To Spain via the Tunel de Bielsa

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March 18th 2014
Published: March 18th 2014
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Wed 12th March 2014

To blog or not to blog!! That was the question! It was only going to be a quick belt down through France to Spain, where we were receiving visitors, and hoping to see friends and do some walking so could be a bit the same as our other trips, but we have decided to keep a blog just so that we have a record of where we went, places we saw and maybe we would want to re-visit at a later date!

It wasn’t a particularly good start to our trip as we informed that the ferry was delayed by two hours which meant it wouldn’t leave Portsmouth until 01.00am and then make up the time overnight! Had a good nights sleep by the deluxe couchettes on Deck 7 (Seven Sisters!) albeit in a sleeping bag on the floor, and left the ferry and Le Havre about 8.00am – in the sun!!

As we weren’t sightseeing we thought we would just do a steady drive on the green D579 to Gace and D438 to Alencon and then past a really interesting looking town Beaumont-sur-Sarthe (next time!!)and onto Le Mans – it was certainly steady as we soon ran into thick fog and were condemned to driving 40mph for the first hour or so – pea soup!!!

By 10.00am the fog had cleared to reveal clear blue skies and a beautiful, warm sunny day! We passed Le Mans 24hr Race Circuit (and drove on part of it!!) onto Tours and then the D910 to Chatelleraut and the D749 to Chauvigny. We had made quite good time despite coffee stops and a lunch break so as Chauvigny was on a large river, signposted as a ‘Walled medieval City’ and the afternoon sun was still very warm, we couldn’t resist a wander round!

Charming little place, with churches, walls and remains of a castle perched on a hillside but we couldn’t do it justice as they are in the process of renovating it and we couldn’t get in!! I’m sure it will be Carcassonne II when they have finished it!!

We had decided to stop at the Aire de Repos in Moulismes ( recommended to us by Fred and Pat who own a small campsite at Haworth, Yorkshire) It was very easy to find as just off the N147 as you enter the village and with a 10 vans there and a small lake, it felt very safe, although quite a lot of heavy lorry noise from the main road! But, of course, no wifi!!

Thurs 13th Mar 2014

Up early and away by 08.30am! Drove on the lorry route N147 to Limoges, then branched off and took the N21 to Perigreux, through Bergerac, past a couple of lovely weirs at Astaffort, Agen and all the way down to Auch ! It was quite a pretty run at times, as we were on top of a ridge with views either side, and interspersed with long straight roads with very little traffic ! 309 miles later we arrived about 18.00 hours at the ski resort of St Lary-Soulan, nestling below the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees, where we stayed in the ACSI campsite. (There is an aire here that Pat and Fred recommended, but we were hoping for some internet! – didn’t happen!!)

Fri 14th March 2014

Woke up to a clear blue sky, frost but a beautiful view of the snowy mountains! After passing the Aire in St Lary (and deciding we would definitely stay there next time as it had electric, plenty of other campervans and was right in the centre of the town,) we stopped at Carrefour to get provisions before following the road up to the Tunel de Bielsa.

A good road and a series of hair pin bends that soon led up to the snow line! Stopped at the tunnel, as the lights were red (only single file each way), and took photos of the views of the skiers, before driving through the tunnel – about 3 miles long I guess?! Not so snowy on the Spanish side but still very dramatic views of mountains, valleys, volcanic landscapes, hilltop villages, crumbled castles, gorges and waterfalls, as we descended down to Ainsa. Followed the turquoise lake down to Barbastra where we picked up the motorway to Lleida. Around the ring road, across the plains with its fields of pink blossomed trees ( we think they are cherry!) before reaching Tortosa.

Joined the AP7 at Junction 40 getting off at Junction 44 (8.60 Euros Toll) and ran along the N340 to the campsite at Km1000.(ACSI Torre la Sal, Ribera de Cabanes) Amazing campsite, full of over-wintering huge German campervans and plenty of Germans wandering around in their Crocs and dressing gowns (as they do!!) or riding their electric bikes! It was complete with tennis courts, two heated swimming pools, three restaurants and announcements over loudspeakers – very organised!!! And what was even better is that the first night was free!! So no cost to us at all – no idea why!!! Only irritation was that the wifi only worked outside reception!!

