2013nov, Spain, vacuum cleaner story


Do you remember the check-list before setting off on your motorhome (or as we tend to refer to it ”campervan”) holiday? And the last minute things which you find you actually still have room for, as, after all, you are going to be in your ”home” for some time whilst on the road, so ofcourse you want to have your little comforts and comfort zones. So you happily keep adding to the amount of things you might just need!!!!
Women, especially, I think, tend to feel the need for these niceties and personal touches, or at least I certainly do!
Our first campervanning experience was in 2007 and we have progressed to bigger and better and more comfortable accomodation over the years. Finally in 2012,  Göran  found the ideal vehicle for our needs, and we enjoyed adding the little personal touches to it to make it truly homely!!


TEC Energy
TEC Energy

We spent a lot of time adding extras, e,g,  extra shelves for storing groceries and  for preparing meals in the kitchen.  Extra hooks and rails for hanging clothes,  plus the cushions, duvet covers, forever co-ordinating colours  (as that must surely be my middle name!!!) and the tablecloths and dinner service all matching…. so very very nice and ”co-ordinated”!!!!
The check-list MUST always check!!!… and on this last occcasion the vacuum cleaner was left behind!!!!


Barcelona view
Barcelona view

The first real part of this trip started in Barcelona, and we had decided to do some sightseeing again, so parked up on Montjuic in an enclosed parking with a guard, at the cost of 30€ per day. That was just parking!!!!….nothing else!!…but it was so wonderfully central and within walking distance to the Plaza España and as safe as one can hope to get in Barcelona.

Gaudi´s Guell Park

Gaudi´s Guell Park

A great day was spent in that fabulous city…. Sagrado Familia, Gaudi´s Güell Park, the Ramblas, Casco Antiguo, the Olympic port, on and off the METRO like locals which is by far one of the best ways to get around the city. A day ticket on/off system only costs about 7€, and for us it was money well spent! More money which was well spent that day was the 129€ on an Electrolux rechargable vacuum cleaner bought in the ever famous Spanish departmental store ”El Corte Ingles”…more than 80 stores in Spain and Portugal.
Very happy were we to now have our motorhome complete with the vacuum cleaner!!!!!!! and debating over who should get to try it out first!!!!! It was quite a nifty little thing and once charged up was vacuuming a treat!!!!!


