We recently went to Almeria and discovered the wonderful Tau Campsite in San Jose.
In the two years since I came to Catalunya I’ve done more camping – both in tents and in the van – than in all the years of my previous life put together.
I remember one rainy weekend on the Isle of Arran when I was 16 and all our clothes were wet before we even set up the tent. I had to take the boat home withint 24 hours because of a serious asthma attack.
I’m still hardly an expert but have become more knowledgable about what works for me and what doesn’t.
I imagine there are people who like the overly manicured places that seem to abound in the UK, with plastic castles and painted mushrooms and pots of begonias around reception but they have never matched my idea of what makes camping enjoyable. In those places there always seem to be more signs telling you what Not To Do than lists of what is on offer.
Here in Spain some of the sites are chaotic and noisy, everyone packed into tiny spaces beside neighbours with satellite dishes and caged birds. These places can be fun for a few days but the real pleasure for me is to find somewhere that is peaceful and relaxed as well as organised and welcoming.
The Tau campsite is like this.
Here is my list of what I loved about the place
- On arrival you can choose where to put your van or tent. No restrictions on who goes where – they credit you with intelligence to make your own decision.
- There are lots of trees – for shade and for hanging your hammock or your washing.
- Dogs are welcome!!!! There were lots of them in Tau and all well behaved and clean. There weren’t endless signs telling you to pick up their shit. Again, we were treated as responsible adults. There were also resident cats strolling around.
- The owners had made lots of little corners for socialising. Small wooden seats and tables, larger spaces for having barbeques, a big tea tent with cushions and rugs for relaxing, as well as a cafe-bar
- The bathroom area was spacious and clean. There were plenty of toilets and showers. The first day I heard someone in the shower luxuriating in the water ‘Que bien! Ahhhh, Esta muy bien‘ The showers have water that stays on while you are washing rather than turning off automatically so you have to keep restarting it.
- Music. This must have a bullet all to itself as it was something that most impressed me. They played music in the toilet block during the daytime. And not only that but they played Radio 3 Espanya which is my favourite station. One morning it was jazz, the next it was spirituals. I have always thought there should be music in public toilets – don’t you just hate that echoey silence? The feeling of sitting alone in your cubicle but surrounded by others ? Here someone else had thought the same and done something positive about it.
- There were bicycles for rent
- They twice recharged my mobile phone in the office as we decided not to plug in to the electricity.
- There are hills just outside the camping and lots of birds coming and going throughout the day
I once saw a film about a group of people who rented a house in Tuscany. They started their holiday tense and unhappy but the place changed them and day by day they relaxed and opened up. Tau Camping seemed like this to me. A group of young Catalans arrived and pitched their tent near us – they were noisy and a bit insensitive, staying up late the first night and rising early in the morning but after 24 hours they settled down and blended in. Another young man played loud rock music from his van the first day but by day 3 he was quietly listening to Blues. Who knows what he might have listened to by day 7?
I think this place has some special magic and a lovely energy and hope we can go back there one day.
I couldn’t send posts from the campsite wifi so that plan didn’t work!
TO DO *get a phone contract with internet access.
Now there is too much to say but I’m going to say it anyway – sorry, you have been warned, it is long!
We stopped off for our first night camping near Xativa. The romantic fantasy of sleeping beside the hill top castle was scored out when we arrived to find it regulated and fenced off. After a long twilight drive looking for somewhere to park we asked some people about nearby campsites.
They were Belgian and said we could use their land. We followed them to a field in the middle of a plain. There was a shed with two horses and nothing much else.
We closed the gate and parked under a star lit sky, feeling safe enough to sleep well without worrying about intruders or irate landowners waking us up.
We left around 6am and drove the rest of the way to a beach called Genoveses near San Jose in Almeria. Parking beside many other camper vans, we began to make ourselves at home but around sunset the park guards arrived and moved everyone on. It is common in this area to sleep in the beach car parks but sometimes they do a massive clear out and send you to the municipal car park in town. We drove that way but it was now dark and hard to find so we stopped on an empty road on the outskirts of town. Slept well although my body stayed semi-alert for patrol cars and early morning runners and dog walkers made it hard to have a pee.
