1st April – 7th April
It was bittersweet leaving Perth as we did love spending time with all of the family and getting to know our beautiful cheeky little granddaughter. We had a long flight back to Spain, 21 hours in the air and a total of 12 hours hanging around airports. As promised Fernando was waiting for us at Málaga airport. We fell into bed at 9pm and slept for 11 hours. The day was filled with unpacking, washing and a lovely walk along the beach for about 12 kms, stopping at a cafe for a refreshing salad and a beer before heading home.
We caught the bus into Málaga, €1.65 each one way for an 18km journey, very cheap. We walked around the port area first where a lot of money has been spent doing it up and it looks amazing, with lots of shops and restaurants and some very nice boats as well. From there we walked the very steep path up to the citadel which afforded us great views over Málaga, the bullring where a band was practicing with great acoustics and over the port area. Back down the hill and a walk around the pedestrian area to the cathedral. The exterior of the cathedral was very impressive however it didn’t open until 2pm so we continued on. We stopped in one of the squares and had some tapas for lunch after which we headed back to the bus stop and home again.
Today we started our journey north driving through the Sierra de las Nieves, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve which covers an area of 180 square km south east of Ronda. Once off the A7, the route was very windy through some beautiful mountain ranges and past many white towns. The scenery along the way was very different to what we have seen to date with lots of green on the surrounding hills with cows, sheep and goats grazing in the pastures and ragged stony peaks on the mountains. We stopped several times along the way to admire the views before reaching our final destination of Ronda, the largest of the white towns famous in the Andalucían region for ruined hilltop castles, geranium-filled flower boxes and small churches. In one of the white towns the locals were congregated outside the church singing in the street! Once we were parked in our wild-camp spot we took a brief walk around the area which is about 2km out of town to look for a backup in case we are asked to move on. Hopefully that won’t be the case.
We weren’t asked to move on and had a quiet night apart from the fridge alarm going off. After breakfast we walked the few kilometres into Ronda and headed down the main pedestrian mall to the bullring which is one of the oldest and most revered in Spain but was closed when we got there. The town itself is perched spectacularly above the sheer cliffs of the Tajo gorge in the Serranía de Ronda and the views from the lookouts dotted along the cliffs was just breathtaking, even on a wet and misty day as today was. We walked around to La Ciudad, a neighbourhood which straddles the dramatic gorge and the Río Guadalevín (Deep River). The towering Puente Nuevo (bridge) 120 metres high that crosses the gorge separates the old and new towns. The old town is surrounded by massive fortress walls which could be seen on the trails that led along and down to the bottom of the gorge. Evidence of an Islamic gate and floating gardens can be seen from the trail that we took back through the old town and into the new town. We wandered through the streets for an hour or so before heading home as the weather was to worsen later in the day.
Another quiet night and after breakfast we were on our way to Seville through more beautiful mountainous scenery. The weather was overcast until we left the mountain region where the sun came out and the scenery changed to green fields of young wheat and olive groves. We stopped at the small white town of Algodonales for a cuppa and had a small walk around where lots of people were out and about. We continued on to Seville and our aire however the guy at the office said we could only stay one night as it was closing for the Feria (fair) which also caused a detour as all the roads around the aire were being set up in readiness. €10 per night with water and electricity but nowhere to dump the toilet which for us was a must! So we drove to option two but only after filling with drinking water. Option 2 is near the port for €12 per night and extra for power, which fortunately we don’t need, so we are settled and ready to hit Seville in the morning. Driving in Seville requires nerves of steel with cars darting in and out across all lanes. We did have to make an illegal turn and came out unscathed although a few horns blasted as we made our way through the intersection. Upon checking in to the aire, we have learned that the Feria is the Feria de Abril which is the biggest and most colourful of all Andalucías ferias and starts next Monday. Unfortunately we will be long gone by then as our ferry from Santander is booked for 24th April and we still have 900kms to drive to get there. Pity!
We had a big days walking in the glorious sunshine starting with the 3.5km walk into town through the Parque de Maria Luisa to the Plaza de España, a semicircular brick and tile construction featuring Seville tile work with colourful plaques dedicated to all of the regions and cities within Spain. Many of the buildings here are of Islamic style and we had to decide whether to visit the Cathedral €9 each or the Alcázar €9.50 each. As we have seen many cathedrals we chose the Alcázar, the castle where the royal family still resides. The tourist hype says “if heaven really exists let’s hope it looks a little like the inside of Seville’s Alcázar”. Well, we would have to agree. The rooms were decorated with ornate carvings, beautifully coloured tiles, tapestries, paintings and a room of elaborately decorated fans. We spent about 3 hours wandering around the buildings which also housed fountains and waterways. The gardens were just lovely also with wisterias and fruit trees in flower as well as many different types of palms. We both agreed that we thought it was better than Alhambra! We had our lunch in the gardens before leaving and we walked around the perimeter of the cathedral which is the largest in the world by volume and pretty much defines the word Gothic. A truly magnificent structure with the Giralda, a decorative brick tower which was the minaret of the mosque built in 1184 sitting at the northeastern end of the cathedral. We wandered through the shopping precinct for a while stopping for a drink before passing the bullring on our homeward journey, some 6 hours later.
