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Jane in Spain

Our travels between our canal boat in Cheshire and our home in Almeria with my partner, Mike, and our two miniature schnauzers. The good, bad and 'interesting' experiences we have had with the language, our lovely spanish neighbours and visiting friends and family.

No.1 favourite doggy billet en route to Andalucia.
12 July 2018 @ 15:48

It's only July but the drive back to the UK in October is already nudging into my thoughts. We live on board our narrow boat when in Blighty and the yearly trip to and from Spain takes some serious planning. The top priority being, of course, the dogs' comfort and safety.

Before we both retired, we flew over from Manchester to Almeria - ok if you've only got a shortish time in Spain - leaving Branwen and Breaca with my son (another dog lover) who lives in Manchester. I also flew over on my own sometimes to spend a few weeks working on my book. It's not easy to find the time, space and solitude needed to write living on a boat with two mischievous dogs - and our apartment, especially around the April/May months, offers all of that.

The first year we drove down with the dogs we took the ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo in France. The kennels were down a dark corridor off the car deck and the dogs looked seriously depressed. We were glad the trip only took 11 hours and made the decision not to take that route again. It was a shame as it was a beautiful drive down the west coast of France, through the lush green Basque Country and south through Madrid.  We stayed at the Hotel la Marine in La Rochelle overlooking the Old Port. We had a charming room and the dogs were made welcome but no parking. We learned very quickly that secure parking on site is a priority when travelling with dogs and personal possessions. A car loaded with luggage in a public car park or on the street shouts 'tourists' and is an open invitation to thieves.   

yesBranwen and Breaca always like to check out the views.    

  Next stop  Biarritz, in the Atlantic Pyrenees area of the French Basque Country with its echoes of the Belle Epoch and Art Deco eras jarring slightly with today's sunkissed surfers on The Grand Plage. It was very easy to imagine Agatha Christie sitting in her suite at the Hotel du Palais watching elegant couples sauntering along the promenade whilst she plotted her latest Hecule Poirot mystery. We stayed at the Cafe de Paris, overlooking the beach and with underground parking, which is awkward with a big vehicle, but better than no parkingat all. The dogs loved walking along the promenade, their ears, eyebrows and whiskers blowing in the strong atlantic wind.

A slight south westerly detour took us through Toledo for an overnight stay at the Cigarral de Caravantes and its amazing view of The Alcazar, a Roman palace in the 3rd century and now a museum, from our balcony. This was a superb hotel which had everything you could want for the furry traveller but has now changed management and, sadly, no longer accepts pets. From there, home to Almeria driving through Don Quixote country with its windmills and vineyards. I love the romance and mystery of visiting new places that I've only read about and, if I'm honest. I probably prefer to travel than to arrive. Mike, who is, to be fair, an excellent driver, insists on doing all the motoring himself and would probably have preferred to have put his foot to the floor at St Malo, arrive at Almeria 17 hours later, have a large whiskey and a fag and then fall asleep and snore. It must be a man thing ..... mmm wink.

We've also used the ferry from Plymouth to Santander which has kennels on an upper deck with an excercise area for owners to walk their dogs. The last time we did this route, however, the Bay of Biscay was the worst we had experienced it and most of the dogs were distressed and/or howling. Our two stoic sisters however were cuddled together and swaying from side to side in unison with each dip and roll of the ship like seasoned sailors. The drive down from Santander is straightforward and can be managed with one stop over but, unless you divert west to Zaragoza and south from there, it takes you through the ring road in Madrid where a lot of swearing and shouting at other drivers can often be heard from our vehicle.

Last year we tried the eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. The dogs get to stay in the car with you and the whole crossing only takes about 35 minutes. It's not as exiting as the ferries; you can't go to the bar for a drink or saunter along the deck breathing in the sea air and the only view you get is the rear end of someone else's car.  It's not the quickest route to Spain and probably not the cheapest, bearing in mind the toll charges, but the dogs are good road travellers and we get the opportunity to see the  different regions of France and Spain. We have a trusty 4x4  which accommodates us, the dogs and all their stuff, our stock of Alta Rica coffee which we can't get in Spain and all our luggage. We have 'near' luggage for our overnight stays stashed behind the front seats for easy access with my lap top and 'far' luggage, usually containing clothes that won't fit in the boat, wedged in the back behind the dogs. Oh, and a stack of Andrea Bocelli discs vying with Fleetwood Mac for time on the cd player.

As we now have a lot more time but are both financially dependent on our pensions we have had to budget significantly and so have opted for more rural (and much cheaper) stop overs. The upside of this being that they usually accept dogs and are set in their own grounds so parking and doggy walking isn't a problem. We haven't had a bad experience so far but our absolute favourite has to be the Casa Rural Morena just outside Ontinyent, about 4 hours journey from us so it's our first stop over heading north along the east coast. Augusto and his wife, the owners, are charming and attentive hosts and excellent cooks.

Last year was our first visit here on our way back to the UK and we weren't too sure what to expect. We left the dogs and luggage parked under a shady tree with the tailgate open whilst we went to introduce ourselves. We thought it only polite to address our host - in what was his own home- in his own language, so we went for it in our best Spanish as per google translate. The prelimineries over I thought we were on a roll so tried  "También tenemos dos perros." (We also have two dogs)

"Que?" Augusto's eyes narrowed.

"D-o-s  p-e-r-r-o-s." I enunciated slowly.

His eyes bulged and his jaw metaphorically clanged like something out of Tom and Jerry. "TWO PARROTS!!??"

At this point Mike, having seen the way the conversation was going, appeared in the doorway with Branwen and Breaca wagging their tails and all became clear. It certainly broke the ice and Augusto could be heard telling the story to the other (Spanish) guests at dinner - a wonderful affair served on the terrace overlooking the grounds.

Our room here was simple, spotlessly clean with a huge,safe, terrace for the dogs to run around and for us to enjoy the amazing view with a glass of wine....or two.

 Our terrace and view @The Casa Rural Morena

  Writing this has brought back so many good memories I have already booked in for this October.

Like 2


Liamliolfc said:
13 July 2018 @ 18:40

Sounds like a perfect little holiday after the summer in Spain! Looking forward to see you in Belgium after all that! Love from us 4 xx

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