A Travellerspoint blog

Iruña


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Easy drive down a free motorway and onto another aire that the good people of Etxebakar provided and we always try and use a cafe or a shop to pay back a few euros to them. These free aires have been a bonus in making our daily budget go further and loosing 20% of our daily spend thanks to Brexit which thankfully now has risen to only 15%. We arrived early enough to walk the couple of kilometers into Pamplona, Jacqui's knee is progressing well with a bit of exercise and her knee brace and the weather was lovely and warm. The suburbs were mostly low rise flats with people enjoying bars and open spaces in the sun. As we walked toward the old town it looked quite high above us and I wondered what sort of hill we would have to climb after the river. Mr Otis had installed a very natty inclined plane lift system like a venicular which slid up and down using very little energy, I bet attacking armies of the past would have liked one.
The old town was very elegant with lots of Basques lunching in very smart bars as well as little restaurants. This is another city that is still lived in and used every day and Jacqui got some great pictures of the restored buildings. This is also part of the Camino de Santiago so lots of shell signs and walkers, not quite sure how St Francis of Asissi fits into the story but he has a statue in a nice square. Back to the van for kippers for Sunday lunch accompanied by wonderful multigrain local bread we just don't care about convention anymore.
Monday morning we were roused by the nearby school siren, what happened to a polite bell ringing? This was our last day in Spain for a while and we drove into the foot hills of the Pyrenees, stopping for a last café con leche. We passed lots of walkers and in these hills you have to take your hat off to them, we have covered the route in Friday so he can have a shell sticker but I wouldn't fancy walking all that way. We passed through Valcarlos which is the gateway to the walk but is is an unpretentious place, which it ought to be I suppose.
We arrived at a popular stop off on the Spain, France route, at St Jean Pied de Port and parked at the aire next to the rugby club. The main way we chose this aire was to get some electric so Jacqui could cook beef casserole and dumplings in the slow cooker whilst we went for a wander. The town wasn't busy but showed the signs of gearing up for the start of what must be a hectic walking season with outdoor gear shops and souvenirs available every where so we bought Friday his sticker and a Basque flag as well

Posted by cjpolley 10:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Vitoria


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We had another interesting drive down the other side of the mountain to Vitoria, arriving early afternoon. Pili and Julen live near the motorhome aire and we drove into the car park to find the 10 spaces full but true to form there were another 20+ vans scattered around the car park so we joined them. We decided on a visit to the city by tram and were just about to leave when jacqui spotted a van leaving so we snuck in.
The tram system is very modern and a journey across the city costing €1.45 so we were soon by the southern part of the almond shaped old town. We saw the new cathedral and wandered into the 2 main squares, why had we never really heard of this place, it's a small city but so charming and friendly. We did the usual TI stop and got maps of the city and a green route around the city for bikes or walking which looked really good. We walked around in the general direction of the aire to change to go to our friends place.
They were so pleased to see us, Pili said they were all excited to find out what we had been doing and we think they are the adventurous ones, taking their two children everywhere in a small camper; they are off to Morocco in the summer!
We had a lovely evening, enjoying them talking with passion about their city and Euskadi. We had tapas and beer and blue sparkling wine and Merlutha and wine and cheese with local walnuts for pudding, it was a great meal. I even got to try some eau de vie type spirit from Galicia as this is where Pili's family live; Jacqui also tried a Basque liquor made from blackcurrants with aniseed. We talked for ages and didn't get back to the van until gone midnight, they even offered to walk us back in case we got lost, us get lost!
We slept well and the next morning was Saturday and we decided to cycle to a lake Pili told us of along the green route about 7k from the aire. About 1.5k in Jacqui realises that she has forgotten to put her helmet and I hadn't noticed (obviosly hadnt forgot the lippy and earrings) so I had to ride back and fetch it for her. Well we got there but not until after I had directed us to the wrong lake and our 14k bike ride turned out more like 30k, it was still a lovely day out though and Jacqui took over directing us back, first to the lake I had missed and then home. We did stop for coffee and then I had to buy Jacqui a macdonalds ice cream to make up for it, mind you she has an electric bike, I was the one who had to cycle all that way.
The final match of the 6 Nations was on and we went to an Irish pub to watch it, I had popped in the day before to check the game was on and said to the manager that I doubted we would win, Ireland have tucked us up too many times and I hated to be proved right. The clientele was friendly and happy when they won, they did play well.
Back for pizza pasta, a good Saturday night dinner after a couple of beers and a very restful night after all that pedalling. Sunday morning was like a family picnic in the car park, there must have been 30 vans there, mostly Spanish families enjoying a weekend away. We had found washing machines on our epic ride so did the laundry and Macdonalds, which was closed but had left their WiFi on, so it passed an hour.
Then off to Iruña, or Pamplona to you and me.

