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April 24th 2012
Published: April 24th 2012
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So - BLOG goes:

Tuesday 17 & Wednesday 18 April – A coffee stop at Claire’s with a great send-off from her and the boys began our 2012 adventure to Spain.

Boarded the ferry at Portsmouth and set sail in cold and windy weather at 5pm. The evening passed pleasantly with a passable steak meal and an excellent cabaret – a magician and Frank Sinatra! The weather was pretty rough but we spent an OK night in our tiny yet adequate cabin....waking now and again, either to try and get more comfortable in our bunk beds or to the sound of everything on the dressing table crashing to the floor then rolling around or overturned chairs! ................’til about 10.30am when we surfaced, breakfasted, read, lunched, read etc. The restaurant suffered a good amount of broken crockery as the ship lurched around and the entrance into Santander at 7pm (2 hours late) was the most choppy. Good job we both have extra-strong/non-seasick constitutions!)

Unloading was easy, followed by a very rainy and shitty drive out of the city. We made it to an Aires site at Lierganes (20 miles ish), then walked around the town in the rain ‘til we found a great pizza restaurant. Full tummies and a bottle of Vino Tinto later – we slept well.

Thursday 19 April – the rain in Spain does not fall mainly on the plain – it seemed to fall on Lierganes. We stayed put for the day except for a longish walk around the town between showers, discovering a delightful centre, pretty bridges over rivers and waterfalls. We got chatting to a couple from Yorkshire, on their way back from wintering in the Algarve, one of 3 other motorhomers (others French &German). At about 6pm they joined us for a 3 hour chat/booze session.....eee by gum!

Friday 20 April - Still raining but time to move on. Our initial chosen route to drive to Burgos via Briviesca had to be abandoned. However, not before we had driven well over 40 miles of zig zag narrow roads, through tiny villages (including one called Las Vegas!) and getting higher and higher..............’til we finally met impassable snow! Turning around was interesting! We had to back-track a considerable way before finding a more suitable route. We stopped for lunch and then a cuppa before parking up next to a river in Briviesca. Our travelling took us through contrasting scenery from snowy mountains and green slopes reminiscent of Switzerland, to large agricultural plateaux, to deep gorges and rushing rivers. At one stage we had blue skies and sunshine but it’s still overcast as we settle here for the night. Tomorrow, off with the bikes to explore the town.

Saturday 21 April – An enjoyable day as it turned out but both towns and weather have not been the perfection we’re used to! An overcast morning took us on foot into a mildly interesting town, a church, main square and a quick stock-up at the Supermercardo. Onwards to Burgos which was certainly more impressive but not up there with the ‘greats’. Burgos’ fame is El Cid who fought there back in the 11th century. The weather took a while to clear and a heavy downpour prompted us to pay to look around the cathedral (3rd largest in Spain) – nothing spectacular...El Cid’s tomb and the usual ornate ceilings/alters. By this time the sun was mostly out and warm, making our coffee and churros with chocolate sauce more enjoyable. Some pleasant strolling around, then back along the river to our parked van before taking the scenic route to Covarrubias – a walled mediaeval town. Arriving at about 7pm we’re freecamping with a lovely view over the town, river and bridge..........exploration tomorrow.

Sunday 22 April – The little town was charming, the church very old and the locals well rugged up as we’s cold! No rain but only patchy sunshine. A passing geologist whom we chatted with thRough our van window last night (a Welsh chap who has lived in the village for 8 years and searches for dinosaur bones – he found a dinosaur egg last year!).....told us of a nearby village and an amazing, walkable gorge.

So we set off to Santo Dominigo de Silos where we strolled pleasantly around this mediaeval village where we stopped for refreshments (one of us had coffee, the other had a coke with self-supplied Bacardi.........well it was lunchtime). Lunch in the van then on towards Gumiell de Hazin. Within a couple of miles we luckily spotted a tiny sign by the edge of the road and obscure steps leading into the rocks............this was the Yecla gorge – amazing! A 1,200 metre long narrow walkway between steep 1,000m high cliffs with water far below and fascinating evidence of how water must have gushed through, wearing away the solid stone to form the gorge.

A brew up in the Plaza Major at Gumiel de Hazin, where apart from a huge ornate fronted church and porticoed buildings around the plaza was dull – so onwards to Penaranda de Duero, which was far more impressive. It had a lovely mediaeval centre with a terrific castle high on the hill – one of us wanted to climb to the top, the other did so reluctantly but the views were rewarding.

Our final stop was to be an Aires at Aranda de Duero but we were now almost out of Butane gas, so went searching with no luck, so returned to the Aires. There happened to be a 3 day festival going on and the townsfolk were out en-masse and in usual Spanish style, multi-generational.....just as many walking sticks as pushchairs and a good deal in-between. The streets of this great town were packed with stalls selling various wares and foodstuffs (the sellers dressed in mediaeval gear) and all the bars overflowing with great (and loud) merriment. We were lucky enough to find a table and were served quickly with a delicious dinner...............a very enjoyable evening.

Monday 23 April – Not such a special day as most of it was spent searching for Butane gas. We were in the local tourist office for over an hour, finally leaving with information that turned out to be false. We drove on to Penafiel and admired the hilltop castle from the van but no gas at the promised petrol station, so had to alter our route to the outskirts of Valladolid, where finally we managed a purchase......whoopee. Now heading south we drove up to the magnificent castle at Medina del Campo but the town was awful so we drove on to Madrigal de las Altas Torres and are parked up in a deserted cobbled square surrounded by ancient 9pm.

The terrain thorough which we’ve driven in the last couple of days has been very flat with many vineyards either side.....and whilst we’re delighted to be here, we have yet to be consistently wowed by the places we’ve seen or the weather, which continues to be dull with patchy sunshine and bloomin’ cold.

Tuesday 24 April – A much brighter day, yet still cold. A walk around town revealed some interesting buildings yet watching a group of elderly Spanish men playing boule was more entertaining.....why must they shout at each other? Then onwards to Penaranda de Bracamonte (circled red on the map, therefore meant to be worthwhile) – it was rubbish! Vague remnants of what it might have once been, but not worth more than a walk in round and out. There wasn’t even a bar, which we’d had in mind to stop at for an Aperitif and Tappas. Oh one good thing was seeing more storks nesting on the church steeple – mum on the nest feeding babies and dad circling around....great.

So an en-route countryside stop for lunch and the decision to go west to Salamanca again (loved it 2 years ago). We’ve booked into a campsite for a few luxuries – washing machine, mains electricity and wi-fi. Tomorrow we’ll cycle the 6km riverside path into the city.

'til next time.....Hasta luego xxxxxxxxxx

Route so far: Portsmouth; Santander; Lierganes; Espinosa de los Monteros; Vega de Pas; San Miguel de Lunea; Ona; Briviesca; Burgos; Covarrubias; Santo Dominigo de Silos; Gumiell de Hazin; Yecla gorge; Penaranda de Duero; Aranda de Duero; Penafiel; Valladolid; Medina del Campo; Madrigal de las Altas Torres; Penaranda de Bracamonte; Salamanca

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