Spit spot

After a night of heavy rain we woke to bright sunshine and a light but sharp breeze. I groaned inwardly at returning to the morning spit wash and sighed with relief to know that we were aiming at a shower this evening.
Gibraleón was quiet. We were soon on our way and zipping along the all but empty holiday roads.

Our destination was not far, this side of Seville. I had been promised an upmarket camp site in a forest and with an on-site restaurant. Sounded fab.
Light cloud, blue sky and sun made our drive very pleasant. The omni-present graffiti of Spain made things less so.

We crossed the Rio Tinto, though I saw no colour just the glare of the sun. On the drivers side it was noticeably red, apparently. My disappointment was made up for however when I spotted an ass and cart crossing the flyover ahead of us shortly thereafter.

The scenery was largely unexciting, though very much green. Some orange and olive groves, an enormous cactus patch, pine trees, graffiti…
I am definitely becoming blasé about orange trees. The streets in Gibraleón were lined with them but I didn’t try to pick any and wasn’t even moved to take a photo. I do keep thinking about how close I am to Seville, it being Seville orange season and me loving marmalade so much. It has been months since I tasted marmalade!

Joining the N road for Hinojos we passed brought the Dead centre of Almonte… Cemetery to the right of us, Crematorium to the left… Ho, ho, ho.
We were soon deep in the olive groves, with olives as far as the eye could see and interspersed with the odd palm tree.. then bang! straight into a pine forest and a sign that translated to “Slow, Bobcats crossing”. How exciting.

And then we were there.”There” being the Doñarrayan Park campsite in the Doñana National Park. A delightful spot. We have booked to stay for a month. The showers are fabulous… and there is a cycle path that begins outside the camp that will make Nell’s daily walk a doddle.

I got to thinking about the “bobcats” and checked y translation, Google still insisted that Linces = Bobcats. I think it really means Iberian Lynx. I do hope that we manage to bump into one.

Other good stuff: there is a Heritage Railway not far from here and it runs in the winter months. Also there is a couple here that we met back in Zauratz. Small traveller’s world, isn’t it?

Zamora Photo Gallery

We stayed on the motorhome aire by the park just outside the old town walls.  the park was extensive and wooded, providing Nell with some wonderful walking.

Zamora was a wonderful town in which to wander the narrow and characterful streets. Many eateries, several fine wine shops and delicatessens selling Jamon and other good stuff. 

A very Catholic and very religious town known especially for its Holy Week celebrations.

Notable for its 2 Cathedrals, 24 Romanesque churches,  the many storks nesting in the town and for public art… formal and informal. Sadly much willful desecration of beautiful old buildings with indiscriminate graffiti “tagging”.

Click the images for a larger view.

Well worth the visit.

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Further info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zamora,_Spain

Catching Up: Castets to Zamora

There is a reason why this post has not been posted previously and that is because the scale of the thing is really daunting. It has simply got out of hand. In a perfect world I would have knuckled down and done this before the year’s end. I think that you can tell that we have been trying. The spreadsheet is fully up to date and I now have my “from the road” reports up, even if misplaced in time. (I arrived at the conclusion that they are best left dated as posted not as witten, for the time being. That way those readers who are keeping up will spot them as they arrive. Later on I’ll edit the posting date so that later readers get things in a sensible sequence, even if this particular post is going to be all over the place.

Today is: 3rd January 2018

The last catch up post that I wrote was posted on the 27th November and covered Arcachon to Castets, the night before we moved into Spain. So this post has a great deal of literal ground to cover and may end up being split into more than one post in the end. I have my work cut out here but a being brave and diving in!

We left Castets on the 28th November, which appears to have had a grey start judging by the photos that I took of our first toll road motorway,  The trip and our arrival at Zauratz appear to have been documented. 

We had arrived with the intention of staying for three nights but the weather took a hand in that by throwing some snow down and so discretion took the better part and we ended up staying for a full week, at the end of which we grounded on the motorhome service point and tore our water pipe apart…

The stay at Zauratz was enjoyable and I particularly liked eating out at the restaurant on-site. The daily menu provided really good value for money so we made the most of the opportunity. I caught up on laundry and apparently on my blogging whilst we had good facilities.

When we left Zauratz we had a nightmare experience in the town when we attempted a supermarket run and then we failed to gain assistance at the so-called Motorhome repair specialist.  We took off for Bilbao and an independent commercial aire on the hill overlooking the city. The aire was nicely sited adjacent to a park and open country and with a beer hall/restaurant on hand. We made use of all facilities. We also attempted a repair on the water problem but it failed. We were at least able to gather our wits and realise that as Vincent has two water tanks with valves between them we could a t least operate on one tank, though the smaller of the two. It did mean that we could stop stressing and just wait until we happened across a solution rather than tearing around Spain looking for one.

Photos from Bilbao

A somewhat fraught excursion into Bilbao on the morning that we left did supply a new joint for the water pipe and also supplies from Carrefour. Some added interest was supplied by Mrs SatNav Lady before we fully escaped the city. She has an odd sense of humour, that one. 

We set off for the mountains and a campsite in the Picos de Europa. We had great hopes of our stay here and planned to stop for a while but once again the weather intervened, te mud deepened around us and we were soon off in search of the shelter afforded by the mountains’ rain shadow. Really there is little to say other than “pleasant campsite” “nice bar” “Tapas” and “too wet for photos”. No photos to record our passing through at all.

The drive to Zamora on the 9th December was a lengthy one but it was the drive off a lifetime. It was astounding and also very varied. It was during this drive that I taught myself the rudiments of blogging on the run – clearly something which I am in need of refining.

