Adios Iberia!

All done. Two glorious months exploring and enjoying Spain and Portugal have ended. Spain kindly let us leave in miserable wet weather so that we didn’t mourn the fact that we were going away from sunshine. That makes six wet days in total.

So what have  I learned?

That blog writing can be stressful when wifi is unreliable, but it has helped me look at all the lovely things I’ve seen with different eyes and has been a great reminder of places we’ve visited.

That I am rubbish at navigating anyone anywhere.

I pack too many clothes

Tea tastes best made with Bristol water

TV is easy to do without…..as long as you have decent radio/iPlayer and DVDs

It’s nice to be home.

Hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with Jan Man and Van. More next trip???!!!!

xxxxxxx

On The Beach

We have been lucky enough to visit some fabulous beaches  all along the coastline of Spain and Portugal. Some were small coves, others wide expanses of sand or pebbles. We’ve seen them fringed by trees, boulevards, rugged cliffs and dunes. Sometimes there were big waves (Atlantic) and smaller ones that tickled the shore on the Mediterranean. We didn’t spend a lot of time on some of them , it was often a chilly wind that put us off, although it  became warmer as the days went by. So we reached Cambrils and it seems to be my perfect spot. Which is saying something. A wide boulevard and cycle track, traffic free, palm trees complete with green parakeets line the edge of the beach. There is even a roman villa to look at. (Mind you, from a distance as the site only opens to visitors on Saturday afternoons! ) It has been warm almost hot and sunny and I swam in the sea.

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However. On the north coast of Spain we discovered Zumaia, which is a world famous UNESCO site which I’d never heard of! Speaking as a geographer and geology student that’s a huge omission…..it appears! The coast shows a cliff made up of lots of layers, standing on end – due to the crash of the Iberian plate into the European one( trying not to be too teachery here) which look like slim volumes in a library. Evidence within these slim ‘chapters’ show key events in world history, such as the point in time where the north and south poles swopped places; evidence of a surge of iridium from a catastrophic meteor landing in the Yucutan peninsula and wiping out the dinosaurs! Wow. Really interesting if you like that kind of thing.

Bewildered in Burgos

We took a detour to see Burgos, another key cathedral city on The Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route. Slightly further south than the last route we followed, populated by – yes, you’ve guessed it- dozens if not hundreds of walkers along the route. Lots of Chinese ‘pilgrims ‘ too, clearly enjoying the whole experience, sore feet permitting, posing with any and every Spanish innkeeper along the way. It is a heck of a walk and I admire them all, especially the older walkers. Brilliant work! Mike threatened to throw me out of the Van so I could get the whole experience but I dug my heels(nails, buttocks) into the seat and declined. 

So, on to Burgos and why we were bewildered. The Cathedral is enormous . Probably the largest we’ve seen and it is FULL of gilt and effigies. Trying to put myself in the shoes of people coming to visit in the days when ‘media ‘was probably only word of mouth and pictures on the wall, this place would have been terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. Many statues depict scenes of people  in their death throws, agonised expressions on faces and lots of blood. Gory. Then the Holy scenes with doleful facial expressions and only the faintest glimmer of a smile. To be a believer was serious and scary business. Happiness doesn’t feature.  El Cid is buried there (Charlton Heston in the superb film of yesteryear). I was permitted to take photos- often you’re not inside churches- and took loads. Here is a selection…….more by request or under sufferance if I invite you to ‘look at my holiday snaps’! 
We stopped for a Afternoon Tea and Cake. It was an olde tea shoppe with a charming olde gentleman dispensing delicious cakes and very decent tea . Yum. And you can see, I am still part of the tour!
Statue of El Cid in the city centre. Below, to show the context of his time is a  statue showing the hatred of the Moors…..graphic or what? 
And last but not least, my favourite painting. What a great expression! It’s how I look waiting for wonky wifi to upload my pictures for these posts………..

