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      Barry & Maggie
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      France and Mike

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      Posts: 122
      Hi All, At the recent Exsistravaganza we talked to a number of folks about taking some winter sun. We’re thinking of spending up to three months in southern Spain this coming winter with Hugo, the dog. We would welcome any tips and hints about where to stay and any other general advice such as preferences for travel routes from the UK, van and health insurance, how to deal with post and so on? So veteran travellers, any input welcome! Cheers France and Mike.

      July 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM
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      Barry & Maggie
      Administrator
      Posts: 1280
      I spent three or four winter months on the Peninsular about ten years ago in my previous motorhome, France & Mike.

      I travelled down the Costas, visited Gibraltar (and rode my BMW up the Rock!) and then continued on into Portugal.  Frankly, if I knew then what I know now, I would have gone straight to Portugal and not bothered with the Spanish Mediterranean coast, but that’s just my view.  I’m not a “beach person” and I just found Portugal a more beautiful, friendly place.  Great on a motorcycle!

      Apart from the Mediterranean and The Alhambra (a ‘must-see’ if you get to the Granada area), Portugal and the Algarve has everything that Spain has but in a much nicer, ‘softer’ package.  Just my view.

      When in Spain, I stayed on sites mainly but then wild-camped the entire time in Portugal (Algarve) where it’s quite acceptable and just feels ‘safer’.  The reservoirs/dams (of which there are a great many – called Barragems) generally have huge car parks from their construction-site days and this where a great many motorhomes stay, although car parks in seaside resorts also play host to visiting motorhomes, who seem to be well-received by locals.  I understand the law is that you are permitted 24 hours stay anywhere and the Police, I found, very pleasant.  Water is often available in village- and wayside-springs and public toilets are reasonably plentiful, at least on the Algarve.  On an extended trip this can save you an absolute fortune in site fees, as the sites tend to overcharge for short stays to encourage you to stay for weeks in the one place – no good for inveterate explorers like me!

      I took my motorcycle on that trip and I found it absolutely perfect – the weather was perfect, the roads were (generally) perfect and the scenery was perfect, and I got to places that I probably wouldn’t have bothered going in the motorhome, so if you get the opportunity to hire a m/cycle or even take pushbikes, I’m certain that will enhance your holiday.  I’m a great fan of a motorhome-plus-two wheels (as you’ve guessed!).

      I’d have to do my research over again as regards insurance, etc., so rather than give you misleading advice, I’ll leave it to other, more recent visitors to give you tips.  My finances were set up on DirectDebits/Standing Orders, I took credit/debit cards, plus a big wad of cash in the safe and I just left the post to be dealt with when I got back.

      I might very well have another few-months trip to Portugal early next year so I’ll watch this thread with great interest.

      Barry


      Barry & Maggie

      July 6, 2014 at 1:13 PM
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      France and Mike
      Member
      Posts: 122
      Hi Barry and Jean. Thank you so much for the really comprehensive help. We will have a rethink about possibly basing ourselves in Portugal. We have been once before to the Algarve and did find the place very hospitable. With very best wishes to you for a successful Exsis season. Regards France and Mike.

      July 8, 2014 at 9:13 AM
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      chris&sally
      Member
      Posts: 69
      the good bit with the exsis is that its very good on fuel. [so i’m told as i still don’t have one, just waiting on a return e mail] so you either drive down through france, but it can have bad weather in the winter or get a ferry from plymouth [more ports on south coast are available] to bilbao or santander. inland spain can also get cold in the mountains so the best is by the coast.

      the west coast of portugal is windy and colder than the south.

      down the med side of spain just turn down any road going to the sea and stop where you fancy. i would stay away from large cities.

      water is at most churches in spain

      will you wild camp? as barry has said this is acceptable in france/spain/portugal.

      there are some free stop overs from donna on this

      https://www.youtube.com/user/MontyTheMotorhome

      or you could use this type of stop in murcia.

