Pelayos de la Presa, a dirt track to nowhere and a broken oven

PelayosdelaPresa3_20141028

It is amazing how much can happen in a couple of days 🙂

As some of you will have seen on the map, we have back tracked a little and are now extending our journey further south than we had planned as we need to be back in Salamanca to pick up our new satelite box next week – Spanish TV here we come 🙂

It took us longer than expected to sort everything out on Monday morning so we didn’t actually leave Salamanca until late afternoon and with the clocks changing at the weekend we were up against it to arrive at our destination before dark…. but the sat nav decided to try and make the journey more difficuly, and longer than it needed to be.

As the skies were getting darker we turned off of what was already a very windy mountaineous road onto a single track, through the center of a village holding our breath each time we passed another turning and the road got narrower,  then after about 1km onto a road that looked like it went to no-where, and guess what …. it went nowhere.  The Sat Nav said 6km and 40 minutes to the destination, now I am not a rocket scientist, but short of swimming across a river pulling Mika I wasn’t sure how 6kms could take that long in a vehicle.  I started to gain confidence as we drove down the road and 40 minutes quickly turned to 30, then 20, then 10…. obviously the sat nav didn’t know the speed limit on the road so over estimated it …. we were both a bit happier And we had passed a vinyard or two … things were looking up until the Sat Nav told us to go straight on a dirt track.  Ignoring the idea of a dirt track at disk I carried on, time to destination changing to 20 minutes …. I figured we would just be able to make it before dark (we have been eating a lot of carrots)… and then we came across a cattle grid and a fence saying ‘Private Property’.

A discussion as to whether we really thought it was property property, and whether we could try it or not ended up in a five point turn and a journey back down the same road, looking hopefully to the left to see whether the dirt track the Sat Nav had originally pointed us down was actually a mirage and we missed the beautifully tarmacked road with flashing signs pointing towards the campsite … alas no!

So, rather than persevere with the same campsite we decided to try another (it was dark by this point) and thankfully within 30 minutes we arrived at Camping La Enfermeria which is just outside a small town called Pelayos de la Presa.  All of the campsites in Spain to this point have been open until about 9pm each day …. for some reason, apart from a dog barking continuously there wasn’t any sign of life (it was only 7pm despite being very dark).  Tired and hungry, we parked in the car park, settled into making some dinner (Bean curry …yum) and listening to the dog barking – deciding that we would deal with whether we should be parked where we were in the morning.

Thankfully the dog stopped barking by about 9pm and Keith managed to find the campsite manager who said we could stay where we were and talk to them in the morning.

The reason we were trying to stop in this area as it looked like it would be good for walking/cycling .. so this morning we set out on a walk through the countryside …

PelayosdelaPresa2_20141028

you have to admit … it is quite beautiful.

After a nice long walk Keith set in to chopping onions and preparing a quiche whilst I started the washing. When Keith tried to close the oven door after pre-heating it, it wouldn’t close.  It has dropped and now when you try to close it, it hits the ignitor button…..ah well, no more baking for a while 😦

We have been trying to find a Buerstner service center as we need to have the 12 month ‘habitation’ check carried out in the next few weeks, but the one in Madrid can’t even look at the problem for three weeks, hopefully the one in Gijon will have a shorter waiting list when it re-opens after holidays next week! Suddenly the need is a little more urgent … I wonder how many times one of us will bang our head on the oven door in the next few weeks?

Advertisements

10 weeks, 2800 miles in the motorhome, 1300km’s walking/cycling, a new approach to running and Salamanca – 23/10 – 27/10

….. We can’t decide if time is flying past or, going slowly … but we are definately beginning to lose track of it 🙂

It has been 10 weeks since we set off in the motorhome from Bagnoles de L’Orne and it is difficult to believe that we have crammed so much in… yet there is so much more to see!

We had heard from several people that Salamanca is somewhere not to miss, so we thought as we were ‘roughly’ in the area we would have a look and see what was so special.  We arrived at Don Quijote Campsite (16 euros all inclusive) late afternoon and settled into a quiet evening. The campsite is about 6 kms outside Salamanca and it is right at the end of the season, so there were only a few of us on the campsite including a British couple (Janet and Tim) travelling through Spain for 8 weeks or so with a Teepee … great fun 🙂

On Friday (I’d like to say morning, but I think it was about 12:15 by the time we actually left) we set off into Salamanca to have a look round – beating our own record of how much time it can take us to get out the door (I think that was partly doing the clothes washing, and part swapping stories with Janet 🙂 ) ….  the cycle ride in was along the river pretty flat and we soon found the market once we abandoned the bikes.

