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Coast to Costa

An account of the first of many trips we have made  to Southern Spain's  Costa de la Luz.
This was published in Practical Caravan July 2006 under the title "Coast to Costa"

 

 


A Grand Tour to the “Southest Town in Europe”

 

The coast of Andalucia between Algeciras and Portugal known as the Costa de la Luz is characterised by traditional low rise white towns “Pueblos Blancos”, surprisingly green countryside and spectacular white sand beaches backed by pine forests.  At Tarifa alongside the Straits of Gibraltar, the mountains of Morocco can be clearly seen only 10 miles away across the water and there is a notice that informs you that you are at the “Southest Town in Europe”. 

Geographically correct or not, it is a long way from anywhere in the UK, but campers lucky enough to have the time to travel down will find a real gem, totally unlike the other “Costas”. 







 Honfleur Harbour










From the northern Spanish ports of Bilbao or Santander it is around 700 miles, but preferring to drive rather than sail, we opted the 1350-mile trip from Normandy. This actually involved 4½ days driving but, treating the journey as more of a grand tour with several good breaks, we took a little over 2 weeks.  In mid April we left a late evening Le Havre ferry in the dark and rain, thankful we only had to tow the short distance to Camping Catinière outside Honfleur. We had been here before and even though keen to get going, couldn’t resist a day in this beautiful Normandy port and the chance to do some shopping before moving on.

 Heading South to the Basque Country

From here with a route of mostly free motorway and Routes National we headed for the Spanish border in the southwest, planning to take a break near St Jean de Luz before moving on to Spain.  This leg of the journey is over 600 miles, and we broke it at Camping Eden near Montaigu, south of Nantes; this useful site is open all year and far enough off the main road for a quiet night if you discount the noisy frog population (that is amphibians not a rude name for the natives).  We have only used this site as a night halt but we did meet fellow “brits” who had already spent two weeks there, walking, bird watching and fishing at the pool on site.


Next day, after quite a long drive we were back at another of our favourites, Camping Larrouleta at Urrugne, outside St Jean de Luz.  Being close to both an autoroute exit and to hypermarket, this is a popular halt for campers on route to Spain or Portugal but is well worth a holiday in its own right.  We called in not for the first time and stayed nine nights!  It’s a large attractive, well-maintained site, open all year and supervised by the friendly Basque proprietor and his family.  Urrugne is well placed for the Basque countryside the coast or trips into the Pyrenees, the end peaks of which are visible from the site. 

 

 
 
 


On to Spain

On resuming our journey, we made what was for us, a big push of 350 miles to Aranjuez, south of Madrid.  There are tolls as far as Burgos, but as the alternative is slow and steep, it’s worth paying and after that it’s almost all free and lightly used motorway.  The only real built up area to be negotiated on the entire trip was Madrid but by keeping to the M40 outer ring road we didn’t encounter any problems. Aranjuez, home of the Bourbon Palaces and gardens, a sort of Spanish Versailles is worth a short break and the municipal site is convenient for the town.  Entry to the palace is free to EU citizens on Wednesdays but when it looked to us as though most of them were already in the queue, we gave up and visited the gardens instead! 

 

"Fun" in Cordoba

Moving on again we headed for Cordoba, intending to take our last short break there.  After an easy run through the splendid scenery of the National Park de Despeñaperros, we headed into the city looking for the municipal site.  After quite some time towing the caravan around the city centre and even along the street that reportedly hosts the site, we were relieved to escape back to the motorway and revert to plan B, Camping Carlos III 25 km south at La Carlota.  This is a good night halt; convenient for the motorway, good tidy facilities and public transport from the gate back to Cordoba.  It seemed a pity to move on now without taking in some of the city’s sights and although we usually avoid taking in the car, I reasoned that it wouldn’t be worse than the experience with the van in tow, yes it was!  That had been modern Cordoba; the ancient city is a maze of tiny one-way streets that make driving a large car like the Sorento a nightmare.  After about 20 minutes still without anywhere to park or even stop we were just glad to get out and view the city at a distance from a supermarket car park, next time - public transport! 


Andalucia at last

From La Carlota, after a relatively short run of 170 miles we arrived at Conil de la Frontera and Camping Rosaleda with plenty of time to time to pick our pitch and set up.  This was early May and with the last of the long stay winter visitors drifting away there were few other occupants.  We don’t like to commit ourselves to a specific length of stay but as the site’s entry card system needed an end date we initially opted for a ten days.  The facilities are good and very clean, all roads tarmac and many of the terraced pitches have good sea views.  The grass pitches are generous enough in size, each with water and grey water drain but we opted to pay an extra €1.6 per night to have two pitches and really spread out.  It is windy on this coast much of the time and while that’s welcome when the temperature rises to over 37 degrees, extra care is needed with an awning if one wants to hang onto it, above all when erecting and dismantling.  We pegged ours at every point, took no chances with guy ropes and finally fitted an additional tie down strap, and when we left, dismantling the awning was accomplished safely by removing the frame from the inside before any pegs were lifted.

 

Conil is a very pretty white town that has good shopping and a daily market for locally caught fish and other fresh produce.  The beaches are superb but when we had had enough sun there was no shortage of places to visit.  Well worth a day is the ancient port of Cadiz, one of the oldest in Spain.  Once reached through the modern suburbs along a peninsular, it is roughly circular and any of the car parks on its periphery are equally convenient.  It is an easy circular walk around the fortified waterfront, harbour, parks and gardens and due to its compactness it is impossible to get lost for very long as all roads will lead back to the sea.  Another day was spent at the eye-catching hill town of Vejer de la Frontera, a few miles south of Conil.  These towns are no place for motoring and we were happy leaving the car on the large park at the base of the town to spend a good day exploring the striking alleys and streets of a typical “White Town” with panoramic views at every turn.  Even after this, a day at Jerez the world famous sherry town, and Trafalgar beach there was still much left for another time.



 
Tio Pepe


 Jerez de la Frontera







Conil de la Frontera

Vejer de la Frontera



 

By mid-June, rising temperatures and the approaching high season persuaded us to continue our tour - in a northerly direction, the original 10 days had stretched to 35 and still we were sorry to leave.


 

Where we stayed

All the sites we used are in the Caravan Club Caravan Europe 1 guide and listed under the following towns.

None were pre booked or needed to be out of season.

 

Honfleur (5km S)

Camping Catinière

Route d’ Honfleur

27210 Fiquefleur

Equainville

Tel 02 32 57 63 51

www.camping-catiniere.com

Note gate closed at 2200 phone if arriving later.

 

Montaigu (30 Km S Nantes)

Camping L’Eden

85600 La Boissiere-de-Montaigu

Tel 02 51 41 56 07


 

St Jean de Luz (3km SW)

Camping Larrouleta

64122

Urrugne

Tel 05 59 47 37 84

www.larrouleta.com

 

Aranjuez

Camping Soto del Castillo

Ctra N-IV, Km 40

28300 Aranjuez (Madrid)

Tel 918 91 13 95

www.aranjuez.com

 

La Carlota

Camping Carlos III,

Ctra de Madrid-Cadiz KM 430

14100 La Carlota(Cordoba)

Tel 957 300 697

campingcarlos@navegalia.com

 

Conil de la Frontera (1.3 km W)

Camping Rosaleda

Ctra del Pradillo

11140, Conil de la Frontera (Cadiz)

Tel 956 443 327

www.campinglarosaleda.com

 

 

 

©Copyright 2006 David Willdigg All rights reserved

 


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