Well, where to begin?! We have had an interesting couple of days, to say the least. We left El Campello on Thursday morning, a day later than we planned, due to nothing but shear laziness. Gaz & Margy took us for a full English at the ex-pat place and it was so incredible we couldn’t move all day afterwards. A real slice of home with proper bacon and sausages and all the extra trimmings us Brits know and love. A massive gigantic thanks to both Gaz & Margy for everything they’ve done for us during our time at Achim’s place; from donating endless useful gadgets to our adventure, to treating us to breakfasts, letting us borrow their cooker when we ran out of gas and even telling us how to use the boiler – we couldn’t have asked for better camping neighbours, it was a pleasure to meet you both!
The next day we actually managed to gain the motivation to stop slacking and get on the road, I’d found somewhere in the camperstop book that was two hours away and in the province of Valencia. I hadn’t done my research and didn’t realise it was actually still an hour out of the city centre and so we rocked up at this adorable village with only one shop and one cafe. We got there and after deliberating for a good hour, we decided to finish the last leg of the journey to Valencia.
Now the breaks of the car were one of the many things we had replaced before the trip, but as the adventure has wore on, so has something mechanical and confusing to do with the breaks and the wheels (something to do with shoes…). Every time we were doing long journeys, after a while the break would seem quite lax, and you’d have to press it a couple of times in order to build up any tension. But they worked and with the amount of vehicle knowledge we have, we thought it wasn’t normal.
Anyway, Rod drove the second leg of the trip to Valencia and when he said the breaks felt too loose, I thought he just meant the same old regular loose, and so I was all ‘ah just give it a good few presses in prep for slowing down’. But with this drive a new weird sound had arrived, like we were dragging something metal along the floor. But it still wasn’t until we couldn’t break coming onto a roundabout and nearly hit a police car that I thought ‘woah there might be something wrong with the breaks’. We pull over on a little side road, after making it the majority of the way into the city before becoming aware of the situation, and for the first time since being out here, give our cost-a-small-arm-and-a-small-leg RAC breakdown cover a go.
The process of recovery begins swimmingly. The lovely lady on the phone locates us within a few questions and a couple of minutes and the tow truck arrives within the hour. An excellent first impression of their ‘onit’ness; we only wish the fuckers at RAC could have upheld the same good standard of service throughout the rest of the drama…
As the tow truck arrived, so did a parade…
We arrive at the garage and as it’s closing soon, we are advised to hand over the keys so that the mechanics have them first thing Monday morning when they re-open after Las Fallas. They tell us the taxi is on its way and the hotel is booked. Two hours later I call to ask where this supposedly booked taxi is and they inform me that’s no hotel has in actual fact been booked and so there is no taxi coming for us. We then end up waiting another 2 hours for someone to come and let us into the garage so we can get the van out. The day ends with us sleeping at the side of a road of a seedy industrial estate with no electricity, no running water, and both of us in worn out foul moods, wonderful.
Morning arrives and I’m picked up in a taxi to be taken to go and pick up a courtesy car. A better start to the day leaving me with a little more confidence in the RAC’s breakdown services and their ability to find us a hotel for the night. The señorita calls me again and tells me there’s a hotel booked and we can go there anytime, woohoo! We arrive and are rudely barked at in front of a lobby full of guests by the high almighty bitch at the check in desk. You would think, from the amount of pride she took in telling us that they didn’t infact accept pets and that we couldn’t stay there, that the witch actually owned the hotel and wasn’t just a receptionist (not that I have anything at all against them, this one was just an absolute twat). And so obviously a little miffed (to put it lightly), we leave the hotel and call the RAC back to see why on earth they booked us a hotel we couldn’t stay at, despite knowing our pooch situation.
A walk along the beach and a few hours of limbo later and someone calls us back to tell us finally, after over 24 hours since the breakdown, we now have somewhere to stay.
This standard of terrible communication has continued throughout the entire process, let alone the fact that we discovered the policy we were sold last year, was not actually the policy we received. Instead of the promised £5000 worth of garage repairs, and the £10000 worth of accommodation costs, and the long list of countries we’re actually covered in, dementor Emma takes complete satisfaction in telling me that they only cover the labour costs of any repairs, and only if the labour amount spent to less than 7 hours, so we’re now forking out 800 euros once the van is fixed. Their policies have changed since we bought ours and we are also now only covered in a handful of countries we’re venturing to.
Basically, RAC are full of bollocks. I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone, and if you do go with them, double, triple and quadruple check the terms and conditions. As with most insurance companies, there are so many loopholes in their favour hidden in those boring T’s&C’s we all love to accept without actually looking. I’d love to say that I’ll always read through them as a result of the ass-fucking that the RAC have dealt us, but they’re filled with so much jargon and confusion that I’d be lying if I said I’d never neglect them again.
But onto better topics! The unfortunate breakdown had a small silver lining and it meant that we got to spend Las Fallas in a hotel. As mentioned in my last post, Las Fallas is a huge Valencian festival in honour of the Patron Saint of carpentry, San José. All throughout the year, huge statues called niñots are made out of wood, papermaché and all sorts, most of them representing and mocking politicians or celebrities. Each community within Valencia organise and fund the building and displaying of the niñots within the streets of their town. Throughout the month of March, at 2pm from the 1st to the 19th, fireworks and mini explosions are set off in the city centre, with children everywhere as little as 2 year old Toni throwing those little banger things we all used to play at the seaside with!
The niñots are everywhere, and as a result, traffic is a joke and the amount of dead ends we turned down is phenomenal!
On the 19th, we made our way into the city centre and we’re amazed to see literally everyone out in the street, drinking, eating, taking part in the parades which start at 8am daily and continue all throughout the day, competing in paella competitions, the list goes on! Because of the pooches, we had to sit at a cafe just outside of the madness, but still in sight, and enjoy a cold or beer or two as we looked on, mostly bewildered, at the festivals ongoings.Evening came and with that, the burning. At midnight, all the niñots are set alight, making for a spectacular show! All of them are stuffed with fireworks and doused in petrol, and so as soon as the first firework is set alight, they all go off and within seconds the whole thing some poor artist spent a whole year making, is burnt to the ground. Ambulances can be seen and heard all over the city, with paramedics rushing to casualties of niñots and fireworks. There is absolutely no chance this could happen in England, what with all of our health and safety for bloody everything. Absolute madness. At 1am, an even bigger show is out on in the main squares with more fireworks, more fires and more people. We chose not to see the finale for the sake of the dogs, and instead, bought a good old kebab and made our way back to the hotel, where we get to see all the local community we’re based in flock for the final niñot burning by the hotel we happen to be staying at.
And so the weekend comes to a close, the shops reopen on the Monday and the van can finally be looked at. Las Fallas was definitely one to remember, one of the most surreal festivals either of us have ever seen and definitely one to recommend. It’s quite family based, which was really refreshing to see and be a part of! At home, day time festivals and parades like Paddys day, are normally filled with groups of friends getting pissed (which is nothing to complain about of course, we all love it) rather than your entire family including your nan, grandad and all the kids. But it genuinely was quite heartwarming to see families spending so much time together in good spirits, this can normally only be guaranteed in England at weddings and funerals, but here they are in Spain, spending the whole festival together and actually seemingly enjoying one another’s company too, who’d have thought it?!
We’ve now collected the van and with overall costs of this breakdown coming to €1100, and so without hanging around in Valencia any longer, we get straight on the road because, despite getting the priviledge of witnessing Las Fallas, needless to say, we’ve had enough of the city.
Valencia, it’s been emotional. Exciting news coming to the next post!