The indoor markets in Spain are a completely different level to France – they are cheap and have an abundance of fresh meat, fish and fruit and veg – whereas in France you pay a premium in ‘Les Halles’.  The market in Salamanca had a disproportionately high number of ‘Carniceria’s’ where they sell both fresh and cooked/cured meats. … I am not going to complain, but it was difficult to choose!

Once we had stocked up on food (Keith has turned into a Mule with his back pack) we continued our wander through the old town, admiring the beautiful buildings along with the red stone that everything appears to be built in here…..

Salamanca18_20141024

I think it is a little like Oxford or Cambridge in so far as all the university colleges are situated in beautiful buildings as well…. quite impressive

Salamanca13_20141024

All in all, if you like architecture …. its fairly nice to wander around – if you don’t, it is still nice to wander around and there are lots of nice looking restaurants and bars but as you can imagine, lots of tourists.

To cleanse my language palate between France and Spain I managed to finally start (and finish) ‘Born to Run’ which is one of the long distance running books that I bought before I left my last job in Worcester.  It talks about technique, history and the evolution of running, so coupled with ‘Eat and Run’ (The hint is in the title) which I read last year has finally swayed me to try and switch to forefoot running.  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, different people run in different ways, striking the ground with either the heel, mid foot, or forefoot first.  Research in the last five or so years shows that heel strike (my current approach) causes more injuries, and that in fact we should be moving (back) towards barefoot as all the support provided in trainers actually weakens the foot and over time is likely to lead to more injurys……  Anyway, not wishing to bore you, following my calf injury last year it is something I have been thinking about for a while, but as I am running more – I have decided to bite the bullet.  It isn’t something you can do over night … and as Keith found out a couple of years ago when he first started, you need to build it up slowly or you soon find out that you can’t walk, let alone run as your calf muscles and achilles cramp up and go on strike.  So…. Saturday 25th October was the beginning of my new approach to hopefully injury free, running.  For my first run I built in 8 minutes of my 34 minute run on forefoot in two minute bursts……. my calves hurt a little today, but we have also been on a long walk…. roll on tomorrow I am ready for you 🙂 ….. I will let you know how I get on, but if my initial run is anything to go by, I felt so light on my feet I am expecting to be running further and faster in no time ……. patience 😉

Anyway, Saturday was the ‘big match’ Madrid vs Barcelona …. so after my run we headed out to explore the local little village to see if there were any bars to watch it in (whilst also buying an unlabelled bottle of Rioja for 2 euros… just curious to see what it tastes like) and fell upon a motorhome/caravan accessories place.  We are still trying to see if there is any method to pick up Spanish TV as they have restricted who can get it on Satellite and we may have found a solution….albeit not completely legit.  The chap from the shop told us to come back on Monday morning and he can check it out further, so with a smile on our faces we headed back to the campsite for an afternoon of cleaning Mika (sometimes she needs a proper scrub) and then on to the bar on the campsite to watch the game.

Segovia and Avila – 22/10 – 23/10

Despite the cold air the sun was shining and as we left the village and headed towards Segovia all we could see was blue skies, low mist and a few mountains popping out the top of the mist and the odd clump of trees shining a gold/red colour … absolutely stunning.

We headed for an Aire which was right next to the bull ring and despite the lack of signposting the GPS was correct and directed us into a nice little parking area with the facilities to fill up and dispose of water and empty the toilet if necessary – all F.O.C.

We wandered into Segovia and were immediately struck by the beauty of the aquaduct – possibly one of the more unusual structures that I have seen and it stretches out from one side of the town to the other… totalling 818 meters and providing 170 arches, the highest of which is apparently 29 meters 🙂   It dates from either the end of the first century or the beginning of the second … and thankfully they appear to be keeping the structure in good order!