Zaragoza

Great name for a place. It’s in Aragon and we visited the palace where Catherine grew up- she’s Catalina over here, and there is a huge family tree on one wall showing her marriage to ‘Arturo Tudor’ and then ‘Enrique VIII d’Inglaterra’ . Sounds so much better in Spanish! She must have been very sad to leave  this lovely palace, coming to a damp and chilly England. The palace was built by the Moors and is light and airy and beautifully decorated with carvings. There is a central courtyard with orange trees, flowers and plants and of course, running water, fed from ingenious plumbing systems burrowed down to the water table so the palace never suffered from drought. The main well is open to peer into. Believe me it’s a very long drop!

Isn’t it lovely?

The rest of Zaragoza is also worth seeing. The romans were here- always a good sign, Caesar Augustus is mentioned all over. There is an amphitheater (closed that day-!) and it’s being carefully looked after. There is street sculpture of all kinds, scary bishop to hobby horse. ….

Odds and Ends

The Rose

When we drew up to our pitch in the Ronda campsite, I found a single, long stemmed, beautiful deep red rose in a cellophane wrap alongside. There was no evidence to suggest it had blown away from anyone else’s pitch as there were so few vans around. I surmised that my lovely husband had contacted interflora, got them to deliver a single red rose to a campsite up a mountain and leave it at an unplanned site for me to find. What a hero.

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The Language

As with travel to most of Europe, as soon as I start to speak in my best Spanish (!) people respond mostly in English. Hey ho. At least I’m trying. Sign language and waving hands works well enough when neither of us can speak in a common tongue.  It can be slow and a bit frustrating but mainly you can ‘get by’. Official notices can be confusing, then you get the blinding obvious……

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Sharing a shower

Not just the usual spiders and creepy crawlers, but an orange winged moth yesterday and a whole family of House Martins. Mum and Dad popping back and forth with food and a number of chicks to feed. Sorry! Didn’t have a camera

Going Clackers in Valencia

We were sitting having a coffee and planning our route through Valencia when we were distracted by the persistent noise of clacking. I assumed it was a stall or shop selling children’s toys. Then a bevy of young girls beautifully dressed in traditional costumes went past, and I realised they were the clacking culprits as they wore castanets. Then more fancy dressed, clacking children went past. Then more. Then more. I decided to follow them, dragging a reluctant Man in my wake. He hadn’t downloaded the paper so had nothing to read. Grumpy? Nah…..Anyway, he was even more overjoyed to discover it was a dance festival! Yay! I fought my way through the grannies and aunties to see the spectacle. There must have been about 500 children in costume (with castanets of course) a live band and a packed, expectant audience. Trouble was I was 30 minutes too early and that meant Man has to sit and wait…..NOW he’s grumpy. Did I stay to enjoy the spectacle? You betcha. Any coordination of so many children is worth a watch and it all went off very smoothly and bang on time. Smiley faces all round.

The City itself is worth spending time in. We don’t have enough. Here are some of our photos to give you a flavour of what we saw. In the square, once the children’s dance show had been cleared away, preparations were being made for a different sort of dance session in the evening, more blues and pop. Testing the sound system in the drowsy warmth of the afternoon, the  ‘roadies’ played Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. Good choice, I thought as I licked my ice cream and soaked up the rays. Then a plug fell out or something because the amplifier went into mega loud mode, playing that deep and penetrating buzz ……pandemonium! Children shrieking, people leaping to their feet and everyone very tense for a moment until we worked out what it was and that although loud, was benign . The police on the scene reacted in a very relaxed way, strolling around looking cool. Or disinterested. Peace restored.

Saw some  interesting graffiti on the walls. My alter ego seems to be standing in a paella pan. Mike says I have some way to go to get a big enough platform for tassels like those. Don’t know whether to be huffy about that or not.