We continued on our way across Spain heading to the west with the Picos de Europa being our star spot. We have tried many times to make a stop here but always have had weather conditions out of favour. However, this time, things were looking good!!!….. so good, that we decided to head straight there and skip La Rioja area in case the weather changed!!! We were so lucky to enjoy this amazing part of Spain which spans across Cantabria, Asturias and Castilla y Leon in beautiful sunshine!!! On the way we passed many people with their backpacks and walking sticks doing the pilgrims walk as the ”Camino de Santiago” became part of our route for part of the journey, and even luckier to stumble across an ”Orujo Festival” in the charming little village of Potes. This happens on the second weekend of November every year and coach loads of people flood in to the village to take part in this traditional fête.
Fuente Dé is spectacular and we were blessed again with blue skies and perfect conditions for taking the cable car to this extraordinary wild rocky plateau pitted with craters giving us the impression we had landed on another planet!
Being true campervanners or motorhomers (whichever you choose to call us!!!) we do most of our cooking ”at home” and delight in finding the local bakeries for fresh bread….. fresh bread ofcourse, always brings a lot of crumbs!!!!! BUT thats not a problem any more!!! as we have our super-duper-new-electrolux-rechargable-vacuum cleaner!!!!!
Whilst in the Picos de Europa we also took the Funicular through the mountains (2kms long at an 18% gradiant) to Bulnes and could not believe that before they made the tunnel, the only access was by footpath round the mountain using donkeys! … well, yes, you can believe it, but when you then WALK down the footpath through these impressive mountains all around you in the gorge, it makes you think! Blue skies and the sun behind us as we trecked down the trail made it a really special walk!
Another good day was spent in the Cangas de Onis town where we found a public parking area which had designated parking for campervans!!!…. even somewhere to empty the grey water tank and the ”other” tank!!!! Right by the bus station and very handy for shops. But……please note!! if you are thinking of being there on a Monday after ”Sunday day of rest in Spain”…… re-plan!! as in Cangas the shops are OPEN on Sundays and CLOSED on Mondays!!! And dont forget whilst in Asturias to try their Sidra which your waiter will personally pour for you from a height to reach your glass on the ground!!!…. quite an art to this, and not the sort of thing to try to accomplish whilst inside your motorhome!!!!!…. the super-duper-rechargable-vacuum-cleaner does not suck up sidra!!!!
Another good tip about Cangas de Onis is that they have a sports pavillion where you can use the showers for the cost of 1€ !!!!!
The good weather didnt last too long, and when we ventured up to the lakes at Covadonga the mist came down, but in a weird and wonderful way as just as we thought we were well and truly lost, it lifted and we found we were in the middle of these amazing rock formations which were above the mines.
So, weather on the change, our minds started working on our original plans of heading up to Andorra and then to the south of France, and back in to San Remo which we had enjoyed so very much 2 years ago…. then on in to the north of Italy. Ooooooh dear!… it was looking very nasty in that region, and spain was looking good down in the south!!!!… so one of the joys of campevanning is…… ofcourse!!!…. you can change your plans at the drop of a hat and just set up the GPS in another direction!!!…. in our case, it is set up the THREE GPSs !!!!!!! One of which is most annoying as my partner set it with my voice in it!!!….. oh how terribly annoying!!!…. when asked if it didnt annoy him, he answered with a smile saying he didnt listen half the time!!!! As normal!!!
Ok….. we are on our way to Haro in La Rioja as we wanted to re-visit Dinastia Vivanco Bodegas to pick up some special wine for Xmas!!! Haro campsite, by the way, is one to remember if ever in that area….. and dinner out at ”Las Duelas” restaurant is a real treat! The building in which the restaurant belongs has, in its time, been a convent 1373, a military garrison 1809, a military hospital 1811, a prison 1839, and finally a hotel 1989 !!!
We always have our special storage space for Rioja wine when in Spain, as it is by far the best!!!! so we had a good supply of D.V. And also Faustino! And we are heading down to Salamanca! Then across to Portugal and that wild and wonderful atlantic ocean beach which stretches so far!!!!
Sintra was another highlight on this trip down, and one not to be missed if in the Lisbon area….. check out your Lonely Planet books!!!!….. can you guess what we didnt have with us on this trip?…yes, our Lonely Planet guide to Portugal!!!! Mainly because we had not planned on coming here, but that is a lesson to be learned!!!!… always be prepared and never forget the ”vacuum cleaner”!!!!
Sagres was revisited and Cabo San Vicente, then along the Algarve and back into Spain……. heading towards the sun!!
By this time, we were starting to have a bit of trouble with the ”super-duper-v.c” as it did not seem to be recharging…… not to worry…… we can always go in to El Corte Ingles and ask about it.
So, when in Fuengirola, during our day trip up to Malaga by train, which was well worth the visit as its a really interesting city for mooching around in…. we stepped in to the store which, according to them,says ”We are committed to providing you with the best experience”. Quite so!!…. we go to the department which sells vacuum cleaners, and tell them about our problem. NO PROBLEM, they say! Bring the vacuum cleaner in tomorrow and we shall change it!! Great service!…. so the next day on our way out, we try to find somewhere to park our vehicle near El Corte Ingles which proved to be IMPOSSIBLE!!! …… so I jumped out with ”vacuum cleaner” in hand, whilst the designated driver hovered (not hoovered!!)as near to where I was as possible!!! Mission accomplished, and another new ”super-duper-rechargable-vacuum-cleaner” in hand, we trundle on our way!!
Another of our favourite spots is near Motril at the Don Cactus Camping. They are renovating the showers and seem to have done a lot of work on the recreation grounds and its quite a lovely spot…right on the long open beach near Calahonda. It happened to be the campsite´s 40th anniversary so they were inviting all guests for drinks in the bar/restaurant, and giving everyone a little cactus plant each!! … what a nice gesture!!…. we ended up with 3 little cacti, but had trouble finding somewhere to sit them safely and they kept falling over and we ended up with earth on the carpet …but hey!…thats no problem as we have our ”s.d.r.v.c”….newly exchanged at Super Store El Corte Ingles in Malaga!!!….. Whose turn will it be to use this great little wonder of a vacuum today????….. oh dear!… its not working!!…its not recharging!!!… how can that be????? Oh no, this is going to mean yet ANOTHER visit to yet ANOTHER Corte Ingles store!!
Not to worry, they do have over 80 stores in Spain and Portugal after all !!!!…………. so merrily we travel on, heading up the Mediterranean Highway which is a total delight to travel on with those views of the ever beautiful sea!…and trying not to see all the plastic of the Almeria region where they grow their vegetables in mass quantities under plastic covering!!!!
Passing by Elche we spot an EL CORTE INGLES store!!!…it was a Sunday…..day of rest?…not in Elche it would appear!…. easy parking, so in we go with ”super-duper-rechargable-vacuum-cleaner”, just in a plastic bag, as we had thrown away the packaging as who would have thought we would have had to change it TWO TIMES!!! True to their accomodating pleasant and helpful staff, the Corte Ingles assistant informs us that unfortunately they dont have that model in that store, but if we go to Alicante, they will be able to change it for us!!!….OKEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYY!!!  That will make it 4 El Corte Ingles stores, 2 vacuum cleaners and possibly a third will come in to our possession!!!
We found a gem of a parking in Santa Pola which was a fenced in 8€ a night, grey water disposal, and safe! Worth remembering if enroute, just for the night. Morning came and off to Alicante to the famous, and becoming infamous, El Corte Ingles for yet another episode of our beloved ”s.d.r.v.c”.
Those of you who have been to Alicante will know that it is virtually impossible to park a vehicle…. let alone a 6.70mtr campervan!!!….. round and round the town we went…. 3 times in all, even to the outskirts, but it was impossible to park!!!!!…… Never mind, said I, we still have Valencia ahead of us, and if that fails, then Barcelona where our beloved (no longer super-duper) vacuum cleaner was first purchased!!!
So, studying the maps, and remembering Valencia from previous visits, we decided it would be a repeat of Alicante, so decided to be careful with our breadcrumbs, and not to knock over the cactus plants and spill earth, and leave it to Barcelona.
Looking on Google, it looked like quite a good place to park for a couple of hours was up Montjuic near the Olympic Stadium. We thought of staying out of town at a camping and travelling in, or staying at the 30€ enclosed parking as we had done 4 weeks previously, and spending another sightseeing day in the city. But we had done that, and were beginning to get a bit tired (as you must surely be now!) of the ”super-duper-vacuum-cleaner” from El Corte Ingles! So it was decided…. park, get to Corte Ingles, change the V.C. And get on our way!!!!!
Up on Montjuic, we found (to our surprise) a space just in front of the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Museum! We double checked to make sure there were no signs to prohibit parking, and there were other vehicles on that strip, so it looked fine! We even took a photo of the campervan in position just in case we got booked for bad parking!!! to prove we had it in an OK place!!!

