Kathy Martin’s life story (13)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues
Our holidays from 1987 were mainly spent in Spain. Cannot remember precise dates/years we took the following holidays, but here goes!
We camped in Rosas (north east Spain, not far from the French border) we loaded up our Ford Orion, got the ferry to Calais and drove through France. We had not appreciated how big France was, until we started to drive through it!
We camped on the Bay of Biscay, near-ish Spain, and decided to go for a swim, being the sort of people who like to avoid crowds, we went to the deserted part of the beach and all three of us went into the sea. Didn’t take long for us to realise why no one else was swimming there! Sasha and I were really struggling against the tide and luckily, the lifeguards had realised that we were in difficulties and came to our rescue. Our French is not that good, but we realised that we had been very foolish!
We decided to drive into Spain, via Andorra. This meant climbing (driving) up a very long “hairpin” road to the top, going through a very crowded Andorra, and driving down a very long “hairpin” road into Spain!
When we arrived in Rosas, we found a campsite very near the beach. There was a huge rock on a nearby hill, which looked just like a huge gorilla’s head; we nicknamed it “Gus”. Sasha had fun going around the campsite finding abandoned giant nails to use for holding our tent in place.
Our first night there, we went to a nearby restaurant and they had paella on the menu, we thought that would be good, what we didn’t realise was that the price was per head not for the whole paella! This took a huge chunk on our holiday cash, so ate a lot of pasta dishes in the camp! We always took more care of what the prices meant on menus, after that incident!
Another time, summer (1993), after Alistair was made redundant from Dan Air we decided to use our free travel ticket, given as a leaving gesture from Dan Air, to take the Plymouth to Santander ferry.
This meant driving through most of the counties on the south coast of England, with Sasha,16, navigating, we managed to go from Sussex, into Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and even paid a fleeting visit to Cornwall!
This was also when we first opened the “Black Cat file”.
To explain, we were following a new‑age hippy type motor home, when a cat flap opened and a black cat shot out onto the road and into the bushes! We sped up and as overtaking the van shouted to them that their cat had escaped. Obviously we never found out what happened, so since then if we have ever come across something that we will not be able to find the result/answer to, it has gone into the “Black Cat file”!
We spent a rather uncomfortable night in the car in Plymouth docks (as we couldn’t afford a B&B) but spent a very pleasant 24 hours, or so, on the ferry. When we arrived in Santander, we had originally planned to stay on the west of Spain, but the weather was lousy, so after a night in an ‘interesting’ campsite, on the side of a rather steep hill, we drove across to the Mediterranean.
We found a campsite, near the sea, and Alistair went in, and, in his best Spanish, said we’d like to stay for a week or so, the entire conversation was carried out in Spanish. Alistair was very proud of himself, until the woman came out, saw our car, and in English, said “Oh, you’re English”! Turned out that they owned a bike shop in Nottingham and managed the campsite during the summer months!
This was another great holiday, we walked into the nearby town one evening and there was a firework display over the sea. Alistair was always keen to try things on the menus that he couldn’t find in our phrase books! One evening he had brains, much to Sasha and my disgust!
In October 1992 just before Dan Air went out of business, Alistair and I took our last free flight, on Dan Air, to Ibiza. We had heard that it was a place full of embarrassingly horrible “Brits Abroad”, however, we managed to find a very pleasant little hotel and spent a lovely week. The local sardines were delicious.
Another year, Alistair and I decided to try a coach company holiday. They were based in Flimwell, near Hastings, on the A21, and we had often seen their signs advertising 7 days in Spain, half-board, for £99 each.
They agreed to pick us up from the White Hart pub (on A257, near turning to Pett and our local garage). We left our car there for a service/MOT while we were away. We had to phone the coach company to remind them and the owner came down to collect us. We were sure he was using a customer’s car!
The young lady, from the coach company, came on board, at Flimwell, and put our visa card through her hand-held machine, this bill never appeared on our visa statements, so we had free holiday! The coach trip down was not very comfortable, but we managed a bit of sleep.
We were dropped off at a hotel, which was clean and almost on the promenade. As we had paid (or so we thought at the time) for half-board, we tended to just have a small snack at lunchtime and ate our breakfast and dinner in the hotel. We were sharing our table with a boring older couple, who had been coming to this hotel for years! Our waitress, Moncey, never had a day off, but she said that she worked all the time from March to October and then had the winter off!
We always made sure that we entered the dining room, at the end of the dinner time, so that the other couple would have either already left, or be, almost, about to leave!
Whilst we were away, Sasha, who had stayed with Poppa, received a phone call from the coach company, to ask if we were in Spain, a trifle worrying for her!
We had to go to a different hotel to get the coach back (while waiting for the coach a fire engine went past the hotel with it’s siren going and we were amazed that a little girl of about 6 totally ignored it).
We were with a different coach company and were dropped off in Dover! Once again we contacted our coach company and they told us to get a taxi and charge it to them!
A couple of years Alistair and I went to a static campsite, near Barcelona and we drove down through France. Once, we had a very expensive lunch at a beach in Narbonne, South France, due to a miscalculation on the conversion rate of the pound to the franc (pre-euro).
We had a massive plate of seafood, i.e. crabs, mussels, prawns, etc and thought it was £6; it turned out to be £60! However, it was delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed it (didn’t see the visa statement, until we returned to UK after our holiday).
The campsite was within walking distance of a pleasant little Spanish town and we managed to find quite a few good restaurants, including one that had flamenco dancing, Alistair was “dragged” out of his seat to join in, I think, despite his protestations, that he actually enjoyed it! Also, there was a little bar, on the way into town and the first night, we were charged tourist prices for our beer, but by the time we left, were being charged locals’ prices!
We visited the Salvador Dali museum, near Gerona; we went a couple of times over the years, as the first time, was mid-summer and the queues of people made it very difficult to appreciate all the paintings/exhibits. The second time was in the autumn, which allowed us to fully appreciate everything on show. This art museum is magnificent and we would certainly recommend a visit, but avoid the height of summer!