Beautiful Picos de Europa – a slightly hairy drive…!

We left Don Quijote on Saturday having had to decide to travel further than we normally would, 206 miles (apparently..) as we were struggling to find any campsites open at our preferred distance, which is about 150 miles.

So I input the co-ordinates for Camping Picos de Europa in Avin-Onis.  I was a little surprised at the way the satnav took us, but thought ‘she’s not let us down yet..’.  So we found ourselves heading towards Valladolid and then Palencia and Fromista, a town on the map surrounded by a green box, so we decided to stop there for lunch.  What an interesting place, 4 churches and most properties seemed to be made from wattle and daub (we could see the straw in the very fabric of most of them, though many had been rendered and so looked much newer).  Unfortunately we couldn’t visit any of the churches so we moved on after a short walk.

We then found ourselves heading towards the mountains and very soon it started to snow.  This was great fun at first, we kept stopping to take photos as the scenery was spectacular (and Calv still had his shorts on..).

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The roads remained clear at first but it stopped being fun when we were negotiating the narrow, windy roads high in the mountains and suddenly the roads weren’t clear.  When Calv swears when he sees the road ahead – I start to worry.  I told him that I loved him and kept my mouth shut until we cleared the snowy roads.

However our woes weren’t over!  Having gone through a very pretty town, Potes, from where several walks into the mountains start, we thought we were just 2 miles from our destination.  It wasn’t to be as, it would appear, that I’d managed to feed the wrong co-ordinates into the SatNav (I still don’t know how 😦 ) and we were actually still 40 miles (still through the mountains and gorges – beautiful, but time was now getting on..) away.

We arrived at about 6.15 (8 hours after leaving Don Quijote) and the campsite, Picos de Europa, was perfectly acceptable with a very warm welcome.

The next day we went for a walk towards the small town of Avin.  There were plenty of old, abandoned houses again, but also an attraction, the Glacial Fauna Museum, unfortunately closed until July (and then only open to September).  This is a series of caves with skeletons, including of woolly mammoths and rhinoceri dating back to the paleolithic age.

This walk didn’t take too long so we decided to head up the hill/mountain behind the campsite.  There was a road going almost to the top and, steep as it was in places, we saw a Mitsubishi Shogun pulling a cattle trailer making light work of it!  Very impressive as we were, both, struggling to walk up it! There were also cattle roaming free, going wherever they wanted – you could of course hear them coming though as they were wearing bells.

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There were some beautiful views from up there.  We went off piste though and along muddy narrow paths, finding yet more abandoned buildings on route.  We ended up having to come down an extremely steep section, with me holding on to Calv’s shoulders, to get back to the road.

We then ate in the campsite bar together with a couple of other couples – all on different tables but chatting to each other of course!

Time to move on though the next day – a much shorter journey though at just about 40 miles, bringing us to our final, and possibly our favourite of all, site – Caravanning Oyambre

This site is situated about halfway between San Vincente de la Barquera and Comillas.  We visited both in the 2 full days we had there, cycling to San Vincente the 1st day (and being stopped by the Guardia Civil for not wearing our cycle helmets.  He also gave Calv a hard time for visiting Spain yet not speaking Spanish… )  So once Calv had returned to the campsite to collect our helmets, and thereby avoiding a fine of 100 Euros each, we carried on to San Vincente de la Barquera, an old town with a castle and church and fishing harbour.  It also has a nice beach and another one on the estuary, where we sat for a couple of hours before returning to the van.  We cycled 11 miles in total (Calv a little more).

(The cycle helmet law in Spain allows you to go helmetless in towns and cities, but you have to wear them on any urban road where the speed limit is 50kmph or more ).

On our final day in Spain we decided to cycle the other way to Comillas.  Unusually there was a decent pathway the majority of the way, and we chose to use this as it was devoid of pedestrians.  Our ride took us along the estuary

and past a couple of viewing points until we came across Comillas and immediately could see a palace, Palacio de Sobrellano and a university pontificia.  We tried to visit the palace but you could only visit by the tour and there wasn’t another starting for 20 minutes.  So we had a look around the outside of the palace and the church next to it before moving on through a different park entrance to the town proper.

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Here we had our 1st sight of a house by Antoni Gaudi, El Capricho.  We found a tree to tie the bikes to in the square where the Town Hall is situated (there is a severe lack of places to lock up to, we have found anyway, in Northern Spain).  We then wandered a little and found the historic square and the church before settling down for some lunch.  I actually had Chocolate and churros and, this time, I was served nice fresh churros and I ordered a Spanish hot chocolate to dip them into – I have to say I really enjoyed them!