Ok.. all set to sort out the vacuum cleaner!!!….. alarm on, immobilzer on….. all valuables safely hidden and out of sight… you cant be too sure in Barcelona!!!….but the other worry in Barcelona is ofcourse just walking around, as you hear of so many people having their camaras, bags, wallets, purses etc stolen whilst walking in the street. So we took the minimum and my little backpack was transformed in to a ”frontpack” !!!!
We set the GPS (one of the three!!!!) to track our path to Corte Ingles and to see how long it took us to walk! We really didnt want to waste much time, as it was by then 3pm.
Here endeth the pleasant staff and service in El Corte Ingles!!!! Very unpleasant and unhelpful, and although they exchanged the 2nd”vacuum-cleaner” for a 3rd one (!!!!) we really were not too happy, as we were leaving El Corte Ingles country and heading north to Scandinavia! …. so we were sent to the customer service department to collect a certificate of purchase in case of malfunction!! At this point we were wishing we could just get our money back, BUT on our original receipt of purchase it states that no refund will be given without the packaging of the article!!!…. well the packaging had long gone after we first purchased the v.c. And the friendly staff were becoming more unfriendly by the minute!!!!
When unfriendly was becoming almost rude, we asked for complaints forms, which they were unwilling to give us, as they thought we had no reason to complain seeing as they had changed our vacuum cleaner for another one….. could they not see all the INCONVENIENCE we had suffered????? We had been 5 times in El Corte Ingles stores, that being 4 different cities and that included twice in Barcelona! …. we had no reason whatsoever on our trip to even think about passing through some of these places and most certainly not to re-visit Barcelona again.
Eventually we were given a reclamation form very reluctantly, and introduced to an even more unfriendly head of department!!….. very smirk and speaking no english whatsoever, so I had to do all the translation…. they advertise that they have ”multilingual staff”… I wonder where they were????? Hiding in a cupboard with all the complaints forms???????!!!!!
We were getting absolutely nowhere with Mr. Personality Plus, so we took the complaints form from his hand, and made our way out of the store, feeling very disappointed with the service from this supposedly great store!!!! We went directly to the Tourist Information office to find out what bus would take us back to Montjuic to continue our trip for the day and find somewhere to stop for the night before heading in to France.
The bus route was long and windy, but eventually got us up the mountain, and we actually missed our stop and went right past the sports Stadium!!… so we had to walk back to get to the campervan. Vacuum Cleaner in hand, and backpack on as frontpack, we trudged along rather weerily when we suddenly go the shock of our lives!!!!…. No campervan in sight!…. the space we had left it in was EMPTY and we looked at each other in total shock! Okey, we think… was this a restricted area for parking?.. No, it was not. Could the ”grua” have taken it away? .. No, as there was no sticker on the ground to say so. Could someone have STOLEN it?…..What???? … it was beginning to look like someone had indeed stolen the complete vehicle!…. After minutes of disbelief that the campervan was not there, I phoned the emergency number to see what I should do….. they contacted the police, who in turn contacted me and told us to go to the local police station in Plaza España. It took some time to find a taxi but we had started walking anyway as it seemed the best thing to do, as we realised that the campervan was not going to appear by some magic spell.
It took hours and hours in the police station to first of all get attended to, and then for them to file the report and take all the details…… this was becoming more and more of a nightmare as the night went on. We had left the campervan at 3pm… had returned at 6pm to find it gone, and we left the police station at 11pm. Another taxi to a hotel for the night and to reflect on just exactly what our next move would be.
We were left with just what we were standing in (including ofcourse the famous ”vacuum cleaner”….which was the whole reason we had gone back to Barcelona!! As things began to sink in, it was a horrible feeling that our entire ”home” had been taken from us. Everything, absolutely everything, from our clothing, to the pots and pans…… the list was totally endless. Personal things, like my 10year diary which was going in to year 5….. the computer with all my partner´s lifetime photos on it….. if I started to list all that was in the camper, it would fill a thick book!!! All our walking gear, our biking gear and ofcourse the 2 bikes, all types of clothing for mixed weather on our trip, underwear, overwear, toiletries, makeup, jewellery, reading material, guide books, maps, all our cooking utensils, a fridge full of food, our ”wine cellar” full of La Rioja wine for xmas, and naturally it just happened to have a full tank of petrol(!!!), the good camera, 2 extra mobile phones for Spain, dvds, oh the list is endless …….. towels, bedlinen, all our little extras to make it so like home!……..
My medication for 3 months was also in our ”home”, so it was a priority to get that sorted out by my doctor, and my partners passport was also in the ”home”, so a visit had to be made to the embassy, and he had priority to get back to start the insurance claim and get that in motion.
It was then a sudden rush to get out of Barcelona to our respective other homes, as there was absolutely no point in hanging about there with just the clothes we were standing in, and a vacuum cleaner!!!!…… so we kissed each other goodbye, adios, hej då…. and talk tonight……and I watched my partner go thru security with only a vacuum cleaner in his hand to travel with….the police said they would be in touch if they had any news…….. 4 weeks have passed and we have never heard from them, and have no hope of ever seeing our campervan again….. sad but true…….. so the moral of the story is……..
…..”Never leave home without the vacuum cleaner or it will most certainly turn out to be the most expensive vacuum cleaner ever purchased!!!!!!”
We were reunited in time to get our ”wish-list” ready for Santa, and you can guess what we wished for…right????… The grandchildren on both sides found toy campervans from Santa under the xmas trees, and have promised to let us play with them!!!!! But the one thing we did NOT wish for was……. yes.. you guessed it… a rechargable vacuum cleaner!

