Winter + Spring in Spain and Portugal, wintering in naturist resort Costa Natura, through France back to Switzerland
After a great summer in Scandinavia, we
“migrated” end of November 1999 to Spain,
where we successfullyescaped the cold weather and the `millennium bugs`. Our wish, to
find a warm spot in the usually cold European winter, became true. Even though,
the weather-man didn’t provide us every day with the temperatures, we wished,
but for 80-90% of sunny days, we had to accept a little compromise. Never the
less, on sunny days, temperature quickly rose to 20 ºC, and even on a rainy
day, they rarely sank below 12 ºC. Of course, this can just be foundonSpain’s
southernmost coast, but even from here, you can see snow-covered mountains in January.
First, we had to cross France.
Our first stop was Annecy. We had
to waive our planned lazy stroll through the city center, it was freezing cold
(-12 ºC). So we just went into the first Restaurant we came across and hoped it
would be a good bet. It was still freezing on the next morning, but already
after a few “autobahn hours” further south, we caught up with the warm weather.
Although our air-condition
was running, even Brigitte wanted to stop now, to change the long trousers for
After a night in charming Béziers, we left the motorway
in Perpignan and drove via Port
Vendres along the spectacular coastal road south.
Our 1st stop in Spain
was the fascinating city of Barcelona.
For about one week, we set out on a discovery journey from one historical
building to the next. We admired several famous “Gaudi” and if you’re not a
cultural low/brow, you certainly know what this is.
Unavoidably, we soon came across the first menu’s ,
and those were just some of the occasions, where the spanish-lessons we had
taken, proved to be useful. The Spanish are very sociable and in the evening,
they all gathered and went out to eat and dance. We wondered when they sleep.
If you get a nice accommodation in the center of a town, you can not expect it
to be quiet before in the
morning, since the disco didn’t even open until
Continuing our way south, on the next 1’000 km,
we mainly saw artificial tourist developments. Very often, little sleepy
fishing villages had grown to become ugly tourist cities. With the EU-Schengen
agreement, the building boom became another boost and it’s quite obvious, who
caused it. German and English signs are predominant, Dutch restaurants,
Swedish-French doctors, German butchers, Swiss-Chalet, Belgian real-estate
agency, just name it, and you’ll get it ! They are
very happy, if they can buy their “local products….” where they can trust the
product and the employees. Who could buy his English newspaper from a
Spanish dealer? Enough critism, out now to the countryside !
After a night in Miami Platja, we reached charming Peniscola. The old town is
nestled on a peninsula and attracts many Spanish and foreign tourists.
Afterwards, we stayed in Xabia with it’s spectacular coastline. We continued past the ugly
tourist-ghetto of Benidorm to Mazzaron, which attracts mainly Spanish visitors
and therefore, was almost dead in December.
The mountain ranges just a few kilometers inland
rose up to considerable heights and was astonishingly barren and tree-less.
Brown and marked by the summer heat, it looked almost as a stone-desert. A nice
contrast to that, were the white washed villages, that
clung on the slopes. The further south we came, the nicer they were. In big
parts of the coastal region, especially from Almeria
westwards, you can see, where people get their earnings from. Ongiant fields, the
steepest hills were even terraced all the way down to the sea. HHHereHere they plant all the veggie’s which are eaten in the rest
of Europe; tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, etc. These were
often grown under several square-km long plastic-tunnels. The sight of them was
not that beautiful, but it’s nickname “Costa Plastica” matches perfectly !
mandarines and lemon on the other hand, were cultivated in orchards. Those
trees were now full of fruit and are ready for harvesting before X-Mas. In the
less accessible landscape, we found valley’s full with olive trees and big
figcactuses spread almost like weed between them.
We made a short stop in La Rabita, before we
reached Nerja. Initially, we just wanted to do a short lunch-break here, but
this nice tourist-oasis, which was grown out of a fishing village, did attract
us that much, that we decided to stay here, even though, we hadn’t done 50 km
on this day.
On December 10th, we arrived at our winter
quarter. In the naturist village with beautiful kept gardens, we rented an
apartment with sea-view. We were quite excited about the nice location we were
given with apartment nr. 127 in Costa Natura.