Now it was time to visit El Capricho 🙂 At 5 Euros each it is definitely worth it; small but perfectly formed!  Created by Gaudi it has everything you would expect, little details such as a bee playing a guitar in a stained glass window, and ceramic sunflowers adorning the exterior.

But Comillas hadn’t finished with us yet.  Instead of going back the way we’d come we cycled straight across at the traffic lights (rather than go left).  We found a beautiful house that seemed empty and abandoned (it wasn’t falling down though, so there’s still time for it to be saved) and then we spotted the cemetery up on the hill.  Now this was a cemetery like no other we have seen.  It was actually built in and around the original church and was really rather amazing.

We then carried on along the coast and cycled through another ancient village up in the hills, Trasvia, before returning to the main road.

We then spent a couple of hours on the beach as our last hurrah in Spain.

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Our visit to Spain and Portugal therefore finished on a real high and in the evening we started getting ready for leaving in the morning for the ferry.  We are now back at home – well on our chosen campsite anyway, catching up with friends and family before leaving on our UK adventure just before Easter.

 

 

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Balermo – near Roquetas de Mar Almerimar

On Saturday it was time to move on again.  We know that we have to leave a bit earlier to be sure of getting a spot at our chosen site.  So we were ready to go by about 9.30am!  We said goodbye to our lovely neighbours, Alistair and Sheila (still touring with Alistair turning 78 this week..) and set off on 1 of our longest trips yet.

However, we’d decided to use the motorway all the way (including the toll sections) and Calv said the drive was really easy, he barely noticed that he’d done it!  I would like to say how much it cost but I couldn’t see the cost before we had to pull away 😦  I think it might have been 7.50.

We were heading for Balermo, the Mar Azul to be precise.  The drive  here showed a sea of plastic, which just got more and more pronounced the further we went.  Even the campsite is surrounded by plastic greenhouses – it’s really not very attractive..

We had a choice of spots on arrival and were very happy with the site.  It’s apparently been here for about 3 years and they seem to have actually looked at what campers want!  The bar’s a bit expensive though – compared to what we’ve been used to anyway!  But sitting in the bar chatting with another couple meant we didn’t manage to go to the supermarket.  Which meant that we had to wait until Monday to go shopping as there was nothing (except a couple strange shops…) open on Sunday when we cycled into town.

We did go in search of an open Spar though in Balermo.  Whilst we love the campsite we hated the town.  Not a nice feel about it,  narrow, scruffy streets, impatient drivers.  Just not nice.  In the afternoon we decided to cycle to the marina at Almerimar, 10km down the coast.  This was a fairly easy ride, apart from the headwind, half of it on a fairly straight, but fast, road and the rest on a cycle path.  We then found a pub, the Stumble Inn, that was showing the rugby!  I’d had to watch England v Wales on my tablet,  which kept freezing while it caught up.  But I did see England beat Wales 🙂

As we’ll be in Marbella by the time of the next match so I don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding somewhere to watch.

There was also a cycle race past the campsite, Clasica de Almeria : I cannot believe the entourage involved in these races!!

Sunday night was characterized by a storm, giving us high winds and rain.  The high winds, whilst somewhat muted continued through today (Monday).  We didn’t sleep too well (in fact Calv has just gone to bed (at 8pm) as he can’t stay awake any longer!)

There is a Consum on the outskirts of town which is actually ok.  We managed to get 50Euros worth of shopping home on our bikes!  We always forget that we don’t have a car with us 🙂

We walked over to look at the beach before lunch.  The beaches on this stretch of coast are not brilliant.  They are deemed to be ‘recommended’ but this refers to the water quality not the actually sand quality.

In the afternoon we decided, despite the wind, to head to the castle that we’d seen on the way to Almerimar yesterday, Castello del Guardia Viaje.  So, off we went.  The wind was brutal – I was hanging on to my handlebars for dearlife just to keep my wheels pointed in the right direction.  Every now and then there was a gust of wind that pushed me slightly off the straight and narrow for a second.  Whatever direction we were cycling in the wind seemed to be against us! Cycling up the hill to the castle was brutal, not helped when Calv rode past me with a stupid smirk on his face – he thinks he’s so funny (he’s not – don’t side with him…)

After all that effort we found out that the castle was closed on Mondays!!

I had made a stew in the morning and this was bubbling away in the slow cooker.  It was pretty good, even if I do say so myself 🙂

We’re moving on again tomorrow, towards Granada, saying goodbye to some more special neighbours who have been doing this for 57 years and are still touring, and still with their bikes on the back of their van 🙂

On Wednesday we’ll be visiting the Alhambra Palace 🙂