Port de Portbou, Espania!!! #13January 12, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C
Today's the day! We started out only a few kilometres from the border and were excited about crossing over to begin our Spanish adventure! Spain is the 13th country we'll explore on our 5 year tour.
Will had been a legend and done the majority of driving from the UK because Vicky had been layed low by a bug. However she was feeling better now, so he was able to indulge in the glorious coast road views. We were grateful there weren't many other vehicles on the road because it meant we could take our time without holding anybody up. We didn't want to risk misjudging any of the hairpins, given the precipitous drops on the other side of the low wall!
Our first indication of the border was a ramshackle checkpoint covered in graffiti. Instructions to 'STOP' were still painted on to the road but there weren't any officials so we sailed through and the road changed from the D914 to the N-260! As we passed the official border sign the sun was shining brightly on the Mediterranean and down the terraced slopes of a deep cove was the small town of Portbou and it's port, where we planned to spend the next 2 nights.
Descending gingerly, Vicky drove in the middle of the road where she could see far enough ahead. The lanes were narrow and once in Portbou itself, we needed to look out for overhanging trees and balconies. There had been a sign for campervan services upon entering the town but we found ourselves leaving without having seen any further indications of where it was. Satia Sat Nav still seemed to think we could get there by climbing the hill opposite and proudly announced that we had arrived at our destination... 100m above the harbour; erm, no Satia, not quite!
Doing a 3 point turn in a layby we approached Portbou from the opposite direction, this time with Will navigating using Maps.Me. Vicky was more than dubious when he asked her to drive down a long single track road to the port, but sure enough, as we approached the marina there was a sign for an aire!
A friendly guy with dark hair and olive coloured skin called out 'hola!', asked if we were French then told us in English to get parked up and come along to the office. He met us with a form (in English), the code for the toilets and wifi password. We filled the form in for 2 nights and passed it to the receptionist along with €15.
After Will had done some fishing it was time for lunch so we walked into town. A grey, smooth pebble beach curved round, bordered by a raised, crescent shaped promenade. A few seafront restaurants were open but didn't seem to have much life to them. Will made a beeline down a side street and chose Hostal Juventus, a small bar that was full of locals. The single room was long with rich yellow walls and dark wood. There was a lively and warm atmosphere with groups of friends sat at tables or propped at the bar. We were quickly seated at a table for 2 and all the hours Will had spent learning Spanish on Duolingo began to pay off when he successfully ordered us beers and the tapas menu for two. As more and more plates were delivered to our table, more and more people spilled in through the door and the noise level rose. We ate slices of a typical Spanish tortilla (potato omlette), fried potatoes, cheesy croquets, baguette slices, anchovies, a selection of small fish in light batter and roasted mussels while the convivial local banter roared. It was a perfect first meal in Spain and only cost €26 in total!
The noise followed us as we spilled out on to the street and went to explore Portbou. Away from Hostel Juventus and a few other eateries, the place was quiet and many shops closed. Graffiti decorated several spaces and there was a neglected feel, with plaster flaking from buildings and bricks crumbling. The architecture was distinctive, with a colourful eccentricity to it. Climbing steep stairs to the strikng carved stone church, we had a view over terracota tiles and shabby flat rooftops, past washing hanging out of windows to the sea below. We felt invigorated to be surrounded by so much that was new and to be at the beginning of a journey in which we hope to experience and learn so much.
The temperatures had slowly climbed as we progressed further south and yesterday had reached a toasty 13°C. It has certainly eased the pressure of keeping the van warm and topped up with LPG. Overnight a hard rain came, the precipitation persisted on and off all day but we made it out with our umbrellas. Finding a signpost for a hill walk of 1.6km we slipped through a back alley, over a low brick wall and up a steep winding path littered with loose stones. It took us past prickly pears, gorse, and some flowering cherries, but much of the land was bare brown earth. The rest of our time was spent on rainy day activities, like making use of the wifi and showers on site, catching up with family and cleaning. Will did some homemade taglietelli and Vicky made her pesto sauce. It was grounding just to stop and take stock, thinking about the experiences we'd already had and what might lie ahead of us.Read more