The sun was shining again as we headed further north, this time to Zafra which was 135kms away. The scenery was ok, lots of flat grasslands before we came to a small mountain range which we drove over, seeing many sheep and horses in the fields. We are parked in a free aire in Zafra and after lunch we walked into town. It’s quite a nice town with narrow streets lined with baroque churches and old fashioned shops. We visited the Iglesia de la Candelaria (church) which had a lovely altarpiece. Further along we stopped in at the Convento de Santa Clara which also had a nice altarpiece. The nuns here sell pastries although we didn’t see anyone. Back into the main area and we stopped for a drink before heading back home.
8th April – 15th April
Not a good nights sleep. The aire was in a carpark with a building in it that is used for exhibitions. When we arrived it looked like they were pulling the exhibitions down, but that wasn’t the case, they were putting them up so many delivery trucks passed us during the night until around 11pm, when the doors were finally closed. The traffic during the night was constant so neither of us slept well. We left Zafra at around 9 and the scenery on our drive today was similar to yesterday without the mountains. We arrived in Mérida at 10.30am, parked at the Congress hall and headed into town. Mérida was once the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania and it’s still home to the most impressive and extensive Roman ruins in Spain. The ruins lie dotted around the town often in the most unlikely places and you have to wonder what still lies buried beneath the modern city. You can
purchase a combined ticket which gives you entry to most of the Roman sites however we were quite happy to see them through the fences. The Roman bridge is 792 metres in length with 60 granite arches and is one of the longest built by the Romans. We walked around the perimeter of the Roman theatre and the amphitheater before making our way to the viaduct San Lázaro, the Roman baths and the Roman Circus which was huge, seating 30,000 spectators in its day. We had our lunch in the park before finding the Templo de Diana which stood in the municipal forum where the city government was based. Our last site was the Acueducto de los Milagros, which once supplied the Roman city with water from the dam at Lago Proserpina about 5km out of town. A lovely walk along the river and back home for a quiet afternoon.
Another pleasant drive today sees us arriving in Cáceres. The old town is truly remarkable. Narrow cobbled streets twist and climb among ancient stone walls lined with palaces and mansions, while the skyline is decorated with turrets, spires, gargoyles and enormous storks’ nests. Protected by defensive walls, it has survived almost intact from its heyday in the 16th century. We visited the Concatedral de Santa María Cathedral, a 15th- century Gothic cathedral. Inside, there’s a magnificent carved 16th-century cedar altarpiece, several fine noble tombs and chapels and a small museum. We climbed the bell tower for views over the old town and were there when the 1/2 hour bell tolled. To say it was loud is an understatement. We wandered through the streets admiring all of the old buildings, stopping in the main square, Plaza de Santa Maria where we had some tapas and a beer for lunch. Before heading home we roamed the cobbled streets for awhile stopping to watch a group of young girls and children who had entered a modelling contest strut their stuff along a catwalk to the cheering and clapping of the crowd.
We drove a lot further than we had originally planned today. For those who have been following us from the start you will know we have had intermittent problems with the fridge. Yesterday it stopped working and as we had recently done the shopping, the freezer was full. We made the decision to drive all the way to Salamanca 200 kms away have it looked at by a dometic service centre, hopefully tomorrow. The scenery along the way reminded us a bit of the U.K., with dry stone walls and cattle all around. We also glimpsed snow on the mountain peaks about 50 kms out from Salamanca. We are now parked in the free aire next to the river Tormes opposite the cathedral. We took a brief walk over the Roman bridge and up to the cathedral, more for exercise than anything else however the wind was very cold so we will venture back in there tomorrow after Dave has called Elite Motorhomes about the fridge. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to get it fixed!