This resort is a bit away from the Costa del sol’s big tourist-towns, so we were quite secluded from the big
Already on the next day, we went to Malaga
airport, to meet our friends Moni and Bruno. They shared with us the beauty of
this little paradise for the next 6 weeks. Here we wereamong the youngest people, except
between X-Mas and New Year. Otherwise, most guests were retired or
early-retired people. Many stayed here for the mild winter with it’s many sunny days.
It didn’t matter, whether we went by ourselves or in a group of 6 to the sauna
or to the Jacuzzi, we immediately socialized with the other guests. To our
surprise, many of them were as “normal” as we, and also “dropped out” with 40 !
After a months in a group of 4, Graeme joined in,
an experienced traveler from New Zealand, and we continued to exchange our travel-experiences. For some time he
was out, visiting Granada and Seville
between. Only 2 days after he had arrived, our swiss friend Brigitte (we call
her Echo, because ofthe
same name) joined as well. Although her ex-boyfriend was sure, we wouldn’t be
able to tear her to a naturist resort, even with 10 horses. But in the
meantime, she changed her inner self quite revolutionary.
It was just great to be such a big gang and in the meantime, our car could find
the way to the airport almost by itself.
In March 2000, after 3 months in Costa Natura, we
finally managed to lift our (meanwhile brown) bums again, to experience a
bit more of Spain.
Our first stop was in Granada.
Already the castle of the Alhambra,
a large muslim monument, which was built in the 9th
century as a fortress and turned into a palace complex in the 13th century.
Later, when the country got christianized, the new
kings took over and extended it with some Christian décor. Also, the giant
parks around it, were really fascinating with lots of
spring flowers. All before a background of the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains.Granada itself was not that
spectacular, except the arab quarter, with it’s
streetmarket, teahouses and restaurants.
Continuing our way, we made a little detour to a
lake, where many flamingos were breeding.
Córdoba was our next stop. This was a pretty place. Proper dressed up, again
with a huge medieval mosque, that was later converted into a Christian temple.
It was very astonishing to see this building with it’s
850 marble pillars, which supported it’s colourful arches. Busloads of tourists
flocked to this place.
A bit further west, just
out of Seville, we visited the neat
walled town of Carmona, which is
neatly set up on a hilltop.
Right now, was a very good time for traveling
around Andalusia, except that we had to pay peak season
prices, which were introduced one week ago.
In Sevilla, in the middle of March, the thermometer rose easily up to 30ºC.
In July + August, they are expected to rise up to 50
ºC. That’s when prices for accommodation go considerably down again.
Understandable, we wouldn’t like to bear this summer heat either, so we rather
paid more and were here now! As the town is quite large, on the end of every
day, our feet felt flat and hot.
Seville is Spanish live at it’s best. After ,Spaniards love to be
in the crowd. The streets were full, everybody seemed to stroll around or visit
bars to eat some starters, those famous Tapas and much later only, the restaurants
and disco’s. We often saw large groups of Spaniards entering a restaurant at
almost and still order a full
We as well, took advantage of the nightlife; at
h we sat in a cybercafe the biggest one we had seen so far, 30 terminals and
almost all were taken. It remained open till in the morning.
Afterwards, we waived farewell to Spain
for a little while and moved on to Portugal.
Instantly, we recognized a big difference between the two countries. On one
was poorer than Spain
and on the other hand, the Portuguese seemed to lack the temperament and the
joviality of their neighbors.
If we watched their faces, on the road or in the subway, it reminded us
quite well of the stressed faces we knew from Switzerland.
Also the climate, even in the south, was far not as warm as it was now in Andalusia.
At first, we explored the Algarve
region, with it’s amazing landscape. Our first
impression of this country, we got in Tavira, where we did see already the
first curious tailed houses. Afterwards, we went a b it inland to Silves, where
we couldn’t get rid of the impression, that this village was mainly restored as
a “good sample village”for tourists.
Back on the coast, we stayed for a week in the resort town of Lagos.
It’s amazing coastal landscape looked alike the ‘great
ocean road’ in Australia.
