Pass the kool-aid
La Fresneda campsite was voted the best campsite in Europe by Cool Camping Europe. It's a small site amongst the hills and olive plantations and near to Valderrobres, close to the Catalan border. Peaceful, surrounded by historically interesting towns and villages, and perfectly maintained. What's not to like, right?
We found the site well signposted from the village of La Fresneda, and turned up the gravel trap to the property, which was hidden half-way up the hill. Arriving, we made our way up the steps to the bar and reception area, and were met by one of the owners.
We were offered a cool refreshment, which was nice - but then it started.
"This is a very quiet site."
"You don't make a lot of noise, do you?"
"Not that much, I suppose. We talk occasionally - sometimes. Rarely, actually. Almost never."
"We don't play music out loud, here."
"Okay, got it."
"Do you have a musical instrument?"
"Only my bagpipes."
"Well, you're not playing them here."
"Do you smoke?"
"I refuse to say anything--"
"Smoking is not allowed. It is forbidden outside the campsite. The risk of fire is too great. Do you understand?"
"And water is scarce in Spain, so we don't waste it. Do we?"
"No. We don't waste it. Understood."
"And the toilet. What do you put in the toilet?"
"Err, the usual: a bit of pee and the odd turd."
"No - what toilet fluid do you use? You must use washing-up liquid, because our sewage system is very delicate."
"Ah, I see. Right."
"So, you would like to stay for a week?"
"Err. Maybe. I do hope so. But I just had a call from my Uncle Billy-bob, who's been unexpectedly taken ill. Just the one night?"
"Okay, two nights. Two nights. Hopefully much longer."
"Ahh. Okay then. Two nights. And no music. Or noise."
"So, then. More Kool-aid?"
We were then given a folder which contained both useful local information on walks etc. and 2 pages of rules. Typewritten. And laminated.
Maybe we were just being oversensitive, but the initial vibe was backed up by the experience too. We found our pitch and settled in, and quickly discovered than our neighbours either talked in whispers else didn't speak at all. Very weird.
Naturally, we tried to ignore the prevalent mood and set about a few jobs... one of which (always my favourite) was the toilet cassette, which had been leaking. Lovely. We were in hysterics as Sarah passed bits of toilet roll down the great white telephone which I gratefully gathered from the other side. One set of our neighbours packed up and left immediately. I'm sure these two events were not connected.
The next job was one I'd been looking forward to - we planned to remove the camper unit 'on-site' for the first time! After our aborted attempt at home, we were a little wary. But success would allow us to go out in Juicy and explore the villages more easily, not to mention it gave us the chance to finally eject Matt. The photo below links to a time-lapse video of some of the process!
Finally, after more than 90 minutes of winding, checking, winding... we made it. Houston, we have separation. And if truth be told, it was a lot easier than we expected. Lowering the unit so that we could just step up into the back took another 15 minutes or so!
It's never going to be a five minute job, but it can certainly be achieved a lot quicker with a bit of practice. And reattaching the unit when we left was even easier and quicker (and Matt-less).
Juicy released, we wasted no time getting ourselves out and about. Not only were we looking forward to exploring, but the atmosphere on the site was getting us down!
We took off - and visited first the local village of La Fresneda, and then the large town - complete with a rich history spanning 1000 years and more - of Valderrobres, about 10 km away. We attempted to capture a feel for these places in the gallery below:
Back at 'the camp', we realised belatedly that it was the day of the Harvest Moon - so we decided to risk the wrath of our fellow campers, and wandered around in the dark trying to get some interesting photos of the moon and sky. The result was as below. Yes: the (most) dodgy-looking blurred one is mine.
Sadly, that was about all we could take of La Fresneda campsite. Horses for courses, and all that, but it really wasn't for us, and it's difficult to understand how it could be considered one of the best campsites in Europe. Nobody spoke about key-swapping, nor of Pot Luck events; nevertheless we were uncomfortable. We packed up, and pointed northwest, towards the regions of Navarre and Aragon.