The countryside was full of wild flowers
Breakfast in San Jose. Three dogs are an extra challenge when it comes to eating out. Especially when two of them fight and have to be kept out of biting distance. We managed this by using the terrace of a lovely pizzeria which served fresh fruit salad as well as toast and honey. Seated by the beach we could watch the stall owners setting up for the day with crystals and nicknacks for the tourists. One stand had rails of those baggy trousers which look like they are made to accommodate adult nappies. And sure enough there were lots of people walking by wearing them!
We moved to a new beach and found many of the other camper vans already there.
This was a lovely day, sunny and hot but with enough wind to keep Blue cool in her black thick coat.
I gave her a haircut – her first ever – with a pair of nail scissors and she ended up looking very chic with a short back and sides.
The sea was very calm. Blue went in almost immediately and swam for a long time.
Lovely to see her
That night we slept very well. No interruptions, all dogs now used to the van and the rhythms of camping. Duna sleeps in the front with her own blanket and the curtains separating her room from the back. Bonnie and Blue curl on the floor space at the end of the bed. In the mornings it’s so easy to open the door and slip out straight onto sandy open space.
Bonnie and I watched the sun rise over the sea.
But the lack of toilets and showers and electricity for recharging the phones/cameras does make a camp site a tempting proposition.
We went to Tau Camping in San Jose. I will write about that in a separate post – it deserves more than a few words. It was wonderful in every way.
There is a bakery in San Jose which sells fantastic cakes. Did I take any photos? No – I just seemed to eat them without even thinking of preserving the memory. He also has great bread and little pasties of spinach or vegetables.
Now installed in the camp site I began to feel more relaxed which meant a day of descans was needed. Here is where I lay and dozed and read and listened to the birds
Now all the days begin to melt into each other.
We explored the park, visited more beaches, ate more lovely Andalusian food.
There is a village which is famous for being used in the filming of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It was very windy – Blue wasn’t keen to pose. A place called The Middle of Nowhere!
Lunch in a village square with the dogs safely sleeping in the shade in the van.
Duna has to be tied to the seat….just in case….you see, it isn’t straightforward camping with three dogs
The roads were quiet in the interior. Sometimes you are driving along rough tracks, like in the Westerns that were filmed in this area.
Here are rocks in the Mineral Trail, there was once a gold rush around here
We had a long and interesting breakfast with our camping neighbours. She was for many years a naturopath and he worked in theatre. The campsite has little corners strategically placed for morning and evening sunshine with tables and benches. The sparrows join you companionably, searching for crumbs, the main areas of camping entertainment are far away so there is little noise but the rustle of the wind through the trees
Then the drive back led us to stop again near Xativa. This time we took the inland road, the A7.
As it was Saturday afternoon all the lovely places selling pots were closed.
I drove along a straight and quiet highway with sculptures marking every crossroad
Then we found a hidden place in the hills to park and sleep. The moon was high and almost full. Noone bothered us. We woke early and set off again at 4am. Perfect driving on Easter Sunday.
Stopped for lunch in Altafulla. Tapas by the beach, dogs again peaceful under the table while being fed occasional peixet fregit (little fried fish) heads to keep them happy
Home to find the house unexpectedly dirty, messy and chaotic due to unprogrammed sleep overs by Resident Adolescent and his friends. But that is another story!
A night away in the van to test how it copes with two people and three dogs
It went well and we even managed to visit both mountains and sea
We ate supper on the seafront at Blanes which was good for sea sounds and dog walking but best not to look behind to the highrise apartments and hotels. Then we found a lovely cove called Sant Francesc and slept nearby beside another white VW camper with two dogs. That made me more relaxed and the night passed quietly – unlike the first time we were road camping in the Costa Brava and in the early hours some passing youth noticed the UK plates and started to rock the van and shout at us.