      Contacto

      the best is to mix the two together, there are books on the ” free aire” of each country and they could be worth buying if you are going for the first time. or load a free sat nav type on a tablet. [i have “nav free” you have to put each country on one at a time as it takes up a lot of space]

      take the ehic card with you at all times as it will give you the same cost hospital treatment as the local people. you need the card on your person –not at home.

      will be going in 2015/2016

      you can spend your life down there and not a penny on site fees if you look into it.—unlike the uk.

      good luck ,i am envious—for now

      July 8, 2014 at 1:07 PM
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      Tom & Carol Mulcahy
      Member
      Posts: 178
      Here’s my tuppence worth on this discussion. Over the past 12 years we have wintered in Spain and Portugal(Algarve). On our first trip we did a bit of ‘Wild Camping’, more like the modern ‘Freeloading’ where tens of vans gather on waste land etc I’ve never yet seen them empty the loo or the waste water. So I can only guess it is drifting around on the Med or Atlantic somewhere. The Police do move people on especially at weekends and if you have imbibed they can breathalyze you further up the road, this has been known to happen in Portugal. If you want a good article on proper wild camping look at Chris&Sally’s link on the discussion ‘Wild Camping’. We like the comfort of showers, heated swimming pools, tennis courts etc. For €400 a month with electric it’s worth it.

      We used to do 2 trips a year, 2 months in autumn and two in the early part of the following year, coming home for Christmas. Now we do 5 months and Carol comes home for Christmas. We travel down through France via Dover stopping at Aires de Camping Car, using three different routes depending on the destination. Because I like to fish these tend to be by lakes or canals. We don’t use Motorways in France as the routes we take are mainly dual carriage ways. Then we go through Andorra using a proper Aire behind a supermarket where we fill up with ‘Duty Free’ and Diesel and overnight before moving down to the Ebro in Spain( fishing). Then we join the Motorway in Spain at Tortosa to get to our destination in Murcia,. This costs €23 toll. This suits us because we have visited most of the destinations down the costas. We would recommend our campsite but ‘No dogs allowed’.

      The mail builds up but carol ‘cleans up’ on her visit. We have tried to keep our mail to a minimum by doing everything online.

      We also have alarms which will phone the kids and our phones if there is a problem.

      You have to set your heating system so it won’t freeze and empty the water system.

      We always get health insurance because it can become costly if you need further treatment after the initial hospital visit. Also you may like the option of repatriation if you develop a long term problem.

      We have 2 prepaid cards Fairfx and Caxton which we load when the exchange rate is good. Drawing money from Caxton is free but no charges for using either as credit cards. Also we have noticed that the exchange rate is better if you use Visa not Mastercard.

      If you want TV then down through France a 60cm dish will suffice for most regions but because Astra 2 has now got a tight footprint on the Uk you need a very large dish the further east you go. You can pick up local TV on a pc device and a terrestrial aerial or just use the aerial from your TV, then you can use the language facility on your TV set to change some ‘Dubbed’ programs to English.

      If you want to use the internet you can buy a dongle or ‘mifi’ and buy a sim card from the local vodafone, orange shops. You can use Skype on these but you must buy an allowance more than 500Kb. Don’t use these for video or tv downloads but ok for bbc radio.

      Check that vehicle taxes and any insurances do not expire when you are away.

      There is another option we have been considering and that is to rent an apartment as a base and use the motorhome to visit other regions. The rent on these can be quite reasonable.

      MOST IMPORTANT WRITE CHECK LISTS for everything you need to do before you go. I keep mine in my PC notes. You can synch these with your phone notes.

      Good luck.

      July 10, 2014 at 1:14 PM
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      Tom & Carol Mulcahy
      Member
      Posts: 178
      One thing  I forgot, Relay Service. We use RAC European Recovery. We get 15% discount as members of Camping and Caravanning Club. An anomaly is, if your partner is the second driver on the insurance and you cannot drive the vehicle home, you may, for instance, have been repatriated due to illness, then your partner will be expected to get the vehicle home. If our partner is not the second driver they will bring the vehicle home for you.