We had a nice quiet night with 7 other Motorhomes. We rang the Dometic service centre number but had no joy given we don’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English. We left a message for Elite and headed to the tourist office where the young lady rang on our behalf. The service centre gave her another number to call which she did, so off we went. A small drive of 7 kms had us at another service centre where we spent most of the morning. Each time the serviceman thought he had fixed the fridge, it would not light. He replaced one part, tried to start the fridge and it worked once then wouldn’t light. He decided to replace the whole of the ignition system but the hoses were too short so he put the old one back in. The fridge is working perfectly now, go figure! How long for is anyone’s guess but as long as we can get back to the UK, we will have Elite Motorhomes look at it. We had lunch before heading back into town for a good look around. The buildings in the old town are built in this beautiful gold coloured sandstone, some with ochre-tinted. We wandered around for about 2 hours before the heavy rain had us heading home.
Deep green crops and yellow canola were the colours of our journey today. The weather was very overcast with what looked like the possibility of a storm however it never eventuated. We arrived in Zamora and had a cuppa before heading into town. The entrance to the town, like many in Spain is quite dull with towering apartment blocks as far as the eye can see, however the old town is beautiful with medieval buildings scattered throughout. After a quick stop at the tourist office, we headed up to the restored Castillo (castle) of 11th-century origin where we climbed the tower and walked the ramparts which gave us a lovely view of the park below, the river, the cathedral next door and the old town. We visited the Iglesia de San Pedro y San Ildefonso with its gothic influence and Iglesia de San Juan de Puerta Nueva with its ornate gold leaf altar. We had lunch of tapas and a beer in a small bar just off the main square before walking the pedestrian mall on our way home. The sun came out later in the day and we had a stroll along the river.
Similar scenery of green and gold on our drive today has us arriving in Léon, a distance of around 70kms from Zamora. We had our lunch before venturing into town on what was another bleak day with occasional showers. Léon is quite a bit bigger than expected and the walk into town was 2kms from the aire. The cathedral is the main tourist attraction and was built in the 13th century and has had quite a bit of restoration done on it. Of Gothic architecture two towers soar skyward with flying buttresses and the Rose window and sculptured doorways are said to be showstoppers. We didn’t venture inside however we did walk around the perimeter to see the beauty of the exterior. The rest of our walk was spent just wandering around the streets visiting the weekly market and admiring the historical buildings.
Continuing in a westerly direction from Léon we mistakenly got on to the Autopista which is the toll road. A quick detour and €1.40 later we were on the correct road on which the Camino de Santiago path runs parallel with the road. The Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) originated as a medieval pilgrimage and for more than 1000 years people have set off on the adventure of a lifetime to the tomb of St James the Apostle, in Santiago de Compostela in the Iberian Peninsula’s far northwest. Today the most popular of the several caminos (paths) to Santiago de Compostela is the Camino Francés, which spans 783km of Spain’s north from Roncesvalles, on the border with France, to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia and attracts walkers of all backgrounds and ages from all countries around the world. On the leg that we drove beside we must have seen at least 15 people making their way in the rain. They have a passport type document that they get stamped along the way and a special ceremony and certificate are presented to them upon completion. We arrived in Ponferrada at the aire with views to snow covered mountains just on lunchtime so we had a bite to eat before heading out. Through the lady in the tourist office, we learnt that the gentleman standing next to us who was getting his passport stamped had ridden his bike from Barcelona along the Camino de Santiago and had been riding for 10 days to get to Ponferrada. Only 250kms to go! We walked through the old town to the Encina Basilica where inside, the image of the Virgin of Encina presides over the main altarpiece. A legend tells how the carving of the Virgin was hidden in order to preserve it from Muslim invasion and was found centuries later by the Templar Knights. The castle here which was built by the Templar Knights in the early 12th century was built to protect the pilgrims and has undergone several additions and restorations since. We walked around the perimeter as it was just on closing time when we got there (siesta from 2pm) and dawdled through the streets before returning to Tilly and our view of the mountains.
Bloody fridge! It’s still not working properly and is getting beyond a joke now. We have had 5 separate service centres look at it and still they can’t fix it. Suffice to say another bad nights sleep. We drove 120kms in very heavy rain through vineyards and beautiful old chestnut groves to Lugo which is as far west as we will go as we need to get to Santander and Dave would like a day or two without driving. As it was raining so much, we thought we would spend the afternoon reading however the rain did stop so we decided to walk into the old town a couple of kilometres away. The grand Roman walls encircling old Lugo are considered the best preserved of their kind in the world. The top of the walls, erected in the 3rd century AD make a 2.2km loop around the old city. 15m high they are studded with the remnants of 85 towers. We walked about 1.5kms along the top before heading down to the Catèdral de Santa Maria which houses a beautiful altarpiece carved in wood that is now in two pieces within the east and west transepts. The rain had started again whilst we were in the Catèdral so we had a quick walk through the streets before seeking dry ground, namely Tilly.