofa, and camping Mon-Mar. We made sure the car was full of diesel, and we made sandwiches and put them and drinks in the car. We would not be stopping for anything on this journey. We made it in record time. We were now beginning to feel a bit more relaxed back in an area where we have been many times before. Whilst on this second visit, this year, we found a beach that we haven’t been to before at Burriana.

Beach at Burriana

I spy with my little eye !!!

We stay for six nights, we would have liked to stay longer but we wanted to avoid arriving at sites at the weekend.

Tue 19th Aug. Today we make the 140 mile drive up the A23 to Teruel, then on national roads to Albaracin. Its an old walled town in the hills that people have told us about and decided it was worth a visit. There are not many campsites in the area and settled on camping Cuidad de Albaracin, - was this a mistake! We only want to stay 2 nights. At reception they tell us to go on any empty pitch, if you can find one.

Camping Cuidad de Albaracin is a smallish site with pitches to match. It has a bar/restaurant, the toilet block was adequate and kept clean but there was no pool. The site was well lit, in fact one of the brightest we’ve been to. The pitches were not much more than 10ft wide, we were glad we had a motor mover, no chance of putting an awning up here. Everyone seemed to be on top of each other, it might be OK out of the high season but not ideal in July/August. It will not be high on our list to re-visit. There were some nice views to be had from the back of our pitch though.

Pitches at Cuidad de Albaracin

View of the walled town from our pitch

Things to do in the area:- As a hilly area the main thing is the hill villages and the scenery. We had a pleasant days drive out around the hills and a look at some of the villages, as well as some unusual rock colours and formations.

One of the pretty villages


Meandering mountain stream

Unusual rock formations

Thur 21st Aug. It was a nice picturesque area, but we weren’t sorry to be leaving the site after just two nights, as today we head north to the Spanish Pyrenees. Its mainly on the fast A23 to Zaragoza, and Huesca then on to Sabinanigo. On the way we do go on the national roads to pass through Daroca, where you can see hams at the roadside curing in the sunshine.

Hams curing in the sun at Daroca

At Sabinanigo, we book into camping Valle de Tena ideally situated just off the main road.

Camping Valle de Tena:- Is a gently sloping, grassed site with tarmac roads. It is a clean/tidy looking site with 75% permanently pitched tourers/chalets. The permanently sited tourers were not the unsightly jumble that you get on some Spanish sites. It has a bar/restaurant, shop, TV/games room, swimming pool and, as an added bonus, mountain views on three sides. It also had free wifi, I could get it on the pitch but not in the van, although they told me that I would only be able to access it in the TV room.

Pitches at Valle de Tena


Sunset at Valle de Tena

Things to do in the area:- as its in the Pyrenees the main thing is the sightseeing. We like to go down the small lanes to see things off the beaten track, although we had no surprises here. A word of warning here, there are a lot of campsites in the area, but some of the access roads are twisty and hilly, so choose wisely. The stone built villages are kept remarkably clean, and are nice for stroll round, and a drink in the evening Here’s a few shots to give you an idea.

The highlight of our stay here was to be a 30 mile drive into France, over the pass of Col de Portalet, to go on “Le petit train Artouste”, what a disaster. As I understand it, it is the highest public railway in Europe at 6000ft. You go up to it in a cable car, then take the 50 minute narrow gauge journey to the dammed lake at Artouste. We arrived at the bottom in bright sunshine, although it was a bit chilly due to the altitude. We each bought our €21 ticket. We had an uneventful journey up in the cable car, but whilst waiting for the train it started to cloud over. We boarded the train and set off on the journey of unforgettable scenery, (or so it should be). But what did we see? We saw the clouds, it was cold, it was damp, it was bloody miserable. At the far end we had an hour to explore while waiting for the return journey. We had a cup of coffee, and huddled together to keep warm, all the time the cloud was getting thicker, and couldn’t see a thing. The return journey seemed worse as we were cold to begin with, and just wanted to get to the other end. Once we got back to the car we put the heater on and soon thawed out. We would love to make the journey again, as the scenery must be incredible, but only on a very clear day.

We had planned to stay for 4 nights, but as the weather was so good we decided to stay for 6. Having looked on the internet at the weather, we decided to go to the coast for our last few days, instead of staying inland.
Wed 27th Aug and back on the road, today we head for France and have to get over (or through) the Pyrenees. We decide to cross at Col de Somport, this involves going through the 6 mile tunnel de somport. It is an easy drive but have to wait for 15mins to go through the tunnel.
We have decided to go to camping Eurosol at St Girons Plage, midway between Bordeaux and Biarritz. We arrive about 3pm and book in and are told to choose any empty pitch, as its getting near the end of the season there are quite a few.

Waiting to go through 6 mile tunnel de somport

Last view of Spain for this year

Camping Eurosol:- is a large commercial site with fair size pitches. It has bar/restaurant, take away, cycle hire, shop, newsagent, childrens club, mini golf and 3 pools. There are 4/5 mixed toilet blocks, which are kept clean with ample hot water. It is also only 700 metre’s from the sand beach and the atlantic rollers.

Pitches at Eurosol

One of the pools

Another of the pools

Things to do in the area:- There is not a lot to do in the local area unless you are into surfboarding or cycling. The lifeguards at the beach take their job very seriously, and do not take their eyes off the people in the sea, although the area for swimming is very restricted due to the power of the waves.

Most just stand and watch, swimming permitted between blue flags only

Nice sunset over the atlantic

There are some lakes in the area, with man made beaches which are a safer bet, especially for the children.

Lac de Leon

One evening we went up to the small town of Mimizan, which had some sort of festivities going on, we saw a childrens stilt race

Pink bus at Mimizan

Had one more trip to the beach, to have our last view of the sea, and sights

Final PEAR for this year

Sunday 31st Aug, and its back on the road, to camping La Blanchie where it all started. We have three nights there to clean the van and get it ready for its winter lay up. Our last day on the Wednesday, it rains all day, virtually the first rain we’ve seen since the 15th July. Then it’s the 450 mile drive up to Calais, eurotunnel crossing, and get home to Chatham by midnight Thursday 4th Sept.

A total distance of 4300 miles, and £630 worth of diesel.

If anyone has any questions, or would like more info or pictures on sites visited, just ask.


Next year there will be another trip in search of ……………………………