My France and Spain winter 2018/2019 trip

Follow me on my trip ‘France and Spain winter 2018/2019’ at https://www.polarsteps.com/turnrightoutofportsmouth/990685-france-and-spain-winter-2018-2019

Starting to prepare and get excited for our next trip. This will be recorded as we move on Polarsteps so if you follow us you won’t need to wait until I get round you writing up my blog to see where we are 😊

See also our reviews for each site we stopped at on the way.

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My Spain 2017 trip

Follow me on my trip ‘Spain 2017’ at https://www.polarsteps.com/MandiPhillips/941527-spain-2017

If my blog posts are a bit too long and involved then take a quick look at the summary of our trip to Spain last year! A summary of the UK part of the trip will follow and from November you’ll be able to follow us live as we head off too Spain again, via France, for a few months ☺

Don’t forget you can always look at the relevant blog post if something catches your interest and I’ve very nearly finished all the campsite reviews now!

I hope thus gives you some ideas xx

Related Posts:

1. Our 1st 3 Months Away

2.. Welcome to Spain

3. What we learned about Spain in 2017

4. What we learned about Portugal in 2017

5. Spain and Portugal in Pictures

 

 

Salamanca – what a wonderful surprise

I finished my last post by noting that we were expecting rain the following day and so would be van bound.

To a certain extent this is what happened.  I went out for a walk in the morning to try to find the Mercadona that, I thought, was a mile and a half up the road somewhere.  I was trying to get there and back before the rain was due to hit.  Halfway there I still had over a mile to go – google maps has a habit of giving you the distance ‘as the crow flies’ and then giving you the real distance when you press the start button – or so it seems to me anyway!

So I decided to turn back after popping into the local garage (where I discovered the diesel was priced at 1.08 per litre), as I thought I probably wouldn’t avoid the rain otherwise.  As it happened I was right, but that didn’t stop Calv from giving me a really hard time for not making it to the shop!!

Calv was keen to cycle on the tracks that we’d found the previous day, so he donned his wet gear and went off.  I got on with some chores (and had a bit of a read of my book) and he cycled about 25km and came back really happy (and really wet).

The rain, once it started, was unrelenting, and then we had a real surprise when it turned to snow and started laying.  When we woke in the morning it was to a carpet of white!

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A snowy March day in Salamanca

We therefore changed our original plan – to cycle into the city along the river (there is a very good path along the river from the campsite), and decided to catch the bus instead.  The bus stop is about 3/4 mile from the campsite and the cost was 1.40 each, each way.  The bus drops you on the Gran Via (and to return you get on exactly where you’re dropped off) and from there it is easy to find the sites.

It’s probably best to head for Plaza Mayor first as this is where the Tourist Information is situated.  We didn’t we kept walking along the Gran Via and came across our first monument, the Convento de San Estaban.  We weren’t sure it was open at first as there was some sort of emergency services exercise going on.  It cost 3 Euros each to get in and was definitely worth it, with the cloisters, staircase, confessionals and, of course, the church to see.

 

On leaving San Estaban we headed up past the cathedral(s) and one of the many university/college buildings.  Then right up towards the Plaza Mayor where there were numerous eateries and bars to choose from.

We then wandered fairly aimlessly wondering at all the amazing buildings that we saw at every turn – literally!  We found a church, Vera Cruz, that looked nothing extra special really from the outside, but when you went in it was amazing (we didn’t get any pictures as there were people in there praying).

Walking back down from here we came across a house inscribed ‘Casa de Muerte’, or ‘House of the Dead’.  Under the window sills there were skulls (not real ones; well I don’t think so anyway…!)  Calv had wandered off to take some more photos while I was looking at this and a Spanish guy started talking to him (he thought he was scared of his dog).  This gent, Antonio Grande, was a very interesting man; a former English and History teacher he had spent a lot of time in the UK, including Portsmouth, our home town, and Swansea, my dad’s birthplace.

