There are two things worth bearing in mind when touring this part of the world. Firstly, just like home, campsites are extremely busy on Fridays and Saturdays as those who work gather up their children, grandparents, artificial limbs and guide dogs and head to a campsite for a two night stay, returning home on the Sunday, thus making it difficult for folk like us to get a pitch on those days. Secondly Spanish drivers will part absolutely anywhere, give them a gap and they'll fill it, and to hell with the rules.
Last night as we were getting ready to go to bed a MPV turned in to our pitch and parked next to our motorhome. Not just that but they'd parked on top of our camping mat which was nailed down to the ground. I was in a complete state of undress, but not The Chef. Out she went to sort them and they moved, not because they wanted to but because they had been challenged and knew they shouldn't have done it. They were booked in to one of the rental chalets close by, and wanted somewhere to park I suppose. This morning we dumped everything and began making our way to Aranjuez, a distance of about 150 miles.
The journey took us through some lovely landscapes. My word this is a big country from the top of the hills on the motorway you could see for miles. I don't think we've managed to capture the beauty and vastness of it all.
Our top priority today was to top up our LPG cylinders with Autogas. Every single time we left the motorway to run alongside it on the service road to the service station, we found they didn't sell Autogas, and I swear every single time we chose not to leave the motorway we passed the filling station selling Autogas. In the end after many frustrating miles we arrived at Camping International Arunajuez. We've been here before. Allow me to digress:
After our 2008 trips to America I wanted to create a website so that those who were considering doing something similar to us could refer to the website as a starting point rather than start with a blank sheet of paper as I had. A former work colleague John C, now transitioning to Sarah C, looked after my computer and its problems and really understood the things. I approached him and he kindly agreed to set up the website for me. I had registered the domain name www.britstourusa.com It represented a lot of work on his part and eventually we were live. Unfortunately the website was eventually hacked and so I was forced to close it down. It was such a shame.
Fast forward to 2014 the
year of my retirement. Our first trip in the motorhome was a September trip to Belgium and France touring the WWI battlefield sites and associated locations, which we both found very interesting. It lasted a month in total. We were home for
October and November before leaving for our first winter trip to Spain. We crossed to Santander on the ferry, then travelled right down the centre of Spain stopping the first night at Burgos and the second here at Aranjuez.
From here we caught a train to Madrid for the day which only took about an hour's travelling. From here we travelled to Granada where we visited the Alhambra Palace. After that we were on the good old Costa's
That trip took three months and we returned home at the end of February 2015 before weeks later setting off for our trip to Istanbul. By the time we returned from that one we'd spent about seven months out of ten living in the motorhome abroad. It was during the Istanbul trip, during which I'd made notes, just as I had in America, that I decided I wanted to resurrect the website, this time as a blog which I could manage myself. That's why the America and Istanbul trips were uploaded retrospectively, and have to be viewed the opposite way round (I was very new to it all then).
So imagine our horror today when we arrived at Camping International Arunjuez to discover it had been completely transformed. Gone were the small number of touring pitches plus loads of full-timers who's caravans and mouldy faded awnings made it look like a shanty town, and in its place was a play park, masses of new pitches on a much larger site, and a swimming pool complex that even outsiders were arriving by car, parking outside the site and walking in to use it unchallenged. The Chef went in to do the deal and came out with the message that there was just one pitch left and she showed me where it was on the map. I had my doubts but we went to look. Well it wasn't a pitch really, it was a space we could have parked in along the side of the toilet block with our habitation door facing a group of young Spaniards across the road. Absolutely not, it was our idea of hell on earth. Noisy kids everywhere. the Chef popped back in to Reception out of courtesy to say we wouldn't be stopping, and we were away.
I suggested that the first thing we should do is get the LPG, so we went for a delightful thirty mile round trip back up the motorway calling in on all the filling stations looking for one that sold LPG and back towards Aranjuez where the final filling station before we left the motorway sold it, what luck.