Zamora was good – very photogenic and full of history. The way that the new architecture has been married with the old is very clever. There were plenty of places to eat, though being a holiday many were closed. The amount of graffiti was shocking. As in other parts of Spain that we have passed through, every conceivable surface has been tagged. Zamora at least has some quite attractive murals in addition tot he scrawl. It was sad to see historic properties being treated thus.

The single most striking thing in Zamora was the huge number of Storks overhead. There seemed to be a nest on every church tower and the town has two cathedrals and 24 Romanesque churches alone…

Double decker stork nests in Zamora

I have many photos fro this part of the trip and think a separate posting of a Zamora Gallery would be the best way to show these.

To be continued.

Leaving Regua

Saturday
16 December 2017 13:28

Early morning river fog this morning, with the Sandeman man obscured from view but the sun was burning through by the time that we were leaving.
Regua had little to recommend it and the tidy little Aire by the Doura was a mixed bag: water, grey drain and electric hookup on the pitch but perched beneath a road bridge, close to motorway and railway, sited at a club and with a large pack of feral dogs close by.

My instant reaction when I saw the dogs was “can I feed them?” Closely followed by “can we adopt one?” But on closer inspection, the size of the pack and the nature of the dogs invited circumspection.

Mr Snail had attempted to walk Nell up the river but the pack were not welcoming their presence and they beat a hasty retreat.

The town was pretty run down and shabby apart from a modern development housing wine and restaurant outlets. I did enjoy all the tiles though, both the ones covering external walls and the blue and white mural panels in public spaces.

We paused to read a restaurant menu and were translating slowly but quite successfully, when the proprietress popped out, excused herself and asked if she might explain a little. She was very proud of offering a traditional Portuguese Christmas menu. We were delighted and very tempted but neither one of us was hungry!

I believe that it will remain a sadness that we didn’t take up the opportunity of enjoying a little local colour.

When we left this morning it was a short distance to the motorway but a steep climb. We were soon above the mist and I wriggled about in my seat trying to get a camera shot with little success.

Already at 500 metres, the sun was shining brightly and the landscape revealing itself. We noted the height sign, not at a summit, and deduced that we were to climb higher yet. We topped out at 1,000 metres just before stopping at a service station 20 k out of town. Under a clear blue sky, the sun felt very warm.

The above was written on the road in my note-taking app. It appears to be incomplete. So does my memory. I do know that we ended our day’s journey at the coast on a small town named Vagueira, more of which later…

Not sure whether to backdate this entry to the correct day  or to leave the date as the date when I finally got around to uploading it. For the purposes of clearing up any doubt, this is an historical post and we are currently at Sagres.

At the end of the year

Okay, there are catch-up posts outstanding plus a couple of reports written on the road to insert appropriately but tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and now seems like a good time to post a quick and dirty summary, especially as we shall be in no fit state tomorrow night to do any updating.

We have been on the road since 15th August, that’s 20 weeks. We have passed through 22 degrees of Latitude and travelled more than 4,000 miles from home. We have visited France, Portugal and Spain, making 59 stops.

We are currently at The End of The World – in Sagres, Portugal. Sagres is a seaside town in the Algarve and a magnet for surfers and beach bums. It sits right at the bottom of Portugal and is to the Portuguese what Land’s End is to we Brits.

Sagres, Portugal

So, that’s all wonderfully neat and circular. When we leave here we turn back towards home, dragging the sun back uphill with us if we are lucky.

Currently we expect to take about the same amount of time in returning to the UK, going back into Spain and then returning to France. We may then go up into Germany to have  a look for a new van…

External factors may affect our plans, not least the fact that we have made an offer on a property in Scotland and are currently waiting to hear if it has been accepted.

Tomorrow we celebrate our wedding anniversary so no further updates may be expected until 2018. I hope to do a post on where we have been since we last caught up before we move on again and there are two Portugal posts in the pipeline too. I would also like to do a post on Sagres because it deserves it. Watch this space.

The spreadsheet is now once more up to date.

Any port in a storm

Although Zamora had not endeared herself on our arrival, we were sorry in several ways to be leaving today and hope to return sometime.

Storm Anna, when she arrived, was sharp and shrewish but quickly gone. She was a reminder of home for a while as we were buffeted about but when I woke at 01:30 the wind had passed. Anna brought with her lashings of rain however and we found in the morning that the dry bed in the park was now a turbulent stream.

The weather, though much improved, remained dull and damp but was good enough for us to stroll out for lunch in the town.

The restaurant that we had carefully selected was closed so we set about finding another. Zamora offers many choices but none seemed to be speaking to us. We plumped for an upmarket establishment, listed at no 2 on TripAdvisor. It was just 2pm but they turned us away “service completed”. What? In Spain?

We ended up in a wee bar that served from 13:00 to 16:00 and had a rather good lunch for €12 each, though I was somewhat fazed by the whole bottle of wine to myself included in the price. A very nice organic Toro it was too.
Last night the temperature dropped below freezing, seeing the internal temperature in the van down to 5°C by morning. Jack Frost had visited and decorated the skylights with icy feathers but the sun was shining under a cloudless sky.

I had entirely forgotten that we were still at 700 metres but it certainly shows in the quality of the light as we are on our way to Bragança. Quite astounding. Also astounding is the scenery and I am amazed by how much grows up here. Tundra, it is not.

We reached Portugal at midday, local time and are now back on GMT. We are also back almost at 700 metres, though it feels higher here. We can see snow-capped mountains and there is a real chill in the air despite bright sunshine.
The Aire is quite nice and is sited above the town, just below a castle. There are water and waste facilities here so I can have more than a cat lick in the morning. No electricity though.

Repair attempts on the water system continue… and so far it appears to be holding.

A short stroll into town this afternoon yielded a Portuguese SIM card and a nice bottle of Tawny.

We are settling in.