He told us the best places to visit and a very brief history and I decided to ask him about the ‘House of the Dead”’ – he told us that apparently a woman married and lived with 3 husbands in this house.  All 3 of them were murdered and apparently sealed in the walls, where they were found hundreds of years later when renovations were made….  There are other legends detailed in the link that I’ve included above.

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Thank you Antonio Grande for bringing our visit to Salamanca to life 🙂

 

We then wandered a little more and headed to the Scala Coeli (3 euros each), 200 steps up 2 towers from which the views are amazing.  You can also visit the Papal university here, but unfortunately this didn’t open until 5pm.  The views were indeed amazing and we could also see into ‘the shell house’ opposite (unfortunately closed at the moment due to renovations), but so-called as the outer walls are covered in about 300 shells.

Finally it was time to visit the cathedral, or rather cathedrals.  There is a new cathedral, started in 1513, and the old cathedral, started in the 12th century.  They are actually connected and you can pay 4.75Euros each to visit both.

The new cathedral is beautiful and has several chapters ranged around the outer walls and 2 organs, 1 considerably older than the other.  It is much larger than the old cathedral, which also has 2 extremely old organs of it’s own.  It was also severely damaged in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and has undergone some re-building following this.  For me this was a more interesting visit.

(Apologies for the quality of the photos – Calv was taking so many photos that the battery on his camera ran out.  Before we got to the cathedral…)

We then visited the cathedral towers, more steps!  As we emerged out into the open at the top it had just started snowing again.  Again there were amazing views from the bell tower – I lost Calv when he went into the ‘clock workings’ room and I didn’t see him so carried on down to the bottom.  I had to employ my limited German to ask the 3 girls who he’d taken a photo for earlier if they’d seen him!  ‘Yes, he’s looking for you!’

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We were now pretty tired so decided to head back to the bus – we definitely slept well!!

We also only saw about a quarter of what there is to see in Salamanca.  It wasn’t on our radar in any way before visiting – it definitely is now 🙂

More details of the city can be found here:- Salamanca history

Last 2 days in Portugal – then a little gem – Ciudad Rodrigo :)

We had considered staying an extra night at the Orbitur Guincho, but decided against it when they wanted 28Euros for the night.

So we used the extra night to just go a few hours up the road to a site near Figuera de Foz, Orbitur Gala in Vila de Sao Pedro.  This site wasn’t as nice as the one at Guincho although many aspects were the same.

We set up and then went off for a walk down to the beach, which is just about 1/4 mile from the back gate of the park.  When you arrive at the beach there is a steep dune to negotiate to get down to it!  It is another beautiful beach though.

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Steep dune down to the beach…

 

It was, as ever on the West Coast, very windy and 1 minute you think you’re paddling in the shallows and the next a wave has rolled in much further than the last and you’re running to keep from getting your shorts wet! Continue reading “Last 2 days in Portugal – then a little gem – Ciudad Rodrigo :)”

El Rocio – another WOW!

First off, this post is out of sync as I haven’t yet managed to get my thoughts about Camino del Rey down in words.  Also the WiFi here is pretty bad and I’m having trouble uploading photos.  I’ve managed a couple so I’ll put these on, but will add more to the gallery at a later date.

After El Camino del Rey we didn’t think we’d have many more ‘wow’ moments on this trip.  But we were wrong…

Some other travellers told us about El Rocio weeks ago and we were quite keen to visit, so were very happy to find there was a site right at the entrance to the village, Camping La Aldea.

The day after we visited El Camino del Rey we relaxed at the van for much of the day, did a wash, started packing up, I made a chicken and bacon pie for tea (well I made 2 actually, 1 ready for another day – today, Friday, as it happens!)  We also spent an hour or so at the beach and in the evening met Chris and Elaine halfway between us and them at Luna Beach, which turned out to be a very nice little bar with nice views.  On the walk there, along the beach, we could clearly see Africa (as we had been able to all day).  We also said goodbye to Roger (aka ‘Good Looking’) as we knew he wouldn’t be up by the time we left in the morning.

For once we were ready to leave quite early, and so were saying goodbye to Jill (Good Looking’s wife) before 9am and then on our way by 9.