So to clarify this LPG/Autogas business. Liquid Propane Gas is what we have in our cylinders, LPG for short, or GPL as the dyslexic Spaniards call it. It's the stuff you buy in Calor Gas bottles back home. The problem with having those in the vehicle is that they cannot be exchanged abroad and cannot be refilled by the likes of us. Therefore even if you wanted to take Calor bottles with you, what do you do if one is only half full? Take a chance, or swap it for a full one and stand the financial loss? Enter the Gaslow refillable gas bottle system. It cost me about £500 to fit, a lot of money, but by having two cylinders and suitable adapters we can refill with LPG anywhere in Europe (providing we can find the right filling station). Remember back in the day when we were all being told that diesel cars were better for the environment, so much so that the government tax on it was reduced to less than that of petrol? Well at about the same time some motorists were paying good money to have their petrol cars converted to run on LPG. Garage forecourts accordingly made available LPG pumps to fill those cars up, and the products trading name was 'Autogas'. That's why we go searching for it on garage forecourts. I took a couple of pictures of the pump attached to the filling point on the vehicle which, via piping, is refilling both cylinders simultaneously. The downside is that the pump operating button has to be pressed continually to keep up the filling, it gets hard work after a while as the filling process is pretty slow, well at least it is on Autogas pumps.
After filling up it was back to Aranjuez and the large car park we had spotted as we made our way towards the campsite.
We found it and there was lots of room and this is where we shall spend tonight, and may be even tomorrow night (GPS: N40.040114 W3.606685). I shall amend the Travelscript to reflect the change.
So now that we have finally arrived, a bit about Aranjuez:
Aranjuez is a town on the River Tagus in central Spain, south of Madrid. Its Renaissance, French-influenced Royal Palace has an elaborate facade and a lavishly decorated interior, including a porcelain room. On the grounds, by the river, are ornamental gardens like the Jardín de la Isla. In the Prince’s Garden is the Casa del Labrador, an ornate neoclassical mansion, plus an ornamental pond with a Chinese Pavilion.
Aranjuez became one of the Royal Estates of the Crown of Spain in 1560, during the reign of Philip II. Until 1752, only the royalty and nobility were allowed to dwell in the town.
Philip II declared the place a Royal Site in 1560. In the second half of the 16th century, the royal palace was constructed and the name of the enlarged settlement was changed from Alpajes to Aranjuez. The site was initially designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo and completed by Juan de Herrera. Aranjuez was extensively redesigned in the 18th century by Cantiago Bonavía.
In 1752, during the reign of Ferdinand VI, Aranjuez, previously reserved for the royal family, nobles of the royal court and palace servants started to be opened delivering overnight accommodation for visitors, who had previously been obliged to lodge in nearby settlements such as Ocaña.
The weir in the Tagus River which is alongside to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez was constructed in 1753 to power a water wheel for milling wheat flour. Since the mill was visible from the palace, it was architecturally attractive and sometimes used as the residence of the town governor.
King Carlos III built the so-called Long Bridge (about 300m long) over the Jarama in 1761.
In 1763 the king, a keen physiocrat ordered the construction of Real Cortijo de San Isodro, a model farm which was abandoned by his successor (his second son, Charles IV of Spain) and later commercialised. Two years later the king ordered the construction of the Franciscan Convent of San Pascual, later occupied by the Conceptionists.
French architect Jaime Marquet began construction of the theatre Coliseum Carlos III in 1767.
An uprising, the so-called Mutiny of Aranjuez, took place on 17 March 1808 when the royal family and the government were staying at Aranjuez while on their way south, anticipating a French invasion from the north. Soldiers, peasants and members of the general public assaulted Godoy’s quarters and captured him. The mutineers made King Charles dismiss Godoy, and two days later the court forced the King himself to abdicate in favour of his son and rival, who became Ferdinand VII.
Railway transport arrived to Aranjuez on 9 February 1851, with the opening of the Madrid–Aranjuez line, the second in the Iberian Peninsula after Barcelona–Mataró (not the second in Spain, as the Havana-Güines line had been opened in Cuba already in 1837).Aranjuez was granted the title of town (villa) in 1899.
The main pillars of the local economy are hotels and tourism. Aranjuez has always been an attractive city for tourists with its Royal Palace, the gardens, the Tagus river and the landscapes. In 2001 this city was designated as a World Heritage Cultural landscape by UNESCO, and since then, tourism has kept on increasing until hit by the 2008 recession.
I was a short walk in to town. A lot shorter than it would have been had we stayed at the campsite. We just wandered around with me click, click, clicking before we decided we were thirsty and eventually came to a little eats place with outside seating. I tell you I've never seen such a hard working waiter in all my life, he was running most of the time and when he wasn't bringing food or drinks out he balancing piles of chairs to move them to create larger tables. We decided to eat there as time was getting on and the whole thing came to just over twenty euro's, and that included two large and one small beers.
We're going to sit out what's left of the weekend here before heading south, hopefully having shaken off the other tourists.