The Galician coast ….. (ok, and a little bit of Asturias)

I am not sure that there is a much better title for this one as we have been meandering our way along the coast and although we have mostly been lucky with the weather over the last week, the days when we haven’t been have really made up for it…..

After leaving Cudillero we thought we would stop at a couple of small coastal towns to have a look round whilst the sun was still shining.  Unfortunately, not all coastal towns are built for motorhomes and we ended up driving all the way through and out the other side of Luarca, unable to find anywhere to stop.  We were however slightly luckier with our next port of call, Tapia de Casariego, a small fishing village with not much else except waves to attract surfers and a lovely Aire to park the motorhome in … what a lovely place for lunch 🙂

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After lunch we headed on to Foz which is another sleepy coastal town with lots of walking along the seafront and river, a handful of bars and a place to sleep with stunning views…..

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As the sun was going down we were joined by another English couple (Peter and Di) and their Jack Russell -Taylor, who are on their way back home having spent the last three months travelling through Spain, Portugal and Italy. It is always great to meet other people who are as motivated by food and wine as we are, so much so that they feel the need to cycle up any mountain that happens to be within a ten mile radius 🙂  Only joking, Peter and Di are slightly more serious cyclists than we are (professionals vs tourists), both on and off road, but they share the same enthusiasm and sense of adventure that we have to experience new things. It was great to share travelling stories both within Europe and further afield and a shame to part ways after two nights. I was impressed by Di’s optimism wearing shorts whilst the clouds were looming over head, but hope that the weather was better for them heading East to Gijon and then up into the Picos, than it was for us going West.

We had been told that the tallest cliffs in Europe were not too far and the route was stunning – unfortunately, we will have to take the tourist offices’ word for it, as it started to rain really heavily just before mid-day on Saturday and didn’t stop until 4pm on Sunday. It was odd, as although we were fairly low, so were the clouds and it felt like we were travelling through mountain villages rather than seaside towns. On the rare occasion during the journey when the cloud lifted we spotted what would be some beautiful places, Porto de Baqueiro being the one that shone through the rain more than anywhere else – it was so beautiful, we agreed that we would come back when the weather is slightly better. We perservered and carried on to Carino (which is near the cliffs we had been aiming for), had a walk around and couldn’t see the sea at the end of the beach, let alone anything else so headed back to the motorhome and battened down the hatches as we were soaked.

Waking to more rain, we contemplated hanging around to see if it dried out enough for us to be able to take in some of the sights, but decided to head to A Coruna where if nothing else we could spend the afternoon in a nice restaurant 🙂

A Coruna is a big city with a lot of coast. It is shaped like a hammer head and there has been a lot of money invested in maintaining the promenades which is great if you are into walking, running or cycling. To give you an idea of distance, we stayed by the Hercules tower on the first night which is right in the center of the top of the ‘hammer head’, and moved to the left hand bottom end of the hammer for our second night which was just over 6kms …all with lovely crashing waves 🙂 – oddly, it doesn’t feel like a big city, perhaps it is the sea!

We were only in A Coruna to pick up my GPS running watch which I had to send back to Polar as it was broken and this was the closest distributor they could send it back to – so watch in hand we set off to Fisterra and ‘Cabo Finisterre’- the most Westerly point of Europe – before the weather breaks again.

Fisterra is a small fishing village which has been supplemented by tourism due to the Cabo Finisterre only being 3.5km away. We parked up close to the fishing port which is roughly what the ‘Aire’ information said, but it doesn’t look quite right so will wait and see if we get a knock in the door in the night to move us on.

We then set off for a wander to the end of Europe….

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Not really a lot to say, a few people had left their walking boots after finishing the Finisterre part of the Santiago del Compestello path, others had left padlocks or pieces of clothing …. I am not quite sure what we were expecting – It’s a bit like when we crossed the equator for the first time in South America with my parents in 1987 and suddenly in the middle of nowhere on a dirt track (which was the pan-american highway) there was a monument – to be fair at least here in Fisterra, there was a lighthouse with some massive horns (for making noise … not spearing things)

The countryside around here is beautiful as it has the great combination of rough sea, sandy beaches and rolling hills (some may even be little mountains at a stretch!)

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Gijon and Oviedo – Part 2 and more….

Well we have been doing a few loop the loops recently as some of you will have seen if you have been looking at the map …. but we are now on the move again along the coast.