We had to head back towards Malaga before going north and then west towards Seville.  From what we could see of Seville as we bypassed it (we went the wrong way onto the ring road, but it didn’t matter as going north or south was much of a muchness), it looked like rather a lovely city.  As we drove through the outskirts we saw a temperature gauge reading 32degrees!  We had a good run and no toll roads were needed!

We finally made it to our new campsite at about 3.15pm (we had stopped on the way for breakfast and then lunch and a spot of grocery shopping).  There was plenty of space and we could see that we were indeed right on the edge of the village.  Unfortunately the swimming pool doesn’t open until Easter, otherwise we would have been straight in there!

After a dirty burger for tea we decided to go and have a quick look, via the site bar, before it got too dark.  It was still warm enough to be out walking in a vest top (and we had eaten outside as well).  In the bar we met the young couple who were pitched next to us – they have a 5 month old baby and are taking their parental leave as 5 months travelling in their motorhome.  How wonderful is that?!

We walked around the village for a while.  It’s all sand roads and you can see that all the houses have ‘bars’ outside to tie the horses up to (sorry, I don’t know what they’re called).  We also saw many, many lodgings for particular ‘Hermandads’ – these are the brotherhoods from different provinces who come here on a pilgrimage at Pentecost (50 days after Easter) – apparently up to 1million people descend on this tiny village for the weekend of festivities.

On the way back to the van we walked along to a serenade of crickets and frogs.  In the mornings we are waking up to cockerels crowing, donkeys braying and beautiful birdsong.

Friday morning, once we’d properly woken up, we set off to explore the village properly and this time we found the main square containing the Ermitas and where no cars are supposed to enter…  We saw many horses and horses and carts (we’ll take a trip tomorrow) and also found out that the nature reserve starts immediately in front of the main area.

This is a horse village, many of the bars have high counters outside so that people can stay on their horses to have a drink!  We were told this morning, by a British man, that apparently Americans still come over here to buy horses that have a gene going all the way back to the original wild horses, and that the breed, Mustang, originated here.

The high point of the pilgrimage is on the Monday when the statue of the Virgin Mary is taken out of the church and paraded through the village to visit every 1 of the Hermandads (brotherhoods) – there were 106 of them shown on a sign we saw in the village.  Apparently the campsite charges 50Euros a night during the week of the pilgrimage (we’re paying 17…)  We saw the statue in the Ermitas and it’s huge.  We have no photos as individuals make pilgrimages here throughout the year and there were several people in there who were clearly on their own personal pilgrimage.

At lunchtime we sat in 1 of the bars at the top of the main square and had some tapas.  We tried patata Ali Oli (garlic potato) – which I would have liked if it had been hot, but it was straight out of the fridge and I’m not keen on cold potato – and Pimiento asados con atun (peppers with tuna), also cold, but I really liked it (sometimes I surprise myself!)

While we ate we watched the swallows flying around the Ermitas and into the eaves.  There were hundreds of them!

There was also a fenced off grove of Olive trees nearby.  These were fenced off as they’re all over 100 years old and 1 of them is over 600 years old.  It seems that those attending the pilgrimage used to touch them (maybe hug them??) and they needed to be protected.  It would be interesting to see if fencing them off actually had the desired effect!

By 2pm we were beginning to flag as it was so hot so we headed back to the campsite to relax for a while.

But by about 4.30 Calv was getting bored!  So we got the bikes out and headed for the lakes to see what birds we could spot.

This gave us another view of the main square and we also saw horses grazing in the shallows.  Calv made a friend of a stray dog that seemed to want to play, but I was a bit concerned that he was going to bite him – he just wouldn’t leave him alone…!  He got some good photos of the birds (including flamingos, spoonbills and black kites), but nowhere near as good as our Swedish neighbour next door, who visits us regularly and brought over some of his photos to show us this evening – truly amazing (mind you he has rather an impressive lens!)