Sat 15th Mar 2014

Late start and didn’t get away until 10.30am, then onto the motorway at Junction 46 until Sagunto (6.65 Euros) then free motorway around Valencia! We decided to take the A7 towards Albacete and then the N344 to Yecla. Apart from very impressive ruined castle at Montesa, scenery was non existent – it really is a very boring part of Spain – just flat with hills either side and lots of industrial rock mining interspersed with Poligonos (Industrial estates) and drab towns!

We missed the turning at Yelca as the road number had changed and also it was signed to Pinoso, wheras we were looking for a signpost to El Pinos. Involved a detour through the non-descript town of Yelca, where by chance we ended up on the correct road and discovered that Pinoso and El Pinos were the same place!!

Nice long straight roads took us to El Pinos and beyond to where the landscape changed to, what I can only describe as ‘moon craters!’. It really is a very strange landscape but we found Banos de la Fortuna very easily.

The ACSI campsite, La Fuente, (There is a choice of two, the other one being Las Palmeros) was a campsite we visited a few years ago. Every pitch has its own shower and toilet and you can use the spa swimming pool for a small charge. However, this time the campsite was full, but they had an overflow pitch with electric so we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool and relaxing!

Sat 16th Mar 2014

We were going to have another dip in the pool, but it didn’t open until 9.00am and we were hoping to be away by then, as we wanted to do some sightseeing! Got back onto the A7 and had a boring drive across Murcia – took the motorway to Granada and stopped at Velez- Rubio for coffee!

Decided we would jump off the motorway at Cullar and do a loop around following the ‘Ruta Primeros Pobladores de Europa’. Now, we are not exactly sure what that means but think it means the Path of the First Settlers of Europe! Our first stop was Orce which proved to be a lovely little old town complete with its huge church and renovated 11th Century castle! We stopped at a natural hot spring/swimming pool in the recreation park outside of Orce for lunch where we were joined by a Spanish family, whose children swam with the massive fish that appeared to live in the swimming pool!!

Onwards towards Huescar! Interesting history!! On 11th November 1809, for reasons unknown, it declared war on Denmark and although neither side fired a shot in anger, the non-conflictual conflict rumbled on until 1981 when they started peace talks and finally put an end to 172 years of hostility!! Its now actually twinned with Kolding in Denmark!! Anyway, the town itself wasn’t actually that interesting, so after a quick walk around we carried on towards Castril.

The road was a mixture of plains and then mountain roads with pine trees, olive trees and blossom trees in full bloom so was very pretty! The actual drive was quite amazing with a huge ravine and we climbed over the mountains and looked down on Castril clinging to a pinnacle of rock! Quite impressive! Climbed even higher with fine views of a dammed lake, before starting to descending to another lake that was oh so blue!!!

We were trying to find Bacor Oliva and our map showed the road from Lake Negratin...but there were two roads and no signpost. Asked some friendly local Spaniards and eventually worked out that there was a new road that wasn’t shown on our map!! Drove back up to the garage (again!!) and took the road sign posted Granada and then turned right into Bacor Oliva and parked. An English guy (Dave!) came running over and offered to show us his cave house that had been renovated and we were treated to a ‘grand tour’. The cave part still consisted of egg-shaped rooms, but he had made a marvellous job of extending the house so it was now quite a mansion!!

Had a wander up to the castle, through the old part of the village that consisted mostly of troglodyte cave houses (and a friendly old dog!!) before driving onto Gaudix.

Found the Barrios de Cuevas fairly easily and spent an hour or so wandering around the old town with its old cave houses and various miradors. Spotted an old chap on his donkey cart and took a picture – he posed, stopped the donkey, and asked for 1 euro (photo fee) !! Fair play. Drove at high speed to the ACSI campsite at Beas de Granada, getting there just before sunset over the snow –capped Sierra Nevada !!

Mon 17th Mar 2014

A spring clean of the van and a two hour drive back to the house that also needed a spring clean! Mucho limpia!!! Neighbours all welcomed us back and Orchard man delivered us a bag full of lemons! Oh it’s good to be back!!

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