      Tom

      July 10, 2014 at 3:57 PM
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      Tom & Carol Mulcahy
      Member
      Posts: 178
      A couple of other things, now that I have looked at my lists. You need to carry 2 breathlysers travelling through France( buy at Ferry port or online). Also for France switch off the  Speed camera detection on your gps.

      Gas: we use a Spanish 12Kg Repsol bottle and a French Cube. Both are propane. I don’t know a great deal about refillables but I think they are widely used now.

      Have fun.

      July 11, 2014 at 2:21 PM
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      France and Mike
      Member
      Posts: 122
      Thanks to Chris and Sally and Tom and Carol for all this excellent advice. We are most grateful to everyone. Cheers Mike and France.

      July 11, 2014 at 9:21 PM
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      JP
      Member
      Posts: 38
      The breathalyzer law was never introduced although they will still try and convice you to buy them at the tunnel.

      There is now a big investigation into the very close connection of the manufacturers with the government minister introducing the new rules.

      July 11, 2014 at 9:40 PM
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      Fred & Gill
      Member
      Posts: 463
      Thanks for all the advice and memories folks.

      Lived and worked in Portugal for 2 years back in  1989 before we went of to Asia.

      Absolutely loved Portugal – probably changed alot since then, best touring we ever did. We took the Moto Guzzi there and you would not belive some of the places we went to. When we toured by car and tent the campsites were very basic back in those days. Had the new motorways to ourselves back in those days – but we mostly toured the back roads and hills.

      We lived just south of Porto, but even then you could sunbathe at the end of January

      and on the Algarve at early Feb it was just ok to have a dip in a hotel pool.

      I still wish for a long term trip …. I’ll have to keep working on Gill, but the trouble is now that our new house is too comfortable in the winter.

      Fred


      1. Ruby

      Barry & Maggie
      Administrator
      Posts: 1280
      So… that’s decided then.  The next Exsistravaganza will be in Portugal??

      Barry the optimist


      Barry & Maggie

      July 12, 2014 at 8:44 PM
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      kenandcaroline
      Member
      Posts: 46
      just seen your query, it’s nearly my turning in time but will throw in a few thoughts…

      *our house is insured through the camping and caravanning club and the policy allows a trip away of 180 days (most companies struggle to give 30 or 60 days) – peace of mind. I talked to an insurance guy who said that for proof (if needed) they would go on ‘ferry’ dates. You only test insurance if you need to claim of course!

      * like Tom and Carol we have a FAIRFX card which can be topped up whilst you are away and TV then you draw off it at a cash machine. We also use credit cards as much as possible – Ken has Post Office and I have Santander Zero (not now available but 123 is) – neither charge for transactions and the conversion rates are good. I also have discovered that I still have a santander zero debit card which is brilliant as I can draw cash from an ATM with no charges and good exchange, we used this last winter in Spain / france.

      *our first couple of winters we had someone check our house and move mail into a heap – having spent some time trying to reduce what arrives by sending back junk mail and cancelling things. Last year we set up a 3 month mail redirection – for the ‘core months away’ to a close (willing)  relative who just kept it in a box (but we could have phoned up to access anything) – the last month it stayed at the house.

      *The first couple of winters we had extra health insurance but last year just had the European Health card – we have a breakdown through ADAC which is the German AA, for the premium deal (which you have to take if you live outside germany) it includes a personal ’emergency get you home’ service. We can’t speak German – all the documebts are in german – but apparently they have a massive fleet of little planes flying around the world rescuing people. It is easy to join ADAC, you need to phone them (and speak to someone in English if you can’t speak german) as the form on-line will not take a British bank code. ADAC for 2 is about 100 euros a year!