Posted by cjpolley 10:32 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A Quick Pilgrimage


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We parked up at a car park in a new district outside of Santiago de Campostela (SDC) in the rain and wind and still people were treading the path to the cathedral now only 8 miles or so away. This car park free stop had the benefit of a bus into the city, a mercadona and a launderette that also had pretty good free WiFi, so good in fact Jacqui downloaded a couple of BBC dramas whilst we did the washing. We had parked next to the only other van there which in the end turned out to be unoccupied and got up early enough to catch the 09:15 bus into the city.
I was expecting something more impressive from the old town area and I suppose the pilgrims do it because of St James in the cathedral, so we didn't spend too long in the city, Harry said it reminded him of Sheffield with churches, from what I remember of Sheffield it's more cheerful!
So back to the van and head to A Coruna, scene of another Napoleonic battle, two cities in one day. On arriving though the city is enormous, lots of empty countryside and then huge cities filled with blocks of flats. We drove to the sea side of the city and found a lovely promenade which went all the way round the peninsula and a beach which reminded us of Weymouth. We parked at the lighthouse called the tower of hercules and went for a wander that turned into a 2 hour walk along the prom and into the old town, 18th century most of it so not so old but the clock museum was a great copper roofed building in a traditional square and the harbour control tower dominated the marina, it cost ca. €5M to see a few yatchs in and out?
We didn't feel like staying in the lighthouse car park sosta headed back in land to a village aire that provided everything including electric for free and it was a lovely site. I did take a walk in to find a bar but it shut at 15:00 so we had to have coffee there the next morning and got churros thrown in, what a generous place.
Next day off to the seaside again but just a car park this time on our way to see the Basque family we met in Sicilia last summer.

Posted by cjpolley 10:30 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria & Euskadi


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Last year we saw how Euskadi, the Basque country, surprised us with an alpine type interior with fertile valleys, high in proper mountains. In the 70's & 80's and even later the only time we heard about northern Spain was another bombing, Ireland received incredibly bad press as well in a struggle that has not been resolved yet. The Basques have a resolution and both they and Galicia teach their own language in schools and have a separate identity from their mother country. I'm not sure if the other two coastal provinces do the same, I'll ask our Euskadian friends tomorrow. That was a bit intense for a blog, never mind it just proves the grey matter is still working.
Galicia has a fantastically contorted coastline, so where there are tiny beaches like Cornwall, there are sharp jagged, rocky headlands then small coastal villages. This NW corner of Spain has lots of open space and I would guess a lot of holiday homes, just like our West Country. Consequently it's pretty quiet in March but we got some good weather and some cliff walks and a beach stroll or two.
The other thing that Galicia has is pulpo, octopus, which I don't mind but there are Pulpotaperias and Pulpo restaurants and Pulpo Rapido everywhere, the poor creatures can't be that bright to come anywhere near this coastline.
The northern coastline is something like a 450 mile drive, so we had to get our skates on as we had dallied in Portugal a while; so after the lovely free aire we set off to do 130 miles to the coast, only to find the aires wasn't even open. Thanks to the German motorhomers that gave this place a 10 when it was still being constructed. So we pushed on a bit further and Jacqui decided we were getting tired, or rather I was getting grouchy, so headed off the main road to an aire by a wild life park.
We parked by a lake, next to loads of Brits who use this as a Santander jumping off point as it's free and went and looked at the elephants! 🐘🐘🐘 This is a one off and brilliant, the park runs cable cars to the tops of the hills and down into other enclosures. This would make a great weekend for anyone. I keep saying another one for the list and we don't have a list so maybe the time has come to start one.
Our gas was getting low because a nasty Spanish pump attendant wouldn't let me fill up on the way to the aire so next morning was touch and go with heating and hot water. The temperature in the van was 12 °C but we just about managed heating and hot water,with a swift baton change for the shower, being a gentleman I always let Jacqui go first on these occasions.
We had driven through Asturias and into Cantabria to get to this aire and they do tend to merge into one. Asturias being a bit more coastal plain and then real mountains start on the border with Cantabria with the a Picos de Europa, bit chilly this time of year for us with loads of snow on the peaks some over 8500 feet.
Now we drove into Euskadi and around some 1st gear hairpins to get to our next stop in a village 1000 foot up which had good reviews and a warning to longer van owners about access. Well we only had to back up 50m on our first try down a narrow walled lane and then managed to turn into another walled access with an inch to spare, I honestly mean an inch on the front bumper and rear corner. So from 20 vans to us on our own in a well thought out aire with little Christmas fayre huts for toilet and shower, luxury!
And we were forced to go to the local bars to pay and get access to the electric. Sitting outside on an enormous lump of basalt for a bench we studied the village, which was, like most, empty of people. This must be a Spanish holiday home destination because the quality of restoration was first class, the tiny village even had a large outdoor pool. This was confirmed next morning when the Porsches and Range Rovers arrived. Walking and wildlife must be two of the big interests route details here.
We decided to try and eat out so walked to the other end of the village to find that dinner wasn't served until eight so strolled back to the van along the stream via a small waterfall in 30°, bit of sun bathing and ready, steady, cooked a couple of omlettes; cheese for Jacqui and a sort of tortilla with bacon for me.
Vitoria tomorrow.