Mika had her ‘habitation’ check which turned out to be squirting water at her from different directions to ensure she didn’t leak ….. and she doesn’t leak … so 100 euros, guarantee book stamped and two hours later we were on our way again – all the fuss of finding somewhere to carry out the check and it was pretty quick and painless.

Whilst waiting for the appointment we spent a few more days in Gijon exploring, and on Saturday night we headed out to an area where they have several very good ‘Sidrerias’ just off of Avenida de la Constitucion that we found last time we were in Gijon.

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During our ‘down time’ we have also learnt to play Canasta, which we have been talking about doing for ages as we play several different card games and fancied a bit of a change – not bad …. just a few more rules to remember than rummy 🙂

On Tuesday we took a drive up the peninsular to visit two fishing villages Luanco (which according to the welcome sign when we entered is a ‘geriatric town’) and Candes – both were a bit average to be honest …. and the former lacked the quantity of geriatics we were expecting … perhaps they had gone into hibernation for the winter!

Finally, this morning we left Gijon for pastures a new and managed to get all of 25km’s when we stopped in Aviles for a walk around.  Aviles is a pretty town with lots of history and beautiful buildings and they have a exhibition on which, similar to the pigs, cows and lions we have had in the UK, they have painted pregnant ladies torso’s randomly distributed around the town….

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Our final destination for the day was Cudillero, another fishing village which we have visited previously with Miguel and Elisa (but we had forgotten its name).

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We are staying about 4km’s outside Cudillero in a Hotel/Restaurant car park which offers motorhomes overnight stay and facilities. … perhaps we will get a bit further tomorrow 🙂

Oviedo and Gijon – Part 1 – 9/11 – 14/11

After a long chat with Carlos, the owner of the ‘Aire’ in Leon we headed on our way towards the mountains, promising to be back to visit the caves and more of the area. Carlos was so friendly it felt like we had become family over the weekend, he insisted that we call him if we have any problems at any point in Spain, whether motorhome related or not….a top guy.

We were planning to take the scenic route to Oviedo, but as it has snowed recently and on Sunday morning it was -2 when Keith went for a run, we decided to play it safe and go on the toll road which to be fair wasn’t too bad….

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However, following a 4 km tunnel we soon arrived into a slightly more dramatic cold and wet looking mountain range ….

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We were heading to Oviedo as somehow or another Mika is now 12 months old and needs to be serviced. We tried several places near Madrid and in Salamanca but unfortunately with the ‘crisis’ Spain doesn’t have many motorhomes, even less Burstner approved service centres and even less who appear to want to deal with us. We had been advised that there was a place between Oviedo and Gijon who we had been trying to contact but they had been closed for annual holiday. for the last couple of weeks. Finally when I did manage to get through, the lady who answered the phone to me wasn’t particularly helpful, but assured me that if we came into the showroom she was sure they would be able to sort it (whatever ‘it’ was) out…… not what I would call a promising start, but nevertheless we decided that we were best to give it a go rather than bypass it and leave it until Portugal.

The ‘Aire’ in Oviedo was about 6kms outside in the same direction as the motorhome place, so we arrived on Sunday afternoon, went for a wander around the ‘suburb’ before it started to rain and settled in for a quiet night. When we arrived at the motorhome place (Caravanas Principados) on Monday morning we were surprised to see three Burstner 55 motorhomes in the showroom … things were looking up! The guy who we spoke to was much more helpful, in fact apologetic that he couldn’t fit us in this week, but would be happy to put the service in the diary for next Monday (17th).

So, with a week to kill in one of our favourite parts of Spain we decided to walk into Oviedo for the afternoon and then we agreed we would move to Gijon for the rest of the week.

Oviedo is a university town with a beautiful old town. In the summer it is a little touristy and can get quite expensive – but at this time of year you can get some lovely food, cider and wine at very reasonable prices. We stopped for a glass of wine whilst out and about and a large glass (to be fair it is just what they decide to give you) was 1 Euro 10 each – cheaper than coffee.

Before heading off to Gijon, Keith cooked up a delicious breakfast of Morcilla, Faranato, Baked Beans (we still have a couple of tins) and fried eggs….. luckily I had been for a run in the morning as there was enough lard to sink a battle ship – but incredibly tasty. Unfortunately the Faranato had a few spots of mould on the outside (must be something to do with the warm weather we are having) so we will need to finish it in the next few days.

Gijon is only 20kms from Oviedo, but it is on the coast and it was nice to see the sea again. Like Oviedo, we have been here three times and love it, although thinking about it we weren’t quite sure why until we remembered the food, wine and cider 🙂 It isn’t a particularly beautiful place, as although it has a very long promenade covering two bays and a very pretty old town, it also has a massive port and a lot of industry and has apparently recently been named as one of the most polluted cities in Spain.

