It is now 27th December and we have been in Almeria for five nights and this is our sixth day here. I know this is just a huge public car park but it has been really nice to do very little and certainly good not having to worry about where we are going next and whether the aire will be OK and if we can get water or if we will need electricity. There is none of that here but it does not matter as we can service Bertie at the Repsol service area out on the motorway just over 8 miles away. We do not need electricity as it has been wall to wall sunshine and the solar panel is keeping Bertie’s batteries fully charged.

Our first day we chilled out and did very little. In the morning I walked down to the laundrette and did a full load of washing. It is a good laundrette with loads of machines, it is fully automated, open long hours (8am to 11pm for 365 days of the year!) and the instructions are in English. What is even better it is just one block back from the sea front so I can go and sit in the wall by the promenade and watch the sea whilst I wait for the washing to wash.  Once all that is done and put away it was time to go and visit the little panaderia we can see from Bertie just across the waste ground. It was busy with locals when we got there (always a good sign) and we bought some nice brown bread and some seriously yummy cakes (Tarte be Albuena – a sort of custard slice with chocolate fudge topping). We also looked longingly at the fancy yule logs in the frigde (Tronc de Navidad).

Trnoc de Navidad, It was really good filled with a rich mousse in several layers and not just a swiss roll at all.

Next door to the car park is the Parque de las Famillias (Family Park) which is unlike any other town park I have seen. It is both a serious town park with lots of specimen plants and trees and water features and fountains and also a super children’s play area. Actually there are four separate play areas each with a different theme.  Play area does not really do justice to them – they are massive and well equipped and beautifully designed and offer free access to a wide range of safe play. Climbing walls, climbing ropes, swings of all sizes, amazing slides both short and long. It makes Brodie Playful Garden look pretty weak I must say and it is FREE. It is open from 8am to midnight every day and is very popular. At night the fountains are lit up with coloured lights and all the paths are lit too and the big bar and cafeteria at the east entrance is very busy every time we have walked past whatever time of day or evening.

Park de las Familias

When we got back there was a note from Chris and Anita (next door) inviting us to join them for Christmas dinner in their motorhome! Anita says she has a proper oven on her van and is going to cook a nice bit of beef that she got at Mercadona the other day and it would be nice to share it. What a lovely surprise – of course we offered to sort dessert and nipped straight back to the panaderia and bought the best looking Tronc they had!

Three Crowns illuminated sculpture

That evening we all four went for a long walk in to town to see the Christmas lights. We walked in along the promenade to the ferry port and and then up the Rambla. This linear park down the middle of the main route in the city is built on the covered in bed of the river and the lower section is the site of the Christmas market (closed by the time we got there!) at the top of which is the big illuminated sculpture of the three crowns being a homage to the Three Kings which are so important in the Spanish festivities which culminate at the Feast of the Magii on Twelfth Night. It was quite late when we got back having walked over 3 miles!

I am writing this on Friday 27th in the afternoon. I am already a bit confused about what we did when so it is probably better to give you the highlights and not try and create a narrative as I doubt I will get it right and thus it will be even more confusing to read.

The beach of Christmas morning – note the ferry on its way to Mellila on the coast of North Africa

Over the last few days we have walked up to the supermarket, chatted with Chris and Anita at length, played numerous games of Rummikub which they love and we have never played before but rather enjoy now, had several walks around the area and along by the sea. I have now done two lots of washing (one on Christmas morning).

Cleaning the beach – they do this everyday

Christmas Dinner with Chris and Anita was superb and lasted all afternoon and most of the evening when we transferred to our van becuase we have solar panels and thus have plenty of power. Chris is now seriously working on getting a portable, folding solar panel as he is so frustrated that they need to drive their van for a several hours every day or so just to keep the batteries charged unless they have hook up.

Christmas Dinner with Chris and Anita

On Boxing day we needed to service Bertie and drove the 14kms out to the big service area on the motorway just east of the city. Here we could empty Bertie’s waste tanks for free and fill up with fresh water for €2. On our way back we stopped at Lidl to top up with heavy shopping (milk, drinking water, veg, fruit etc) that we did not want to have to carry back in our rucksacks! In the afternoon we walked in to town to visit the Museum of Almeria which is all about the early history of the area from the early stone age right through to the Romans and the Moorish period. Quite interesting with many of the panels in both Spanish and English but we felt it was a bit over designed.

In the Alcazaba

Today we went to the Alcazaba which is the fortified citadel/palace/fortress/castle on the hill above the old town. We took the bus most of the way as we knew the Alcazaba was big and would tire us out with out having to walk the 2 miles each way as well! I am glad we did that not least becuase we know how the bus work now and we can use them again. The bus dropped us in the old town just a short walk from the Alcazaba entrance. This is stunning and probably an excellent introduction to the Alhambra which will be similar but much more ornate and much better preserved. We spent three hours walking around the Alcazaba and enjoying the incredible views from the walls and towers. The lower part is all landscaped as a garden with a wealth of pools and running water. The middle part is still being excavated but there are some reconstructed houses to look at and lots of foundations of buildings and yet more views. Then the last part right at the far west end of the place is the newer (C15) part that was the palace of the Christian Kings of Almeria after the reconquest of Spain when the Moors of Al Andalus where finaly driven out of Spain. This was actually the least interesting area as the buildings are bare and empty. What we di find to our surprise was a wealth of mason’s marks. These are the signs carved in to stone work to show who had created each piece and thus who should be paid for it. We have seen so many of these in the UK and in France but somehow we had not expected them in Southern Spain which seems so different and distinct from home.

The gardens and fountains in the first enclosure
Amazing views looking west
Looking across the Medina (old Moorish town centre) to the harbour

We spent three hours in the Alcazaba. It was amazing and so much bigger than we had realised. It is well staffed with plenty of security guys around and maintenance staff and cleaning staff to be seen too. And it is all free! Exhausted with our wanderings we stumbled back down to the town and collapsed in a cafe beside the road and had hot baguettes and an huge icecream shake to fortify us before catching the bus home

Tomorrow we might get the bus again in to town and visit a few places we were too tired to see today!

Alcazaba