Posted by cjpolley 03:47 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Things come in threes


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So after what we thought would be the end of a pleasant drive, we turned up at a municipal site by a tumbling stream, planning to get our bikes out and use the cycle path along the river into town.
It was shut until 1st of June, so much for trusting information from other motorhomers!
We had lunch whilst we looked at alternatives and decided to head towards the coast a day early. So off we set and not 20 miles down the road we came across a closed bridge being replaced, no one working, just a barrier across the road that just about allowed Friday to turn round in it. Cursing the lack of signs we drove back 3.5 km to a roundabout and sure enough there was the 2m high sign, we were too intent on our new route.
Jacqui is really good at spotting aires, so instead of the recommended one, we headed out on to the craggy peninsula just past Pontevedre, a large city with a huge tidal river frontage. We drove through a very pretty resort called Sanxenxo and into a tiny road to the aire right by the cliff over looking a beach with surf and rocks and sunshine, magic after 6 hours driving and replanning, that's a long day for us.
So parked up and had a cuppa, got connected and decided a beer and eat out tonight, we had got used to Portugal with bars every few feet, especially in villages by the sea and it was a Friday night. We walked around the village for about a half hour and even asked some workmen, lots of bars and small hotels but this counts as off season here. Our third strike!
We made it to a small beach near where we started and found the 'cafe' was a full blown bar restaurant, really needed a beer now.
A chap offered to translate the menu, which was sweet of him we aren't that bad. We got chatting and he is German, his wife from Brasil whose father came from this village and they decided to settle here, the views and the way of life look superb.
We walked home in the dark, again after the couple bought us a chilled coffee flavoured grappa liquor, nice but chilly on an evening where the temperature dropped with the setting sun. By the way their 8 year old daughter only speaks 4 languages.
Next day the promised rain arrived and we spent most of the day inside, I only really emerged to find some WiFi to watch the Scotland game. I got my England shirt on an walked to a nearby restaurant I was told had WiFi and all round the resort for half an hour to no avail. I did mange a bit of 4G and listened on the radio, I don't know why I was worried, much.
Jacqui and I did manage a beach walk under grim skies, amazing how the evening before we were told of the lovely fish caught just off shore and our beach walk revealed the usual fishermen's plastic floats, lines and nets. We collected some of the polystyrene and plastic and next morning I saw a British dad and his two children doing the same, good for us!
We would love to come back here autumn time, another one on the list.

Posted by cjpolley 05:42 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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