Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Trust your instincts. You know best.

We are now into week six of our trip. We have been in Spain for a couple of weeks so it’s time for a little update, this time on places to stay. Waking up somewhere beautiful and peaceful makes the best start to any day for me. It’s the reason we drive thousands of miles. But for some it can be a worry. Driving around looking for a spot to park can be a stressful experience, especially if you fear being moved on or harassed in the middle of the night. If you have no recommendations from people you trust then you’ll more than likely have to follow a guide at some point. We have a small ‘library’ of books in the van with Aires, campsites and surf spots throughout Spain, so wherever we go often requires a bit of cross referencing and page turning.
Sometimes it’s infuriating needing to rely on guide books and the times when we have gone ‘off piste’ have often offered us up the best places to stay. These are the places that are right for us, rather than for someone else. Guides and books are great but if you feel differently about camping than the person who wrote the book then you’ll always be disappointed.

My favourite campsite in Spain was a Playa D’Espagne near Gijon. It has no pool (is that a good measure of a campsite? Not always) or play park or facilities other than a small shop and a bar. It is situated in an orchard, about 50 yards from the beach, at the bottom of a steep sided valley that’s a bit of a hike from the main road and more than likely a bit out of the way for most. Most people staying were Spanish, they had no internet and there were only a few caravans. The pitches, unlike the site I am now on in Santiago De Compostella (recommended in one of our books as one of the best), were enormous, so the whole place felt spacious. The toilets were immaculately clean. It had a nice, friendly feel and we happened upon it looking for surf. Our borrowed copy of The Footprint Guide to Surfing Europe has the beach down as producing ‘quality waves in a pretty setting’. Not a bad start.
Another place, which was more like the ‘back to basics’ way I like to camp, we found by chance near San Vicente de la Barquera. We were cruising the coast and noticed a few camper vans and motorhomes parked at the back of a field just behind the beach. We pulled in and asked the guy on the gate if it was ok to sleep overnight. He charged us 5 Euros for parking and 5 Euros for the night. No facilities other than a shower at the beach and a toilet that was closed overnight. We are prepared for this because we packed for staying on Aires so that was no real problem. We stayed for a couple of days until it was time to head for the mountains, this time to a great site that is in all the guide books. The pool was excellent, showers hot and internet reliable but it was also very busy, a victim, perhaps, of its own success. Three nights there and we headed back to the field at the coast scrubbed up and ready for another night of ‘roughing it’.
Our final find was at Tapia De Casariega. This is a famous surf destination. A friend of ours recommended it to us as a great place to stay. The village is lovely, surf good, food and bars amazing and it’s in beautiful countryside. There is a free aire in town that overlooks the beach but we opted to stay for two nights on the local campsite. It wasn’t in any of our books but it was fine. Clean facilities. After one night we decided to head off to the beach and found Playa De Penarronda (that's it in the picture above), a beautiful beach just 4 Km west of town with amazing waves, a small bar and toilets and showers. We were tempted to rush back and pack up camp but instead stayed the day and went back the following day. We wild camped at the back of the beach for a couple of nights until deciding to move on to a Corunna, where we stayed at an Aire de Camping Car by a small harbour on the outskirts of the city.
The point of all this isn’t to tell you where to go. After all, your needs are different from ours. The point is to say that it’s ok to trust your instincts sometimes. You know what you like. There will be good and bad places to stay, but there’s always going to be somewhere. It just depends on what you need, how much you want to pay, how brave you are or how much you cherish a clean loo first thing in the morning. The way I see it is that you can always just pack up and head off if you end up somewhere you don’t like. We mix it up, with free stops, camp sites and a pool for the kids every few days. The only thing is that the free places, lucky finds and unmarked sites have often given us more than those sites someone else has deemed worthy of a write up.
So, who do you trust? Your instincts, of course.

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