SPENDING TIME IN SANT JOAN D’ALACANT

Playa de San Juan
Playa de San Juan

We’re in Sant Joan d’Alacant, 20 minutes from Alicante. We’re in a paid camper area (less than a campsite, more than a carpark) 200m from the beachfront where there is a beautiful golden, fine sandy beach backed by a wide, tiled boulevard with palm trees. From there we can see mountains to the north as well as Benidorm which appears tiny in the far distance. We’ve been here (N38.377383, E-0.413097) over a week now and it’s just so nice to take it easy and not have to up-sticks for a while. The day from hell where we drove around Altea for hours trying unsuccessfully to find a place to stay and getting ourselves into various scrapes, has receded into the distance. However days like this still scar me a little each time, and etch themselves into my memory. It is mainly the anxiety about damaging the Elf that really makes us tense and snappy with one another and honestly it does nothing good for marital harmony !

Our camper area. I was impressed by the Moho next to us with the plywood effect !
Our camper area. I was impressed by the Moho next to us with the realistic plywood effect !

It is still a source of wonder to me that we can drive our home around and then park and have heating, hot running water, a fully-functional kitchen and a comfortable bed at the end of the day. It feels like a small miracle. We have a twin-axle AutoTrail Comanche and have never regretted our choice of motorhome as it is so spacious and comfortable. The layout works really well and there is nothing I would change (oh… apart from daydreams such as a boot room and a bath tub!). The Elf’s size at 29 feet long has very rarely proved to be an insurmountable problem so we don’t feel that the extra few feet in length – compared to most other Mohos we see – is an issue.

Having said this, we are starting to experience for ourselves that the AutoTrail reputation for being less well built than some other more expensive brands – is not unsubstantiated. Various issues both large and small have dogged us and I know this is not unusual but I still wouldn’t have expected all of it in a motorhome of this low mileage (20,0000 miles) or at this young age (6 years old).

The latest issue has been the bed which had come a little loose and needed fixing. AutoTrail recently did some extensive repairs to the van after we reversed it into a lampost, damaged the rear and shunted the bedroom furniture. The engineers at AutoTrail have done a great job overall and even fixed our step which needed a new motor, plus some other bodywork damage in a separate reversing incident. But we’ve found that they left us with a few problems too. For example they’ve used power drills when screwing body parts back on to the exterior, which has destroyed the threads and they’ve used adhesive to fix the issue. This has also happened with the main fuse box. The passenger side electric window also stopped working.  I’m just grateful that Tim is handy and can fix quite a lot of stuff. I’d be at sea if it was just me.

Palm trees and promenade
Palm trees and promenade

Anyhow, back to more fun stuff and Alicante. We are not going anywhere at the moment as we have everything we need here. The beach is perfect for Bodgie’s paws with it’s soft golden sand and he is swimming in the sea every day which is great for his muscle condition. We have been using his doggie boots to also take him to a nice park next door to us where it’s stony and this really extends the distance he can go, but he has developed blisters. We even tried using a pair of my pop-socks inside the boots to see if it would help but it didn’t. So we are really limited to the beach for walks. There are plenty of places I’d like to go inland, but it just won’t suit Bodger as rural footpaths and camper areas all tend to be stony. He’s got to the stage where he will gently refuse to go further if it’s a gravel or stone surface and at the grand age of twelve and a half, neither of us are inclined to take him somewhere he won’t enjoy.

There are signs saying no dogs on the beach but we see plenty of locals with their dogs so we are following suit. I’m assuming the authorities turn a blind eye in winter. The camper area is fenced and gated so fairly secure and we feel safe enough to leave the dogs in the van if we want to go out in the evening for a drink or a bite to eat. We have shops, bars and restaurants on our doorstep, there is a bustling life to this area that is beyond tourism so it doesn’t feel empty and ‘off-season’ like some places we’ve been to. Plus if we want to go into Alicante the tram stop is 100m away. We have a few apartment blocks around us and we don’t get the evening sun, but apart from that it’s perfect.

View of the marina from the top of the castle
View of the marina from the top of the castle at Alicante

The weather here is somewhat of a revelation to me. The Romans founded Alicante and called it Lucentum – which means City of Light. I can see why, the light here is bright and crisp – none of those UK dreary, grey, dank days here. While the UK has laboured with snow and icy conditions recently, we’ve had almost back-to-back blue sky and sunshine. Since we got to Spain 2 weeks ago it has rained once, and that was a light shower. Admittedly there has been a very cold wind, but when the wind dies down like it has today, we are basically able to sit out in t-shirts and shorts. Today I’ve even started to burn a bit. I can’t get my head around it – it’s February for cripes sake – we may as well be on a different continent – or a parallel universe! A universe with day after day of bright sunshine – in winter.  I can grasp this concept intellectually but experientially I’m struggling to comprehend the difference between our weather at home and this weather. I can totally see why people buy a place in the Med now. When you get some winter sun, it feels a bit like cheating but the world is instantly a better place so it doesn’t matter.

The little corner of remembrance for pets
The little corner of remembrance for pets

Today we went to the park next door again. It’s been created for dog walkers and is really nice with palms, olive trees, lawns and large ponds. I knew there must be something like this nearby as I kept seeing a steady procession of owners and their dogs going to and fro past our camping area. To the far end of the park is a tree which is festooned with ribbons. It looks beautiful. Each ribbon had a handwritten message on it. We didn’t know what it meant at first but with my elementary Spanish and a few clues like lots of paw prints and pictures of dogs, I guessed it might be a remembrance tree for pets. The messages seemed very tender and loving. I was very struck by this fantastic idea for remembering our much-loved furry family members.

The sign translates roughly as:


THE LITTLE CORNER
A small corner where you can remember those four-legged little angels that have already left and that we loved so much, and how much they gave us.  If you also have a furry friend to honour, add a ribbon.

Each ribbon has a handwritten note to remember a pet
Each ribbon has a handwritten note to remember a pet

 

The little corner
The little corner

While we’re on the subject of publicly remembering pets, I read in the news that an Animal Requiem was performed in London a week ago with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra playing and Alfie Boe singing. The composer has also collaborated with Paul McCartney to adapt the Beatles song Blackbird. I would have loved to have gone. (There’s a blog by the composer and a piece in the news too).

The other night we had a good night out at a place called the Flamingo English Bar. We’d passed a few Spanish style places with bright lights and enormous tellies and we were looking for a place with a bit of atmosphere and ended up trying it out. It is based at the bottom of a residential apartment block so you really have no idea what to expect but once you go inside, it is styled like a traditional English country pub. There were half-timbers, a fake inglenook fireplace, horse brasses and horse-plough parts hung up on the walls. A traditional bar with glasses hanging from the ceiling and various British paraphernalia completed the illusion. The only thing possibly missing was a swirly carpet. The amusing thing was the food menu, which was basically British-style food but in a tapas format, so things like small plates of chicken pie, beef stroganoff and chips, beef madras curry with rice – which came in a tiny bowl and teaspoons to eat it with. The place was packed full of Spanish, we were the only Brits in there. It was familiar and not familiar at the same time, but we had a nice time!

Pub grub - no hang on... tapas
Pub grub – no hang on… tapas

 

The Flamingo English bar paraphernalia includes firemen's hats and an old nighttime police hat
The Flamingo English bar paraphernalia includes old firemen’s and policeman hats