A Place in the Sun

It’s a rest day. Yesterday, we gained ridge redemption and now all I want to do is lounge in the sun, listen to the waves crash onto the shore and read a good ol’ book. That’s good because we are in the Costa Blanca and there are beaches and sun a plenty. Plus, Remy is stocked with many books. Today, I finally pried myself from the books and the beaches so we could head back to the ridge and hopefully locate Sam’s misplaced sunglasses somewhere on the last leg of the ridge. As Sam sets off on that quest (I reckon there is a 70% chance of success) I have just cosied up in bed, still feeling marginally under the weather from a bout with Covid, to write the blog. So here it goes…. I am taking it back a week and a half to when a young couple arrived at the port of Plymouth, excited for another adventure and hoping (just a little) for slightly more luck on this trip.

It got off to a shaky start when we checked into the ferry terminal early, without realising we couldn’t get back out and with that our hopes of a pre-trip UK-goods Lidl stockpile were crushed. We’d quickly realised last trip that certain favourites/essentials – curry paste, squash, instant noodles, aloe water etc. were absent from European supermarkets and we were hoping to take some over to sate these cravings. Alas, we would have to do without for the month! That hiccup aside, we were happily waved “Bon Voyage” by my family watching the harbour from a live feed at home and rather choppily (Gale force 9 winds) made our way to Santander. Of course, the first thing we do upon arrival in this beautiful Spanish city is make our way to Lidl. In fact, I am beginning to think we may well be on our way to visiting the most number of Lidl’s. Is there a record? Does Lidl sponsor van lifers?

Our first planned stop was a crag named Chodes, conveniently en route to the east coast and one of the main climbing areas of our focus. However, my brother convinced us that it was worth visiting the city of Zaragoza, and so we had a lovely unplanned tourist day in this beautiful city (and yes, visited a Lidl here). The old town was a delightful display of Moorish architecture and inside the Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar took our breath away. It was also refreshing to visit a place not overwhelmed by flocks of tourists. We then hopped back into Remy and after a short drive traded the city for what felt like the wild west in Chodes. Strikingly beautiful and completely barren. We think there were even tumbleweed’s around.

Big basilica
Moreish-moorish castle

The following day, we headed out for a day at the crag but my climbing head game was feeling far from solid and I did not feel confident on the polished limestone slabs. I was annoyed at myself, that something that once felt so comfortable and natural, now made my body twitch with nerves. How could something I love have become so foreign and scary? I felt like a failure and had a good cry in Remy – I thought I had regained my confidence in the time at home, I thought I would be better this time. All in all, we were both feeling a little bit beaten down and disheartened. This was shortly followed by a string of other inconveniences – the gas for cooking ran out, we realised I had Covid (“Sam, this cough sweet doesn’t taste of anything” I said as the penny dropped) and about 50 flies had got inside the van. Buzz, Buzz, Thwack!, Buzzzzzzz, Thwack! The newly painted van ceiling was covered in dead flies again. Van life is often not glamorous at all. Nobody talks about the flies. Did we have rotten luck? Are we cursed? We sure felt it that evening! Imagine cutting your trip short to recover from a month long recurrent infection, only to come down with another illness as soon as you head back out. I am interrupting this sad lament to inform you all, that Sam has just returned to base camp, mission successful, the sunglasses have been recovered from the line of duty. A big win for team Remy.


I wanted to write a paragraph about that shitty day and how I have been struggling with my climbing not for any sympathy but because it feels dishonest to only portray the best moments or cover up the worse moments with a quick joke/wry smile. That being said, we are also extremely grateful and very privileged to have the opportunity to go travelling in our home on wheels and the great days have truly outweighed the bad. Plus, if I have Covid, I might as well have Covid whilst looking up at the mighty rock spires of Montserrat soaring into the sky.

Can you see the gorilla? (not Bethan!!)