      * For routes through France it is a good idea to be flexible and look at the weather forecast – depending on when you travel. West tends to be warmer and wetter …. it can be horrible or beautiful – as you know! There are a few sites open if you want some facilities – mainly from the Loire south. and airres of course although many/ most have the water turned off – although water is available at some picnic spots ……  If the weather is OK the Pyrenees make a lovely crossing – if not then either hook west  or east by the coast (but to get east you have to go over high ground) – we always take the view that we can park up, make a meal and go to sleep … and wait for the roads to clear! Once in Spain the roads tend to be better – they are much better at clearing roads and the roads are much better anyway.

      * When wintering the last 3 years we have explored different areas …… and also homed in on favourites. Again it is worth keeping an eye on the weather – eltiempo.es is the Spanish web site … … to go into the mountains/inland we have looked out for ‘weather windows’ ….. on the whole the south/south-east will be warmer/drier (the south east corner of Spain is the driest place in Europe). last winter we had lovely weather in late Dec around the French/Spanish border of the med … then it chilled off and we went further south.  We have enjoyed time on the med coast all the way south from around Barcelona up to the Portuguese border… we tend to prefer smaller sites and quieter places of which there are lots. As Tom suggests ‘wildcamping’ has become quite an issue in Spain with great packs of vans cluttering up very public places  and annoying everyone – giving ‘vanners’ a bad name. In some areas the Police and these folk seem to play on a ‘move on’ merry-go-round .  In the winter there are excellent deals on camp sites all over Spain (and I have noted in france in Autumn and Spring) …. they deserve support and it means you can relax, leave your ‘stuff’ around and really chill out. In the ‘backwoods’, or where you are discrete, yes fine .. be ‘wild’ if you want – but loitering on wasteground and pouring sewage in inappropriate places (along with tens of others) is not what makes a civilised community – just my opinion. !  Police in different areas are variably active on that one currently – but generally active on the coast.  With so much bad weather in northern Europe last winter Spain got busier and i think some locals have got really fed up with folks in big ‘flash’ vans (and Gucci loafers) ‘freeloading’ in their communities – even parking outside their houses.

      we have explored the far south of Spain and the west – meeting folk who go west every year. In winter it will be wetter in the west (they have green fields). last winter we thought we might go to Portugal but they were getting all the big fronts that hit the UK and there were many gales and floods (also in north west and northern Spain) – we actually spent more time in south east Spain where it was lovely. Another time.

      Most sites seem to take dogs … just check the ACSI book.

      We have stopped taking a lap top and just take a Kindle Fire HD for internet.. It is relatively easy to find wifi spots and the Kindle fits in a small knapsack if you are taking it out. Our mobile phone is cheap to use to text and the call rate from abroad has gone down a lot , I think we just pay a connection charge of about 30p and then use our normal ‘minutes’ etc… phoning locally costs more I think. We have a ‘dongle’ for our laptop for the UK and our thinking of buying  one (EE 39.99) that gives wifi – as Tom suggests we could probably buy a sim for it in France / spain / Portugal/ anywhere!

      Must stop for now … way past bedtime!

      ps. Dont clutter your van with too much ‘stuff’ – you won’t need it. You can wear light clothes and dry washing.

      Caroline

      July 12, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      Thanks to Tom for his earlier post and to you Ken for your extremely informed and helpful information.

      I agree with your views re the ‘aires’ and unofficial sites adopted by hordes of tourers.

      Whilst very late season into November we have used ‘aires’ and at times they do take on the look of a car park or even worse a ‘travellers site’ , a  camp site offers a more relaxed amenity.

      These experiences and advice rgarding banking and communication would make a good main theme should we hold a 2015 meet.

      Fred


      Ruby

      July 13, 2014 at 12:58 PM
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      Barry & Maggie
      Administrator
      Posts: 1280
      …WHEN we hold the 2015 meet!

      Barry


      Barry & Maggie

      July 13, 2014 at 7:26 PM
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      France and Mike
      Member
      Posts: 122
      Just to say a big thanks to everone for your advice and reflections your experiences. The collective knowledge of our menbers can rival Bill Bryson anytime!

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