We packed up and headed south from Narbonne in southeastern France down the Mediterranean coast, looking for new adventures and wishing to see a bit of Spain. It’s already high 80s and low 90s in the interior, but the coast is staying cooler for now, and we liked the way the weather forecast looked around Barcelona, maybe 120 miles south of us – 75 and sunny. I set the GPS for no toll roads, which guaranteed us a good look at all the little towns along the way, and we set off.
We drove on through the remaining section of France, through Perpignan, and crossed the border into Spain. The stretch from the border through La Jonquera down to Gerona is pretty rough – many strange smells from poorly run cattle operations, lots of local drivers passing you on the right shoulder because you aren’t driving fast enough to suit them, and numerous prostitutes on the roadside. Unfortunately for the human trafficking situation, prostitution is basically legal and unregulated in Spain, and this area of the country has become something of a hotbed for exploitation of women from eastern Europe and Asia. I said a prayer for them and also to the deity in charge of vehicular reliability, and kept driving. Mik Poore on the Roadtrek Facebook group described this area as “the badlands” – now I know why.
Things improved considerably, both temperature-wise and aesthetically, as we came back out to the ocean. The highway here follows the route of the old Roman road from Cadiz, Spain to Rome – Narbonne was the capital of Transalpine Gaul, and Julius Caesar settled soldiers from his 10th Legion here to colonize the area. To the horror of current French occupants, it was considered part of Italy at the time. They’re still very proud of their heritage, though, and the traffic circles have huge replicas of Roman columns and amphorae. It was also briefly conquered by the Omayyad caliphate, so there’s a long history of political ebb and flow in this region.
I had Googled around looking for a place to stay in the Barcelona area – downtown isn’t very safe for foreigners with valuable possessions like RVs, so I was looking at the stretch of coast north of town. Globo Rojo is a highly rated RV park in Canet de Mar maybe 25 miles north of the city center, and we got there around mid-afternoon. Staff were welcoming, multilingual (which I’m not), and it’s a reasonable rate this early in the season – 26 euros a night. This includes all kinds of things you wouldn’t find at an aire du camping – a store, a bar, wonderful marble (!!) bathrooms, a laundromat, free wifi, and security – there’s a big steel gate that keeps things nice and peaceful after dark.
The occupants are a mix of Brits and Dutch, with a few Germans and the occasional local Spaniard. It was kind of nice to hear English spoken again – we’ve been in France and Belgium since we landed. Problem is, the Brit accents are so thick that I have to listen to a couple of sentences to make sure it’s English and not Dutch, which has a similar sound. I’m having fun chatting them up, and explaining that I’m basically doing what they’re doing, except my ferry ride was quite a bit longer than theirs. They’re a little befuddled as to why I would come over here – I’m trying to explain that six years of fulltiming has made my own continent a bit stale, and we want to do this while we still can.
RVs here are maybe half towables and the rest a mix of Class Bs and Cs, with a few smallish A’s thrown in. I still get a kick out of the VW bus Westfalias with the “California” model name – I guess it means freedom and open spaces to them. The campground’s old school hardcore award goes to a Mercedes 407 D, built back in the 1980s pre-turbo days when you navigated the continent with what you were given, usually 70 horsepower, but this one is still going strong – slowly, but reliably. It’s a nice size, with a GVWR of about 10,000 pounds – they were used for flatbeds and fire trucks.
One thing I noticed as soon as I got out and started looking around was that we have finally gotten far enough south that the vegetation is starting to look familiar to this Florida native – they have bougainvillea, angel’s trumpets, viburnum, and long rows of blooming ligustrum hedge. I even passed a saguaro cactus in a traffic circle on the way down here. The park is wooded to the extent that I am only getting about half the solar I’m used to, despite picking a sunny spot – I think these are catalpa trees here. There’s a good feeling here as people sit around and socialize at tables under their awnings, eating and drinking – I get the impression that people spend weeks here. They seem to know each other – maybe this is a yearly ritual for many of them. For us, it’s nice to drop in and sample the local flavor.
Sharon jumped on the train and headed into Barcelona for the day to take the tour bus excursion – hopefully, she’ll return in one piece and we’ll settle down to a nice dinner.