Segovia2_20141022

The rest of the town was equally beautiful with monestries, churches and cathedrals scattered in every direction …..even a synagogue to my surprise…However, I was more surprised to fall upon a kosher restaurant – needless to say I am afraid I didn’t go in, and it would be difficult to remain kosher here as every other restaurant / bar is offering up suckling pig on the menu ….. which smelt delicious …. I am definately not a good jew 😦

There is an enormous cathedral (in the background below), which apparently is the last gothic cathedral to have been built in Spain and a proper fairy tale castle dating from the 12th century

Segovia19_20141022

The town sits within a wall and is on top of a hill, so after we explored the town itself we walked through the valley surrounding it where the trees were just turning autumnal colours … very pretty.

After returning to motorhome for dinner we headed out to a local bar to watch the liverpool Madrid game.  The bar was packed and we had forgotton that as you near Madrid every drink comes with a free tapas…. I was full, Keith was happy 🙂

In the morning we headed towards Avila which is also a roman walled city and were planning on staying on another aire, but it had been taken over the a fairground.  We parked up closeby anyway and had a walk around as the ‘Romanesque’ wall was pretty impressive.  We both commented on the quantity of churches etc, but I have just read up that it has one of the highest number of churches (and bars and restaurants apparently) per capita….

With no place to stay we continued on our journey to Salamanca.  En route however, we were surprised to see 7 or 8 large vultures on a bridge going over the road.  Most of the land around here appears to corn and potatoes …. only very few cattle or sheep – but I am guessing something was in its last days.  It does make you wonder though …. where do Vultures live throughout the year, how do they know so quickly that something is dying and how far do they come to find a feed?

Dave… perhaps you know the answer?  They are beautiful creatures … although they do remind me of undertakers with big jackets 🙂

Bourges – 19/10 – 21/10 and Pesquera Del Duero 21/10 – 22/10

After visiting Haro Keith thought it might be nice to come and see Bourges as it was one of the main towns on the route to Santiago del Compestello … so we headed off towards it. We stopped along the way at Santa Domingo de la Calzada which is a walled town on the pilgrimage trail and unsurprisingly has a beautiful monestry and church…. I feel a bit of repetition coming on over the next few days/weeks!

We got to the campsite (Fuentes Blancas – 16 euros a night all inclusive) just outside Bourges mid-afternoon and struggled to get in the entrance as there were so many people trying to get parked to go into the bar/restaurant which was part of the campsite and is right in the middle of a national park. After a bit of wiggling, we parked up and went for a walk through the park, admiring the Spanish in their Sunday attire despite the 25/26 degree heat.

Monday morning I set out for a run round the park and not only was I surprised by the cold … it took me 3km’s to get any kind of warmth into my hands…. But also by the quantity of people out for a morning walk. Not wishing to be age-ist, but at one point I felt like the entire retired population of Bourges was walking towards me – I felt quite threatened 🙂

We then set off for a walk into Bourges itself and as the sun broke through the clouds it started to warm up and show us what a beautiful city it is.

Bourges1_20141020

The Cathedral is gothic in its style and the detail is stunning, with certain parts looking a bit Sagrada Familiar-esque.

Bourges2_20141020

Following on from this mornings activity, we are a little concerned however about the habits of the pensioners in Bourges…. Whilst walking just outside the town centre a little old lady came up to me and quietly asked me if I liked Jam. She explained she only had one jar, but if I wanted it, I could have it for 1.50 euros. I am not sure if there is an underground cult in Bourges using the pensioners to pedal ‘Jam’ … or whether she really was sincere and wanted to sell me a jar for 1.50 euros. I politely declined …. So we will never know, although part of me really wants to go back tomorrow to find out if she is still there trying to offload the same pot onto someone else 🙂

Pesquera Del Duero 21/10 – 22/10

We set off from the campsite just before mid-day (we are just trying to balance it out for all the people who decide to get up and leave at 8am…) and headed in the direction of yet another area of Spain that produces wine ….. we are spoilt 🙂

The area is situated in Castillo de Leon – just East of Vallodolid and it is between 800m and 1000m. The vines, like Rioja have a beautiful red tinge to them differentiating them from the green leaves we saw in France making them look very autumnal…if I can get a decent photo I will post it up.

