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France and Spain

12 - 22 January 2008

Winter in France and at times in Spain means wet and cold, in addition winter also means short daylight hours and probably putting up the tent /cooking /breaking camp, etc in the dark and cold if reasonably long distances are to be travelled. In addition to friends and family, we used the Etap chain of hotels in France and northern Spain: good coverage of the route, cheap, unpretentious and with secure parking, these hotels (particularly in France) also provided the basis for a very good picnic lunch! Southern Spain (south of Barcelona!) was not a problem, with longer hours of daylight and late Spring like temperatures, here we camped.

If, like us, you were behind time in the UK, your preparations rushed and ‘user trials’ incomplete or non-existent; do your final, final checks in southern Spain. You can buy anything and everything in Spain and normally at a price below that of the UK: short of most anything for Africa? Go to Carrefour. Realise you really should have got Camping Gaz not Calor Gas for French North & West Africa, or that, to be on the safe side, you need 5m of plastic hose pipe for filling the water tank instead of the 3m you got in the UK, or some more bungees? Go to the DIY super store Leroy Merlin or Brico’s ... and so on.

Southern Spain is also the best place (for us, the first place) to try out sleeping in the roof top tent. We camped in Spain twice, for a total of three cool, but not cold, dry nights, and found the tent so easy to put up and collapse/fold down and we were glad to have brought with us sleeping bags (2 season and compressible), a duvet and blanket ...the days may be warm but the nights are cold. These final user trials also enabled us to test out the lighting system, cooking arrangements, the packing/storage arrangements, electrical power supply, water supply, fridge, GPS, etc, etc before we left Europe and what for us was the DIY comfort zone.

If you are in no desperate hurry, want to send emails, want to be rested, fed and watered before the crossing to Morocco; Tarifa and the Rio Jara campsite we used, is ideal. Beside the beach on the Cadiz side of Tarifa, the campsite is about a mile East of Tarifa on the left hand side of and visible from the Cadiz road (We’ve lost the GPS co-ordinates!!). Tarifa is a small, friendly town about 25 minutes walk from the campsite along the beach. It has at least 2 internet cafes in the old town and a Lidl supermarket on the Algecerias route out of town; Algercerias itself is only some 20 minutes away.

Following advice readily available on the web, we didn’t buy our ferry tickets prior to arrival at the Terminal. Although there was a catamaran service to Tanger (aka Tangier) from Tarifa, we decided that with only one line offering that service, the ability to shop around for the best ferry price was greater at Algecerias. This proved to be the case; at Algecerias Port we parked in the car park in front of the Ferry Terminal and then checked the prices at the ferry company booths first before going to through to the travel agent section. Here we were offered a single fare to Cueta, covering Boris and ourselves, for 40 euros. A saving of over 120 euros!! Although this was a ‘January special offer’, remember to try the travel agents before you buy. Make sure to get two copies each of the Moroccan immigration form from whom ever sold you the tickets and fill them out on the boat, in English or French, it doesn’t seem to matter.

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