Tomorrow we will go back into the village and hopefully take a trip in a horse and cart, and perhaps visit the ornithological centre to find out what some of the birds that we’ve seen are.  We might even get closer to the flamingos and get a better picture of them 🙂

It’s now tomorrow and we’ve had a lazy morning before walking back into the village.  It was hot again today and we were hoping to get some got pictures of the various wildlife.  I think Calv did get some pretty got shots, but we’re having trouble uploading at the moment so I can’t put them on here.

It’s Saturday today and there were, as expected, more horses around.  Naively we thought that perhaps there would be fewer cars in the village, but there were many more + many coaches…  Before we came here I had a daft idea that there would be no cars in the village.  In fact they’re only barred from the area around the Ermitas – however, being in Spain, this rule is regularly flouted…

We took a 25 minute trip, just the 2 of us, in a horse and cart, at a cost of 20 Euros, which we were happy with.  The driver spoke to us in Spanish, and we managed to communicate in some small way.  We now know there’s a famous singer living in El Rocio and he knows we also visited the village yesterday!  Also that El Rocio is pronounced El RoSio – I thought it was either El RoKio or El RoTHio.  (they also say GraSiaS here, rather than grathia…)

The Spanish love to come out to play at the weekend which is great to see.  We saw them having picnics, family gatherings, a wedding party in full swing, ladies practising playing their castanets and their flamenco moves by the water.  It was all very uplifting!  (Actually that’s another thing that’s big here, flamenco.  There are several shops dedicated to selling flamenco outfits – and they’re not cheap…..  There was also a show in 1 of the bars, but we missed it!

We also now have a party of scouts, or equivalent, here on the campsite – we could hear them this morning before they set out for the day, playing games and singing.

We saw horses at the bar – raised counters so that riders don’t have to dismount in order to have a drink.  People sitting in their carts outside bars drinking.

We saw several different species of birds plus frogs and a couple of lizards.  All in all we were pleased that we stayed an extra day.

Hasta manana 🙂

Walk to the top of Cruz de Juanar

It’s Sunday now and I’ve just realised how far behind I am on the blog.  Mind you, apart from our walk up the mountain, we haven’t done an awful lot except sit on the beach or sit in the van (it’s been raining for the last couple of days 😦 )

So on Tuesday it turned out to be a lovely day and we finally made it down to the beach.  There was enough wind for the waves to be rolling in quite nicely, but we positioned ourselves beside the breakwater and had a patch of calm water to paddle in (I got in up to my waist – it was rather cold…)

We popped down the shop in the afternoon, forgetting that it was still a bank holiday and most were shut.  But we found a Supercor express open and got a few essentials (San Miguel, an Oreo cheesecake….)

On Wednesday we headed back to do our mountain walk.  It was another beautiful day and we made sure we had plenty of liquids and snacks.  I even remembered my hat!  Continue reading “Walk to the top of Cruz de Juanar”

Thursday 23rd- a rainy day on the Costa del Sol

We knew it was going to rain today and had already decided to visit La Canada, a Centro Commercial near to Marbella.  Not that we’re really into shopping – we just wanted to have a look really.

The centre is situated at the point where the A7 and AP7 converge – you head onto the road towards Ojen and come straight to the entrance.  It’s very impressive, and new, and very much aimed at the British.  Having said that amongst the well known British High Street names there are plenty of Spanish stores.  It is a bit expensive though in some stores.

I did buy a top in H&M and we got a few bits in the, small but perfectly formed, M&S Food ‘Hall’ (Hall is pushing it a bit…)

Calv did have a couple of complaints though.  The workmanship (this is a recurring theme) and the fact that the female cleaner had no qualms about mopping around the urinals whilst they were in use!

We’d also decided to go on a little drive up into the mountains culminating, hopefully, in a visit to Mijas Pueblo, one of the whitewashed villages in the hills above the resorts.

So we headed off towards Ojen on what turned out to be a really good road.  We stopped at a viewpoint above Ojen itself, which afforded rather lovely views, despite the murky conditions.

dsc_0001 Continue reading “Thursday 23rd- a rainy day on the Costa del Sol”