Do we have the tent poles? Too bad no one asked that before we packed our camping gear into a duffel bag and headed to Spain for our 3-week trip. While we had a home swap in Alicante, Spain, we had also planned to camp and stay in small, family run hotels (called hostals or pensions) during our trip around southern Spain.
In all the years we’ve camped, the tent poles have always been with the tent. Usually after a camping trip, the gear gets aired out (or dried out, depending on the weather) and then packed back up, ready for the next camping trip. Not so in Spain. When we were setting up the tents (we brought 2 small ones – one for the girls and one for the guys), the carrying case was missing the poles. Problem.
So, if you’re wondering what we did, we just spread the tent on the ground and slept on top of it. Right there on the hard ground. We called it, “sleeping wild.”
I love camping as a way to travel in Europe. It’s not too rustic, there are no fires to make you smell like campfire, and there are community sink areas for washing your dishes in hot water – no boiling water to wash your pots and pans. The folks you’re camping next to are always friendly, happy to visit, and share their travel picks with Americans. We’re also outside and that gives kids a chance to play and no matter what language kids speak, they all talk the same language of play.
There’s usually a little restaurant at the entrance that serves espresso and pastries in the morning and cold beer in the evening. It’s also the only time I put on a skirt and lipstick while camping.
In both Austria and the Netherlands, where we’ve camped on previous home swapping trips to Europe, we pitched our tents on soft grass, just like you’d find at a park. I thought the experience would be similar in Spain.
In southern Spain, where it’s very hot and dry, the ground is rock solid and hard, without a blade of soft grass anywhere in sight. After a night on the ground, and without tent poles, we discovered another camping solution that Spain is famous for: bungalow camping.
God bless the bungalow.
These are the bungalows in Granada, Spain. We stayed at the Los Lomas campground which had wonderful hosts and was located just a short bus ride into Granada. (Parking is supposedly dreadful in Granada so we took the bus from the campground.)
The bungalows all had a small kitchen…
that had pots, pans, dishes and utensils for cooking and eating.
Each bungalow came with bunks for sleeping and a small bathroom with a shower. We used our sleeping bags but you could also request sheets and towels.
This bungalow we stayed in was in Nerja, Spain. There were 4 bungalows at this campground and they were new and had air conditioning.
They also came equipped with a television which made my soccer players happy – with the Euro Cup happening during our visit and all.
Bungalows do cost more than tent camping but less than most hostals or other lodging. They also usually come with a kitchen, a pool, and laundry facilities.
Did I say laundry facilities? I meant washing machines and drying lines.
We also stayed in Cordoba, Spain at Hostal Alcazar. This spot was a Rick Steves suggestion and as usual, Rick was right on. We had a room with 3-beds and a small bathroom. The bathroom came with towels. Did I mention the only towel we brought with us to Spain was a little hand towel? With 4-people showering and bathing with a tiny hand towel, we were thrilled to have big, fresh, clean towels. I wasn’t thinking about packing towels because I was too busy thinking about my stylish travel outfits!
Our host was a real character and we adored him immediately. He had our teenagers laughing at all of his jokes and antics. He runs the hostal with his family.
When we arrived home, the tent poles were right on the shelf where I thought they’d be. I still have no idea how they escaped from their rightful place but it all worked out fine in the end.
Which do you prefer – tent, bungalow or hotel?
Looking for a camp site or bungalow in the Andalucia region of southern Spain? Check here. There are lots of locations to choose from.
Go Gingham related links:
Save money on your before and during your next trip
Vacation rules from this trip – yes, my teens gave me rules!
Home from Spain – lots of photos
Summer travel and guest post contributors
Travel packing tips with a PDF chart are here
Want to keep food costs low while traveling? Try these tips!