For those of you who are interested in the other places we visited on our trip, you will find below a list of all the stops, overnight stops and campsites which we visited on this topsy-turvy trip..which was meant to take us to San Remo in Italy, and took us to a Police Station in Spain……

06 NOV …BARCELONA(fenced in parking 30€ per night)-FRAGA(overnight parking free outside school)-ZARAGOZA-LOGROÑO(campsite by river 24.60€ per night)-BURGOS-POTES(10€parking in field!) -FUENTE DE-PANES-ARENAS DE CABRALES(overnight parking free)-PUENTE DE PONCEBOS-CANGAS DE ONIS(overnight parking free-special area for campervans)- COVADONGA-LLANES-SAN VICENTE DE BARQUERA-SANTANDER-LAREDO-HARO(campsite ACSI)-SALAMANCA(campsite ACSI)-CIUDAD RODRIGO- FIGUIERA DA FOZ(campsite ACSI)-SINTRA-CASAIS(campsite ACSI)-SAGRES(campsite ACSI)-CABO SAN VICENTE-FARO(overnight free parking outside Tourism School)-ISLA CRISTINA(campsite ACSI)-HUELVA-SEVILLA-OSUNA(overnight free parking)-FUENTE DE PIEDRA-ANTIQUERA-EL TORCAL-FUENGIROLA(campsite 25€ per night)-MALAGA-MOTRIL(campsite ACSI)-CALAHONDA-ELCHE-SANTA POLA(fenced in parking 8€ per night)-ALICANTE-PEÑISCOLA(campsite ACSI)-BARCELONA(dont park up by Sports Stadium or you may never see your campervan again! Extremely expensive!!!… 03 DEC.

ACSI campsites were 16€ per night.

As mentioned at the beginning of this true story, we have been campervanning every year since 2007 and this was our 4th trip round Spain……other trips have taken us to England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France and Italy.

We hope that this will be of interest to fellow campervanners and also serve as a warning to always keep your eyes open when locking your motorhome.

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