One year ago, this week, we commenced our first lockdown in Turkey. The world had never experienced anything like this before. There seemed to be a worldwide community working together for all. As we remained on the campsite, near Kemer, there was hope that we would get over this soon. We were in awe that the world we knew had stopped. But there was a community, people clapped for the NHS, sang in the Duomo in Milan, we were all in it together. Hope was the watchword, and as long as we supported each other all would be good.
Lockdown #1. We thought we’d be back on the road in no time.
Lockdown, Turkey, March 2020.
Well, a year later we have a mix of optimism and a lot of finger pointing, blame allocation and hubris. But with the vaccine being rolled out, 2021 might just see the beginning of the end of this tragedy.
We have been lucky to travel during the Pandemic and fortunately have been able to avoid catching the virus. This, we like to think, comes from following the rules where we have been and living in a self-contained motorhome.
Here in Spain our movements are confined. Virtually all hotels are closed, business are failing but the people remain welcoming and optimistic.
We have had many ask us why we did not come home, as the advice was not to travel. We left in January 2020, our house is rented out and if we came home we would not have had the right - or inclination - to ask our tenants to leave. So, we followed the advice from the UK and Irish governments and we continued to explore when allowed and locked down wherever we were when required, making sure to follow local rules.
As the first lockdown began, we were in Turkey and ended up staying at Sundance Camp for several months with our hastily convened new motorhome community. It had its highs and lows, joys and frustrations, but we made friends for life, who we might not have met if it hadn’t have been for the pandemic. We were overjoyed to hear that two of our friends from that lockdown got married on Saturday. we wish Anetta and Geo every happiness. It was a privilege to have met them and – somewhat ironically - a real gift of Covid.
One year on and life goes on. Congratulations to Anetta and Geo on their wedding.
Now our European part of the adventure is coming to an end. We will be heading back to the UK next month and, after self-isolating, we will get to see family again – at long last! We then look forward to touring around the UK. This will be an interesting comparison, having always toured Europe. What will motorhoming will be like in the UK? We have heard that Aires sadly do not exist, and wild camping is tough to say the least. It will be a new experience for us. We are looking forward to getting advice from our readers on places to stay and things to do.
Life on the Road
After throwing myself off a cliff last week and living to tell the tale (see our Skyfall paragliding blog), this week has been a lot simpler and a bit less dramatic! Stopping off in Jerez we found a super Aire at €15 a day with all services. We were 4 km from the centre of town and it was simple walk. The weather has continued to be kind and the sun has beamed down on us all week. For some strange reason, our memories of Jerez were not kind to the town. When we came here in 2016, we could not find anywhere to park, so we did not warm to it - apart from a visit to the Tio Pepe winery. We did like that and bought a load of souvenirs there, not to mention the local nectar Sherry.
The following day we tried another visit to town, as recommended by the owners of the Aire. All the wineries are shut to visitors due to Covid, and every hotel was closed. You could feel the effect on the town, as lots of other businesses were closed too. All the same time, the people were welcoming and fun. The weather is good, so eating outside is a pleasure and being able to go to restaurants and bars a luxury we really appreciate.
A view into the Mosque / Church.
The house olive oil press could be used today.
Walking through the secluded garden - oranges and orange blossom on the same trees
We were able to visit The Alcazar of Jerez. This old Moorish fortress is amazing, and we had the whole place to ourselves. One of the few upsides to Covid, but at the same time without visitors there will be no one to pay for the preservation of these wonderful places. The old Mosque, converted into a church, with both an altar and a mihrab is quite touching and a feeling of peace pervaded the place, even if its history did not concur. The old Hammam has been also restored and the lighting and ambience was moving. We also enjoyed the gardens and the early 20th century public pharmacy - just €5 each to visit. Jerez was a bonus in that we expected to be disappointed, but in fact it is a gem worth visiting and revelling in the history and laid-back feel of the place.
The restored Hammam.
Taking a rest on the ramparts.
The old Pharmacy.
Finally, the last spot to visit was the Casa del Jerez - a wine shop specialising in Sherry wines and spirits. Juan took lots of time to explain to us the nuances of sherry that we had long forgotten and we were able to taste some of the finer wines, before loading up the bikes and heading back to Buster.
Free tastings… I think we might be here a while!
The sherry brandy is very good, too.
We then moved on to Rota on the coast, where we had spent Christmas. Here our base was one of those free Aires we mentioned. A place to park, fresh water and waste disposal provided by the local town. We were less than 100 yards from the beach and the town was about a 4km walk along the beach. There are bars, shops and restaurants nearby as well, plus it is on a Via Verde cycle way. We enjoyed another visit to Sanlucar and some tapas.
The old Singer shop, now a bar.
A close-up of our Tortillitas de Camarones – Spanish Shrimp Fritters. The best tapa we had in Spain.
Travel inspiration! It seems that this is where the first circumnavigation of the globe commenced.
Buster parked up in Rota on a free Aire, provided by the local council. You get water and waste disposal here as well.
This is the beach, less than 100 yards away from our parking spot.
Karen topping up her tan before we start the journey back to the UK.
Rota was a chance to meet up with our friend Salvador and play golf in the sunshine. It is always great to meet up with friends, so the fact my already limited ability to play golf was even worse than normal did not take away from the round. We lost on the last two holes, two down in match play against his friends. I have to say golf is possibly the best socially distanced sport there is and golfers in the UK will be rejoicing that they can tee off again from this week.
Easter is coming and movement will be extremely limited during this period, so we have moved again to be away from the crowds. Today we are on yet another Via Verde in a little town called Valverde del Camino, very famous for its shoes and, in particular, its leather boots. Karen will update you next week on just how good they are. The town is very pretty and we treated ourselves to a meal out on the Sunday and an ice cream in the square.
Karen explaining how she would like her boots sewn.
Another free Aire - water and waste disposal provided
They even provided an orchestra to welcome us to the Aire…
Another reminder of last year. The wisteria in Turkey was glorious and it’s just as lovely here in Spain.
More boot makers in action.
Wherever you are in this world, we wish you a very Happy Easter and we look forward to hearing from you on the best places to stay once we return to the UK, assisting us to plan the next stage of our Elddis motorhome adventure.