We had selected another small independent vineyard from the Espana Discovery book – Bodegas Vallarin – and this time we weren’t disappointed. Despite arriving during lunch time (15:30) the owner accepted us in, talked us through the wines they sold and we bought another 6 bottles (two of each of three different varieties) of varying price and level…. This is going to be an interesting tasting session! She was incredibly friendly and chuffed that we had chosen to visit their vinyard and said that we were more than welcome to stay and she also pointed us towards a trail/cycle path which stretches for 39km along the river.

Unfortunately this bodega doesn’t export as they are quite small…. But once we have had a chance to try them properly I will add them to the blog ….. just in case you are passing by 🙂

Haro – 17/10 – 19/10

We left Bilbao and headed towards Rioja doing chores along the way in the form of picking up some ‘accessories’ for the motorhome and shopping. Both of which took longer than expected – there is something about going round a supermarket in a new country that means that it has to take at least three times longer than normal to get round.

However, once on the road we headed into and then over the mountains to our first ‘Espana Discovery´ stop over … or so we thought. We pulled up outside Bodega San Sixto in a small town called Yecora just before 6pm to be told that we could buy 12 bottles of Rioja for 21 Euros or 6 bottles of Rioja Crianza (slightly more mature) for 18 euros, but we couldn’t stay. When we explained that the book said we could stay – in typical Spanish style he shrugged his shoulders and pointed us in the direction of the town and said he was sure there were plenty of places that we could park up for the night without being disturbed – but he couldn’t help us with anything except the wine.

So we decided to opt for 6 bottles of Crianza ‘Campo Lengo 2012’, paid our 18 euros at the front door and went round to the back door to pick up our goods. We drove in the direction he had pointed us and came to a stop as the roads quickly narrowed as they twisted and turned and there was no way we were going to be able to get through. So, we had to abandon efforts and submit to another hours driving through Rioja countryside to arrive at Haro, which is apparently the capital of Rioja.

The campsite is called ‘De Haro’ and is 16 euros a night all inclusive. It was packed with Brits. We couldn’t work out why it was so popular despite the views being fantastic ….

Haro1_20141018

but after speaking to a few people evidently it is a good stop over before you go back on the Santander Ferry and is conveniently located for stocking up on wine 🙂

On Saturday morning we headed into the town for a look around, buying some ‘Pimientos de Padron’ (the little green peppers that the Spanish serve as a tapas with a little salt) from the market, which the lady described as being a little hot ….. we cooked half of them on the bar b q later and they were delicious…. but the last one almost beat me as it was so hot…. we shall see what the others are like tomorrow 🙂

In the afternoon we headed off for a 30km cycle ride through the countryside covering some of the same ground as the Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compestello, crossing vinyards and through some beautiful countryside with the mountains as a backdrop. We later tried to go to do some tastings, but we surprised that the wine that they sell in the ‘bodegas’ in town is all the 10 euro + (and +++++ in some cases) – perhaps my lack of taste, but I am perfectly happy with a Rioja which costs 5 euros (or less) and don’t see the need to spend 20 or 30 euros on a bottle, so we abandoned the trip and went back to the motorhome to drink cheap Rioja and eat some appetizers before dinner … our own little tasting J

Bilbao – 14/10 – 17/10

A little while ago … well about 70 years ago to be precise during WW2, a young gentleman in the American Navy came to London and made acquaintances with my grandparents. It was around the time when my mum was born and his wife was also expecting. Somehow (I am sure either my mum or Barbara are going to add some information here …) my mum and his daughter (Barbara) started to be pen pals and the letters flowed between New Jersey and London. Never having met, when we shipped our Motorhome to New York in 1987 (you can do the maths), they met for the first time and since then we have all stayed in contact on and off with me making frequent trips for work to NY and my parents visiting New Jersey and Barbara on work trips to London, but as we all travelled less with work I hadn’t seen them for a good few years and my parents even less. When we started the blog I emailed Barbara and Vic to let them know of our travels and received an almost instantaneous response to tell us of a trip to Spain, starting in Bilbao on the 15th October …… so here we all are, fate making us meet in Bilbao for a couple of days of culture and good food and the obligatory few glasses of red wine!

Bilbao_20141015

We travelled from San Sebastian to Bilbao via the coastal route, which to say was a little windy would be an understatement, but the views were stunning. If you are planning to travel to this part of the world and aren’t in a hurry – we definitely recommend it.