We had originally hoped to do some climbing on these other-wordly rock towers but this was of course, derailed by Covid. Yes, I may be terrified of climbing but I still really, really, really wanted to climb – especially on this unique rocky landscape. The blow of not being able to climb was softened by just how wonderful the scenery is. We spent a lovely day traipsing around in its midst, making out shapes of animals in the spires – a gorilla, elephant, sphinx and another elephant all pointed out by my Dad on WhatsApp, fondly remembering his own climbing trip to Montserrat.

In the book H for Hawk (chapter: Outlaws), the author talks about objects or things that give a spooky sense of history: “Ancient pots with three thousand-year-old thumbprints in the clay, antique keys and Old bus tickets in second-hand books”. For the author, “this gives falconry birds the ability to feel like relics from the distant past”.It clicked whilst reading this chapter today, that this feeling comes to me whilst climbing. Here is a climb, a mountain, a route and these are the holds, cracks and caves that people unknown to me have trodden on before; I feel connected to these people, never knowing them but imagining their movements mirroring mine. As the author says: “what these small things did was strangely intimate; they gave the sense, as they picked them up and turned them in their fingers, of another person, an unknown person long time ago, who had held that object in their hands”. Indeed this is how I feel when my hands curl around a piece of rock, touched by another climb or the first ascensionist a long time ago. It is not all climbs or places that hold this magic for me but it is most poignant in locations my father once climbed, perhaps it makes that unknown person more tangible. Sorry Dad, I hope you don’t mistake this for calling you a relic! I felt this a lot in Montserrat. Thank you for passing on your love of climbing to me.

Meeting the locals

Following some more time in Montserrat, and an epic sunrise run on Sam’s part, we headed to Barcelona to try and see as many sights as we could in a whirlwind tour of the city. Controversially or not, I found the Sagrada Familia just a bit gaudy (Sam’s editorial note: couldn’t agree more, impressive but ugly). Do not get me wrong, it is an awe-inspiring, magnificent work of art and architecture and I love it’s grandeur but its just not my cup of tea – sorry Gaudi! Gosh, I think tourism is more tiring than a full day climbing – well nearly.

We then traded the beautiful Catalunya for the anglicised tourist resorts of Costa Blanca; we’d heard rumours of some long ridges to try our hand at. Given our track record on Remy’s adventures (especially concerning ridges) you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a poor choice on our part, considering I still had both a coronavirus-riddled airway and a fear of climbing. However, looking at the ridges in the Rockfax guidebook had gotten us excited to climb, and was one of the reasons we had decided to travel to Spain. Personally, I needed to climb the ridge ASAP whilst I still had some resolve and before I convinced myself it was too scary. We set off early on November 1st (exactly 2 months after our last proper multi pitch climbing attempt and failure) to traverse the Segaria ridge. We had a wonderfully exhausting day out and a tiny bit of ridge redemption was gained, despite the COVID/unfit/unrelenting heat/not enough water combo making it feel just a bit harder than we would have liked. Talk of doing all four ridges in the area in the following 9 days quickly faded…. perhaps, one more and plenty of rest in between? Yes, resting on the beach, with a book in hand – that would be nice!

On the ridgey stuff

Off belay,

Sam and Bethan.

Getting to chill

Crossword Help:

  • Japanese emperors (7)
  • Heart drug (9)
  • Inefficient, clumsy (9)
  • District of Paris (10)
  • French cheese (4,5)
  • Supporting musical part (13)

p.s. sorry there’s no poetry Elizabeth, maybe if you put one in the CUMC bulletin 😉

6 responses to “A Place in the Sun”

    • We didn’t include any letters because not super confident in any of them and didn’t want people to get fixated on potentially wrong letters :))

      Japanese emperors M _ K _ _ _ S (which we now think is Mikados)
      Inefficient, clumsy M _ L _ T _ O _ T
      Supporting musical part _ _ C _ M _ _ _ I _ E _ T

      Aloe water is Bethan’s favourite drink, grape flavoured with chunks of Aloe Vera .

  1. Heart drug is way too vague for me sadly – can I have any letters you’ve already got in it as I have about 10 suggestions atm….

    Sad about the lack of poetry, I shall consider your proposal 😉

    miss you both, Niff sends her love and can’t believe that you found a Niffler so much bigger than her!


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