Monty, the Jack Russell's Spanish Holiday

We set off on a sunny day in March to stay overnight in Saltash, Cornwall before boarding the ferry to Santander. It was new to all of us as we had not travelled with "Monty' the dog before. We lined up to have our passports (and his) checked by the staff. Monty was a little hostile to the chap who put his face right up to the window as he thought he was an intruder!

Anyway safely checked in and on board we took him to his snug little cage with his blanket and favourite rubber bone. After the initial look of "pardon! - what is this" from him, he settled down to the sounds of the other dogs on board. He had great fun running around the deck area, checking out the sights and smells and of course doing what dogs do! (but we cleaned it). As long as we made frequent trips to see him, he seemed settled and happy.

On arrival in Santander he was ecstatic to be reunited with us as we joined the queue to disembark. The weather in Santander was not as we expected and we travelled through some snow drifts on our way towards Valladolid for our first stop. It was a little disconcerting to pass cars with skis strapped to the top coming from the direction we were headed. I had brought bikinis - not snow shoes! Monty did not have his Barbour pet coat!

At Valladolid we were rewarded with some warm sunshine and we all settled in a Formula one hotel for the night (2 euros for Monty). Next stop Portugal, West Coast (Nazare) in a glorified tent with a tiled floor and outside patio area. Not much was open as it was early in the season. Unfortunately it then proceeded to rain nearly every day but we did manage to get down to the promenade and enjoy a few drinks in the beach bar.

Poor old Monty was happy as he was allowed in with us but as soon as he curled up by the table he saw the huge stuffed head of a wild boar mounted on the wall over the table and the poor thing had a fit! Barking and snapping at this loathsome creature we had to lift him up to inspect it.

After some 6 days here we decided to decamp early due to the weather and travelled to Albufiera on the Southern coast where we were (I thought) booked into an apartment that I had secured on the internet, through a travel company. On the list of special requests I had added - WE HAVE A SMALL DOG!! - Well it seemed that neither the holiday company nor the Apartment Reception had bothered to read this, as upon our arrival we were told - NO DOGS!

It was Easter Friday, boiling hot and no pet friendly accommodation! I decided the best thing to do was find an English bar and ask. Luckily we found one fairly soon and the chef directed us to a nice family with an apartment above their villa. Pool, barbecue, dogs of their own and walking distance to the most scruffy, cheap and friendly bar that one could find. Bliss! Doggie friends for Monty.

After 8 great days there we travelled to a campsite in Torrox Costa, Costa del Sol - pooches welcome in the wooden chalet that we hired. Monty made himself comfortable on the sofa (covered with his blanket of course!) and we had 2 super weeks there. Fresh Avocados grew over our heads (free to pick the owners said); well that was me on the trail with a broom handle and a bucket, - prawn and avocados on the menu! Local bar in a warehouse with no mod cons except good company, wine, beer and free entertainment by one of the best trios I have heard, jamming together for fun and for the delight of the customers. Outside the local walked past with their herd of goats or pony and trap, occasionally tethering them up and popping in for the odd refreshment.

Next on to Almeria in an English (well Welsh!) owned bed and breakfast where we and Monty rested for a week with the delightful family who owned it. One night they organised a barbie round the pool with residents and family alike. Boogied until the early hours to such music as Nirvana (bit head-banging for me) and more restful stuff like Genesis. One guest who had just returned from 3 months in the Iraq war let his hair down so much that he ended up playing 'air guitar' on the 2nd floor of the unfinished building next door. Must have needed to let off steam as it was pitch dark except for torchlight!

Travelling on we spent 8 lazy days in Torrevieja, Costa Blanca, at the flat of our friends. Sunning it up on the roof terrace, trying out the local recipes and letting Monty have some long runs in the 'campo', one of which unfortunately took us to the vets as he tore a piece from his paw initiating a 3 week session of visits to put it right. Poor Monty! paw strapped up in a baby 'scratch mitt' to stop him licking. At least he loved his 'cheese' treats each time we had to apply medication.

Next stop Alicante for a month in a fantastic 5 bed villa. We had been promised a pool but didn't realise that it was still in production. Still after 7 days we had a great pool to swim in and had made some more continental friends ( I think they liked the fact that we provided a free 'liquid' lunch each day!). All I can say about this part of the trip is that it was my favourite - my family and friends came out to join us and I had my old friends from England (now residents) living just 3 doors away. Just try Alicante port if you want to see how the other half live! There were yachts there bigger than my house!! Do not visit Alicante castle if you have vertigo. I found this out to my cost as I turned around after climbing for 20 minutes and saw the street 300 or so feet below me more or less straight down! I sat immediately down on my posterior and proceeded to come down by shuffling forward on my bottom, muttering oaths at my long-suffering friend who was by now taking 'snaps' of my predicament and chuckling to herself.