Bilbao has grown over the last twenty or so years into a beautiful city. Despite Northern Spain (and Bilbao specifically) having had a bad reputation due to ETA they have invested a huge amount of money in developing Bilbao and making it an attractive place for people to visit. Pays Vasco is still hugely independent and like Catalunya (and Scotland) it would like to be governed separately from Spain, but the violence and bombings has all but disappeared. It is definitely more common to hear their language (Euskera) (it is a language, not a dialect) which is taught in schools, than it is to hear Castillian (or Spanish as we know it), but they do all speak Castillian as well.

Bilbao12_20141016

There is no doubt that the Guggenheim has had something to do with the increase of popularity of the area, but I think it was probably the beginning of the snowball. This is the third time we have been here and even in the last 7 years it has changed dramatically. There are still bars that look like they are run by ETA with pictures on the wall of their fallen warriors, but they appear to be few and far between … or they are now in back rooms so the general public can’t see them. The city is has a beautiful – although still a bit rough around the edges – old town and a nicely refined new town – a really nice place to stay for a long weekend/few days.

BilbaoMundaka3_20141016

The campsite we are staying at (Camping Portuondo) is about 30kms outside Bilbao in a small coastal town called Mundaka as the ‘Aire’ looking over the city is unfortunately closed. It is a ‘Premier Class’ campsite and the views are spectacular and it has a very expensive restaurant on site ….. not what us campers are used to at all.

When we arrived they were switching their hot water system so we managed to get a discounted rate of 11 euros a night, however the normal full price is 28 euros inclusive. There is a bus stop on the doorstep and a train station 1km away – so travelling into Bilbao was pretty cheap and easy … it just took about an hour 😦

It has been lovely to catch up with my parents and Barbara and Vic over the last couple of days …. Hopefully the rest of the trip is as enjoyable for them…. Just a shame that we couldn’t arrange much sun shine for them … I hear it is coming this weekend 🙂

San Sebastian 12/10 – 14/10

SanSebastian2_20141013

As with our odd way of life, we agreed that when we cross the border we would switch from speaking French to each other to speaking in Spanish. Keith’s brain is much faster than mine and has been trying to switch for the last few days … using an increasing number of Spanish words mixed in with the French, but to switch back to using Spanish which should be the stronger of the two languages comes with its own complications 🙂

As we drove across the border – let’s not beat about the bush, there wasn’t a border, there was a Spanish police car parked at the side of the road with two policeman hanging around next to it, I thought they were just doing a routine check…. no signs, nothing. I am showing my age now aren’t I? – anyway, as we drove across the border I switched the sat nav from French to Spanish and we started speaking in a new language which has been named ‘Sprench’ …. I am sure it will get better over the next few days, but it is odd how the mistakes that we both make are now using a French word by mistake rather than a Spanish one, whereas 6 months ago it was the other way round.

We headed towards a campsite just outside San Sebastian at the top of a hill called Camping Igueldo (16.50 euros without electricity). As we drove up the hill we were both thinking the same….. do we walk into San Sebastian or Cycle? Either way it is going to be hard coming back up. The campsite said it was 4.5km into San Sebastian, it was actually nearly 7km… and nearly 300m up. We have been to San Sebastian before about 7 years ago whilst we were living in Barcelona and whilst here we did actually walk to the castle that sits on top (not as on top as the campsite, but most of the way up) of the hill… if nothing else we get good views!

After a good nights’ sleep we decided to cycle down into town (very quickly) and have a walk around. The old town is really lovely and is pretty much made up of pincho bars and cafes. For those of you who don’t know what Pinchos are, they are small tapas/finger food of about two bites. Most Pinchos come in the form of a slice of bread/roll with something on top … perhaps stuffed pepper, tortilla, prawns or jamon but generally they are quite tasty. North of Spain is known for its Pinchos (also spelt with an ‘x’) and people will eat a couple mid-morning to tie them over until lunch (at 3pm), lunch on them, or eat them in the evening in a bar with friends.

After a coffee and a good look around we returned to the bikes for the ride home…… it was a long hard hill but it was aided by the beautiful views of mountains on one side and sea stretching out on the other, but we got there …. me slightly slower than Keith, but still, cycling all the way :). I am not sure if the hard work up the hill had anything to do with it, but the showers on the campsite were the best we have found yet – clean, lots of hot water, spacious, lots of space to hang your clothes up without getting them wet ….simple things eh?