On our way around the south-cape, we visited, on Brigitte’s demand, an area
with some pretty sand dunes. Next stop, we stayed at Sintra, which is a popular
destination for weekend-trips, although it’s heyday’s
have passed already, as the many rundown villas witness. Then there was an old
monastery with two large cone-shaped towers or chimneys that tower on a hill.
As the location is just 40 minutes by subway out of Lisbon,
we chose it as a base from which we also set out to explore the capital.
Lisbon is quite a bit wealthy,
dressed up, but even in the center, you saw quite a few houses which were
falling apart. It’s suburbs were in general modern,
but very monotonous skyscraper settlements, but also, we’ve seen some poor
This towns broad sides, are certainly the big main square, it’s
(free standing) elevator, some historical buildings and mainly the modern and
partly very large bridges. They cross the rivermouth and ocean inlets, which
are around the town. One looks almost like the famous "Golden
Our last stop in Portugal
was Evora, with it’s large walled historical centre.
This place did really earn it’s listing in the UNESCO
Now we came back to Spain
and visited the medieval town of Cáseres,
which is as well protected by the UNESCO list. The many storks with their nests
all over the city, did make our visit even more
Via Trojllo, we continued to central Spain,
to Toledo. For us a real highlight
again. The large historical old town sat on a hill, surrounded by the ‘Rio Tajo’
which flows almost in a circle around the town. Many bridges connect the old
town with the new parts and some other hills. With no surprise, this city is
also UNESCO listed, this seems to be just normal in
this part of Europe.
Now, it was just a short drive to Madrid.
In comparison to what we had seen just before, the capital seemed to be a bit
sterile and less interesting. We found, everything was newer, but it didn’t
have a heart. A visit to Madrid
it still worthwhile, even if it’s just to soak into the Spanish (night)life. We considered a dip in the crowd always as very
relaxing, except on the odd evening, when this “bath” was on a day when there
was a football match against an English soccer team and lot’s of drunk people
roamed the streets. And, where else in
the world can you find regularly traffic jams at when all people go back home, after a night out
Via la Almunila we went back to the Mediterranean coast. For one week, we
stayed in a mobile-home at the naturist resort “el templo del
sol” in Hospitalet del infantes near Tarragona.
Here in northern Spain,
in the middle of April, unfortunately, the sun didn’t shine as reliably as on
the Costa del Sol. Thanks to the excellent restaurant and the well equipped shop, we enjoyed our time here anyway.
Now, we continued to France,
where we stayed for the first night in the neat city of Perpignan.
On the next morning, we checked in clear blue sky, some holiday resorts between
Port Leucate and Cap d’Agde. We got the impression,
this section of coastline is a bit over-touristy. As a very strong wind was
blowing, sunbathing in springtime, even in sunny weather, seemed to be almost
impossible. The well covered people we had seen in this
“cloth optional” paradises, sent a clear message!
In Avignon, we had agreed to
meet our friend "Echo" again, who joined us for the rest of our
France-trip. We went to pick her up from the railway station and then set out
to discover, all the three of us, this nice town. Also the “pont du gard” a
roman aqueduct, was really worth a visit. Then we went to the naturist camping
“la domaine de la Sablière". For the next 10 days, we enjoyed the sun and
warmth at 25-30 °C in the wind protected valley of the river Cèze.
Together, we continued towards Switzerland,
but stopped several times again on the way. First at Orange,
but after getting wet feet by walking the city, we went on over the hills to Roussillon.
Here we could see a beautiful ocre colored landscape, with bizarre rock
formations, washed out through the ages by the water. On the next day, we drove
on and stopped for lunch in Sisteron. Now, we were on the "route
Napoleon" which led us again to pretty Annecy,
where we stayed for 2 days.
On a sunny 1st of May 2000, we returned back to Switzerland.
First, we drove along lake Geneva’s southern shore,
and then, between the impressive snow-covered mountains, through the Rhone
valley. After visiting the ‘alptransit’ exhibition in Kandersteg, we put our
Twingo car on a railway carriage, which brought us through the tunnel underneath
the Lötschbergpass and then we continued to Küssnacht. We
stayed with Echo for a week, then for two more, with Edith und Kari, Heinz’
sister and brother in law. During this time we mostly went out to visit
friends and relatives once more, before moving on again.