We parked in an Aire almost on the beach next to the Port for the first two nights, which once the traffic died down (and the helicopter stopped hovering above us) was actually quite peaceful. The walk into the centre was about 3.5kms, but there were lots of local shops, bars and restaurants close-by so we had everything we needed on our doorstop and better still, no tourists. To give you an example of the kind of food you get here we went out to one of the local restaurants for lunch on Wednesday where 9 euros a head gave us a litre of wine, A starter of Chicken Soup with noodles, then a choice between Spaghetti Carbonara or Baby squid, tomato and potato stew, following that a choice between Chicken escalope or Sardines with chips all finished off with a choice of homemade desserts or ice cream or yoghurt and coffee. I chose ‘Tart du Turron’ which is Nougat Tarte ….. probably one of the best dessert I have had in a long time … coming close to my Tarte au Citron 🙂  I can’t really explain the flavour / consistency without making it sound a bit sickly, but it had a very light sponge base, an almondy/ nougat cream mousse which was light but nutty topped with a caramalised nutty crust …. as I said difficult to explain, but yummy.  Keith opted for chocolate cake which was definitely laced with something and was also delicious. It was surprising that we could actually walk out of the restaurant .. I have no idea how they manage to eat this kind of food every day, although it does explain why a lady we met in the laundrette in the morning said she put on 8kg when she first moved to Gijon 🙂 …..

As we are only supposed to stay on the Aire for 48 hours we decided to move to a car park at the other end of town for a night where you can park motorhomes overnight. Whereas the Aire and the Port are at one end of one beach in Gijon, the car park is right at the other end of the other beach in a park looking out over the beach… very tranquil (if it had water and waste facilities we would stay here longer than just a couple of nights).

We headed out on Thursday night to try out some of the local ‘Sidra’ bars on this side of town and including a slight diversion to a wine bar for a couple of glasses of very nice ‘house red’ each at 1 euro 20 a glass, we managed to feed ourselves and have plenty of wine/cider for under 15 euros … now, you wouldn’t call the bar snacks particularly healthy but we had a good variety including chicken wings, chorizo, tortilla, Jamon and Cheese on baguette and chips – we will endeavour to eat more vegetables tomorrow 🙂

A bit more of Salamanca and Leon – 4/11-9/11

On Tuesday night Keith made good use of the sparking new Spanish Satellite box and watched the Liverpool vs Real Madrid game whilst I almost threw my computer across the motorhome as Firefox was playing silly buggers – a problem finally resolved by un-installing and re-installing it….. I can see why people hate technology.

As agreed, on Wednesday morning we headed over to ‘Caravan Sitmon’ who parked us up in a garage, plugged us in to their electrics so we didn’t get too cold (it was 2 degrees), and piece by piece dismantled the fridge freezer/oven unit so that they could take the oven out and have a look at it. After about an hour they disappeared off with the oven into the workshop, and a little more than an hour after that they returned with what looked like a working oven (or at least it had a closed door) 🙂 …. it was looking good as they started to fit everything back together we were feeling pleasantly surprised that we would actually be done and away before lunch … amazing.

However…. when we went to check the fridge freezer/oven unit once everything was back in place there wasn’t any power to the unit – as they hadn’t touched the electrics the engineers were a little surprised, but straight on the phone to Madrid where after a bit more diagnostics they found that somehow during the process of moving the unit the main control box had gone …. luckily we didn’t have too much in the fridge or freezer :(. So, now fridge, freezer and oven-less we were in the hands of Dometic Madrid who were sending out a new part. The guy who owned Caravan Sitmon was incredibly apologetic, but it was just one of those things – it wasn’t their fault and thankfully he really pushed Dometic to send the part as quickly as possible. Meanwhile he offered us a secure place to park up between the family buildings (they have two blocks with each sibling owning flats above the garages/workshops and sharing the long stretch of grassed land behind the buildings for the dogs to run free on), electricity and a place to empty the toilet.

As we now had at least another couple of days to kill we boringly (but necessarily) managed to catch up with the washing (down to the last pair of socks….) and then on Thursday caught the bus into Salamanca and spent another day wandering around and exploring it further. Thinking we would at least be waiting until Friday afternoon for the part to arrive we were surprised to see the engineer arrive at 10am tools in hand ready to fit it. Amazingly (we have got used to the laid back Spain) we actually took longer to pack up the motorhome than they did to get everything working and sort out the paperwork. Somehow he had persuaded Dometic to cover everything under warrantee despite them telling him that hinges weren’t covered and we left without paying a penny, just leaving a bottle of wine and some chocolates to say thank you.