At this point it felt fitting to push her over but of course I couldn't do it. With the markets, super little restaurants, wonderful meat and fish dishes of the area and delightful scenery, the Alicante area charmed us and kept us entertained for the rest of the month. Following this we took off for a week of fun and festivity in Benidorm. This most under rated holiday resort. (don't let anyone tell you it's like a well-known Northern 'Brit' resort, because it most definitely isn't). There is everything that anyone, of any age, could expect in this town. The old town still has the 'Spanish" feeling, with tapas bars and fish restaurants leading to the beautiful old church on the cliff edge. The beaches are spotless and the sea warm and inviting. Children are entertained with all manner of aqua parks, theme parks and safari parks. And older people are catered for in the hotels with long stay holidays and cheerful "tea dances' in the seafront cafes. I find something different each time I go.

Our week was spent in a spacious apartment on the front line of the promenade where Monty sat on the balcony watching all the 'girl' dogs go by and barking his appreciation. Walk to the Nadal (end of Levante) and watch the sun go down over the med by the cable ski and anticipate another sunny day to come. Ametlla de Mar, a little known resort in Costa Dorada (not far from Salou) was our next port of call, to meet up with friends who have built a house and have resided happily there for 9 years. (Monty had a great time grumbling at the three horses they have in their paddock).

We hired a studio apartment overlooking the fishing port, with its own resident 'gecko' (lizard). You can imagine what Monty made of that! As the walls were made of original blocks of coloured stone, the lizard just hopped from one to the other, blending in with the background and causing Monty no end of confusion! It was better than the TV! We treated our friends to a home-cooked Yorkshire Sunday roast (including the puds) as they had been deprived of this phenomenon since leaving the UK. Starters - prawns and avocado (of course) fruit pie, ice cream, cream and cheese to follow. I do love Paella but we all agreed there is nothing like the real thing when it comes to Sunday roasts!

Together with great sleeps in a Super King sized bed and meals eaten at the table watching the fishing fleet coming and going we all had a relaxing time (and put on the pounds).A 3 day trip into the 'campo' to Moro d'Ebre, a little town on the Ebre river rounded up our visit to this area. In a valley, with the river full of carp swirling slowly past it was a picturesque few days spent in a British owned B & B before travelling on to our final Spanish destination, Roses, Costa Brava. The little bay of Canyelles, Roses is idyllic, unspoilt (OK some beach bars). Calm blue water, soft yellow sand, backed by a large hillside hosting lots of pretty villas, nestling in the trees.

Our apartment was the lower half of a villa owned by a lovely British couple who had lived there 22 years. We had views of the bay, sun chairs, barbecue and a terrace large enough to ballroom dance! Monty loved it! Just barking distance from the 'casa' of a rather delightful lady Jack Russell. He used all his 'doggy' charms but she didn't seem to notice! Perhaps it was the language barrier! Meals on the terrace, a barbecue with the owners and a days boat outing made this stay complete, even though the waves were so high they overcame the sides and literally 'washed' us into the interior cabin! Paella was served from a truck-tyre sized dish on a local beach, accompanied by sardines, salad and sangria. Regretfully we left Spain and drove 30 miles or so over the border into France. Having no set route or overnight stops organised we just drove which ever way we felt.

After using the toll roads for some way we decided to use the side roads which very often followed alongside the auto route. This was the right decision as we saw much more of the countryside and were able to bask in the charms of the local French towns. You can find reasonably priced accommodation in even the smallest of hamlets and most of the motel style establishments such as the Accor group and others have no problem with animals. Much to Monty's delight as he met some French 'females ' too. Our last day found us in Boulogne, booked into a Formula 1 hotel and on our way to the terminal to ask for the nearest vet for Monty's tick and flea jab. We did manage this that same afternoon (luckily - as we sweet talked the vet).

In hindsight I would leave another day spare the next time I do this in case of a delay in getting the jab. With Monty 'anti-ticked and flead up' we boarded the ferry for our return to England. A short time later we arrived in England with a full boot of excellent Spanish and French wine, 2 happy tourists and a 'fully-fledged' continental dog, now barking in Spanish, Portuguese and French!

The longest journey we had on the holiday was the trip from Dover to Scarborough, taking 8 hours! Thank heaven for the French and Spanish roads, they are a delight!!

Regards P & J and the "barking mad' dog!