Today all was peaceful and it was lovely to wander down to the sea early in the morning and before the Sunday lunch parties arrived
There were already groups of men breakfasting on wine, sausages and pa amb tomaquet!
At lunch time we moved on to the beautiful nudist beach over the hill
Here is the sea – mesmerising and soothing to us all although it was too rough for swimming
The weather forecast predicts rain from tomorrow so we were lucky to have such a sunny weekend.
Pictures of dogs in the next post.
Such a strange place – a lovely long beach and a caravan and camping site right on the edge of the sand
Then a railway track. Then the main road and then a large nothingness and further inland a very new town which seems as if it was plonked here just to serve the coastal tourist part
But if you just stay close to the beach it’s very pleasant and I can imagine coming back again and trying to get a beach side plot so I can put my breakfast table outside the van to sit there watching the sea and the sun rise.
And it’s only 32km from Granollers.
There are hundreds of camper vans – some enormous – some even more basic than mine. Mostly they have come from Germany and Belgium. Because of this it wasn’t too noisy on New Years Eve – about an hour of petardos thrown by local children and then peaceful silence
Petardos are firecrackers and I wasn’t aware of them before coming to Catalunya where they are commonly used by children of all ages to celebrate such things as the feast of St John in midsummer, Barça winning a football match and on New Years Eve. I just discovered that firecrackers were invented in China in the 9th century and were banned in the UK from 1997. They are designed to make noise rather than light and some of them are mini explosions which you just have to get used to if you live in Spain!
Blue is pleased to report one great advantage of being deaf – she is no longer bothered by fireworks!
One of the closed restaurants has a resident colony of cats
Bonnie enjoyed the beach but continues to have battles with Duna who is struggling to accept the changes this last month has brought to her life
We were so relaxed after the beautiful swimming pool that we couldn’t get the necessary push to do our 300 km the next day. So we travelled 100 instead to Nice and met up with my sister and family who were also on their way to Tuscany and the birthday party. The campsite at Cagnes Sur Mer is nothing special but our luck held out and they found us a place although they were full!
The next day we paid the price of our ‘pausa’ and had the longest journey of the trip so far. My sisters family took a sardine tin train trip to Ventimiglia on the Italian side of the border.
We drove there and also got caught up in the weekly market crowds
Driving through Genova was another mistake – a futuristic nightmare of tangled roads on stilts which never ended. I was the passenger and spent most of the time with my eyes closed.
We were aiming for the Cinque Terres – five small seaside towns which are part of a marine nature reserve.
If I say the words bends, mountains and tunnels perhaps this will give an idea of this part of the journey. There was a series of tunnels only the width of a car which was exciting at first but became claustrophobic when the darkness never ended.
The road was beautiful and different from anything else on the trip so far
but time was racing on and as darkness fell we still didn’t have anywhere to camp.
Some sites were full. Others said ‘no dogs’. I felt my heart sinking with each rejection and was impressed by Pep’s never ending optimism. At time like these it is good to have different personalities.
Just as we began to accept the idea of sleeping in the car we found the campsite Saint Michele – thanks I am sure to the same benign saintly presence who takes care of Penzance and Sant Michaels Mount.
Lovely people, dogs welcome, a relaxed and hippy atmosphere and although all our tents were tightly packed into a very small space, it felt like the best campsite yet.
There is something about camping that feels medieval to me – the footsteps passing in the night, sounds of voices and snores and wheezes and sneezes, walking to the communal areas for water and washing, sleeping on the firm ground with your dog at your side.
Finding this place was like a miracle – finding somewhere to lie down at the end of a long day of spinning round corners, creeping through dark tunnels and careering down hills chased by Vespa scooters can not be felt as anything other than miraculous!
And to top it all, this place was the only campsite we found with hooks on the toilet doors – something so simple can make all the difference. No need to pee while balancing my bag on my knees.
We woke to the sound of church bells echoing around the Tuscan valley – beautiful.