As it was fairly early, we decided to set off for Leon which is just under 200km north of Salamanca. We had found an ‘Aire’ online which looked interesting and the guy who owned Sitmon had also printed out the details for it as it is one of his friends who runs it. Unfortunately when we arrived there wasn’t anyone there… we obviously should have phoned ahead. Several phone calls later and a trip to a café in the centre of Leon, we picked a key fob from a waiter and settled ourselves in for the night making our first batch of rolls in a few weeks (now the oven is working), in what is basically a secure parking lot with facilities about 7km outside Leon on the edge of an industrial estate!

In the morning, after checking in with the owner of the ‘Aire’ we headed into Leon on the bikes. Leon is a well-proportioned city, split between an old walled part, and a really nice new part – both with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Initially we walked towards ‘Hostel San Marcus’ which used to be for the pilgrims and military to stop and rest their weary feet, but now has been restored impeccably and from what we saw of it, is the most beautiful hotel/museum. If you are looking for somewhere special to stay… I would say this is the place. If you don’t have the budget but are passing through Leon definitely go and have a look – the room to the right just inside the entrance to the hotel has the most beautiful carved wood ceiling and the courtyard is stunning.

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As it was so cold we felt that it was important to stop off in a couple of the bars to warm ourselves up whilst we were exploring and the ‘Barrio Humedo’ was heaving with people taking in a drink and ‘tapas’– the atmosphere was great…. just didn’t really want to get on the bikes and cycle back in the rain 😦

La Alberca – 2/11 – 4/11

We met a lovely English couple in Caceres who were on their way to the Canary Islands for the winter and they had just come from a little place called ‘La Alberca’ and said that it was an interesting town with shop after shop of ‘Jamon’, so as it was roughly on our route back to Salamanca we thought we would give it a go.

We knew that the weather was due to change on Sunday, but thankfully we managed to enjoy the beautiful scenery whilst driving up to La Alberca which sits at about 1050m above sea level. The winding roads twisted through the valleys and then up the side of a mountain giving us a fantastic view of an autumnal mixture of colours and textures of trees and shrubs. When we arrived, we parked in the ‘Aire’ which is a large car park just above the town which was very quiet with water and waste facilities for when we needed them…. all free of charge.

Optimistically, we set out to walk with camera over the shoulder walking towards the grey clouds which were closing in on the trees above us. Within ten minutes it had started to rain, thankfully we had the waterproofs in the bag so we continued up to the ‘view point’ …. Unfortunately only to ‘view’ very little 😦

On our way back down the hill it stopped raining so we continued down to have a quick walk round the town – a proper higgledy piggledy mountain village with shop after shop of ‘Jamon’ legs hanging from the ceiling – I did joke and say that if we are going to get stuck in the mountains somewhere I think this is the place … lots of the best quality ham, good cheese, some interesting breads and cakes and good wine …..

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We settled in for a quiet night and woke to a dry morning although the grey clouds were looming in the valley. After our normal morning Tabata exercise we headed back into the town to buy some Jamon Iberica de Bellota (That is ham from Iberican pigs which have been fed only on Acorns), Morcilla (Black Pudding made with breadcrumbs and spices), Salchicha (Dried Sausage), Farinato (A local speciality which sounds disgusting when I tell you that the ingredients are breadcrumbs, pig fat and spices, but is actually quite tasty), and Rosquillas (which are shaped like a donut, but cooked in different ways to either turn out like a tasteless Yorkshire pudding with a bit of icing on top, very light short bread or a bit of a stale slightly greasy donut ….. we would recommend the ‘very light shortbread’ version which had a very slight Aniseed flavour …. although I am sure you probably guessed that we weren’t quite so keen on the other two from my description!

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We got back to the motorhome as the clouds were settling in just above us, covering the forest. And just as we were talking about going for a nice long walk the skies opened and wind start to blow ……. Three games of settlers, several cups of tea and hot chocolate, and one book finished later and it was still raining so we settled in for the night and switched to wine 🙂

We decided to cook some Morcilla and Farinato to eat with our ‘French’ style dinner of Cheese, meats and bread – throwing in a tomato salad to make us feel a little better about the pig fat we were consuming …. Delicious – the Morcilla was particularly good with a really lovely spiced flavour.

The rain and wind continued through the night and for once the weather forecast was correct – unfortunately – it was cold…. So cold we actually turned the heating on. It must have dropped to nearly zero over night as at 10am this morning is was still only 3 degrees…. We were lucky it wasn’t snow, or were we….?

Once we emptied and refilled the necessary bits we set off back towards Salamanca to see if the Satellite unit was ready and find out whether we could get someone to look at the oven door. The box hadn’t been activated when we arrived, but they pointed us in the direction of a Domestic service centre where we found an engineer who started taking the oven door apart but soon stopped after he realised he wasn’t getting to the problem, made a call and told us to come back in the morning when another engineer would be able to disconnect everything and take it apart bit by bit to get to the cause of the problem …. My worry is that there were parts of the conversation that included ‘disconnecting the gas from the unit’ and ‘taking the fridge freezer unit out’ – both of which are completely reasonable …. but Keith and I both looked at each other and we were both thinking the same ….. ‘we really want to get this fixed, but what problems are they going to introduce when they start taking it apart’ and ‘is anything going to be working by the time they tell us that the part will take 2 months to get in and they can’t put it back together until they get it’?

…. Confidence – to be fair the guy who was looking at it talked the talk and looked pretty knowledgeable about what he was doing, so watch this space….

We got a call when we were leaving the Domestic engineer to say that the unit was now active, so we headed back to pick it up and as it was now getting dark, decided to stay the night on the entrance to the campsite we stayed at last week as it has now closed for the winter….

Toledo and Caceres – 29/10 – 2/11

Toledo – 29/10 – 31/10

A couple of people had mentioned Toledo to us and reading up on the history it sounded like an interesting place to visit, so despite not originally planning to venture this far inland as we have a week or so to explore slightly further afield we thought we would pay it a visit.

Looking at the options for parking we found a campsite that sounded below average with an above average price, but after looking on the ‘Aire’ website we found that we were able to stay overnight in the car park opposite the bus station, there weren’t any facilities but it suited us perfectly for a night or two.

Toledo was hovering above us on the hill top, with the river snaking around it like a moat, protected by a beautifully restored wall and each entry point by double gates.

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Despite the beautifully restored castle (now a youth hostel) on the opposite hill top and dramatic countryside around it, the town itself still shone brighter with so many beautiful buildings and warren-like roads twisting through the old town. Watching some of the cars driving through the streets made us wonder how they even got there in the first place … a little like when someone dislocates their shoulder to get out of a strait-jacket … there must be a trick in there somewhere.

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Toledo is apparently well known for making marzipan biscuits, swords, knives and historically being one of the first cities where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together alongside each other dating back to the 11th century. There is still evidence of a large Jewish presence with several synagogues in the Jewish quarter, although as with most Spanish towns there was a church, cathedral or monastery on every other corner …. The church is responsible for making a large percentage of the marzipan biscuits which help feed (excuse the pun) the tourist industry …. I am sure there is something wrong with selling sweets to children (ok, and adults) for the benefit of the church, but I will leave it at that…

The cathedral is however impressive – unfortunately the sun had started to close in on us on Wednesday and they were preparing for filming on Thursday …. So the photos aren’t quite as good as I would have hoped…

Caceres – 31/10 – 2/11

We arrived at the ‘Aire’ which is about 500m outside the town centre and were thankful we arrived when we did as we got one of the last two spaces and as the afternoon/evening went on more and more motorhomes came and either parked round the corner on a bus stand, or disappeared off into the wilderness.

The Aire is situated on a municipal park / sports area, so Friday night, being Halloween we had lots of curious kids pop their heads round for ‘truc o trato’ Trick or Treat. They were very friendly and after we had disposed of all of our child friendly reserves they were polite enough when we said we didn’t have anything else and disappeared.

Whereas Toledo is pristine and well renovated, Caceres feels a little more like a real town – although, walking through the old walled city it still feels like it has been put up for a show and no-one actually lives there.

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Although the Aire says you can only stay 24 hours, we decided to move the motorhome to do a different spot, hoping that as 1st November is a National Holiday no-one will come round and we can spend a bit more time wandering around Caceres and try out some tapas bars tonight 🙂

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For those of you who are curious ….

  • The 2 euro bottle of wine without a label which we bought in Salamanca was average upon opening, but turned into a good table wine …..
  • The calf muscles were good enough to do another run two days later and I have now done 5 runs in total and I am up to 12 minutes of fore foot running ….. going well so far and I am still smiling 🙂