The Costa of Fruit and Veg

Once upon a time, the coastline of southern Spain was a never ending line of beaches and coves, fishing villages here and there and rocky outcrops of desert like vegetation. Since then it has been ‘ developed ‘ in a fairly unbroken line of hotels, apartments and seaside resorts, some more tastefully developed than others. Benidorm is not good, a forest of high rise buildings. Can’t really complain about all this development as the rest of Europe -especially the Brits and the Hoobly Hoos (Mike’s affectionate term for the Dutch) – flock here to soak up the sunshine and enjoy life, and we have to stay somewhere. Many of the campsites we’ve stayed on have a number of year-round residents, not to mention the ‘Silver Birds’ who flee south to escape the winter at home and spend six months in these balmy climes. My goodness they know how to do it, all sport good tans, they haven’t needed to wear warrm clothes  for ages and although last winter was wetter than normal, they’ve been a lot warmer and drier than we’ve been in the UK! Caravans and campers have lace curtains, potted plants, garden ornaments, outdoor tablecloths and satellite dishes as big as you like to pull in UK TV. Very home from home. They are all very mature, which is  good for us as we feel so young. Well, all things are relative.

The reason for the headline is that behind the coastal settlements  there are acres and acres of plastic greenhouses covering vegetables and fruits. We are not talking polytunnel here, more like  polyfields! It looks dreadful. And they stretch for miles across country. But that’s where our out -of -season broccoli, peppers, courgettes , strawberries etc come from. Makes you think.

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(Help me) Ronda

Not sure the Beach Boys came here at all but their  song came to mind and stuck. Ronda is a hilltop town high in the Sierra and involved a steep hill climb up some hairpin bends and narrow tracks with precipitous drops at the roadside . You wouldn’t want to be behind us in The Van and we had a (not so) merry band of followers by the time we got to any passing place. Mike was a bit sweaty by the time we reached the top and needed a rub down with a towel and a cold beer. We walked into Ronda from the campsite and celebrated with tapas under the shade of the city walls. Octopus, chicken, roasted veg and prawns this time, with gin and tonic ice cream and chocolate truffles to top it off.

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Visited the bullring. One of the oldest in Spain and  there was a museum of weaponry, bullfighting paraphernalia and all the associated trappings. (We missed doing the one in Seville as there was an actual fight going on- not my cup of tea.) Even after this visit it’s still a bit of a mystery why the ‘sport’ is so popular as the odds are so clearly stacked against the poor old toro. Gives the men a chance to dress up I suppose. We were there the same time as a group of Spaniards on tour and they were hilarious, singing all sorts of songs including Una Paloma Blanca ( it hit the charts in a bygone era for you young people. You Tube it for a laugh) and there were two small boys who’d been given a dressing up outfit of a matador. Cue the antics of the adults playing the bull role. Ole indeed. No one died. Except the small boys of embarrassment.

It is a beautiful spot, sitting on a rocky outcrop of limestone. A famous bridge across the valley, the Ponte Nuevo, spans a 100m deep gorge, joining the old and new Ronda. Clever feat of 18th century engineering .

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A tiled wall records famous quotes and tributes to the stunning scenery, including ones from Lord Tennyson, Benjamin Disraeli et al.

The Rock

Stopped in  La Linea de la Concepcion  and caught up with  Mikey, a friend of Alec’s. Lucky soul lives here and works across the border in Gibraltar. He recommended the local campsite. It was the cleanest site I’ve been on, partly due to the nature of the ‘staff’. They live in the next door hostel for people with learning difficulties and have duties around the site, sweeping leaves, collecting rubbish, gardening etc etc. Brilliant idea! It makes money to support the charity and gives them  a worthwhile job in a secure environment. Mike had a few non p.c comments which I will leave to your imagination before he caught on……

Mikey took us to ‘Gib’, walking through customs at speed as there were no unnecessary checks and hold ups that you may have seen on the news lately. Spain is being a bit difficult with the border thing and can stop all traffic, search a car for no reason and hold everything up.  Doing it every day must get very tedious.  It is a smallish place, (Obviously.  It’s a  bleep bleep rock says Mike)  and as you all probably know , complete with red buses, British bobbies on the beat, fish and chips, pubs, every high street shop you can think of and the currency is the Pound. Oh, and it’s duty free……off I go seeking bargains. The men were very patient and let me have a fair amount of time exploring. Shops that is. And yes, it was worth it, strawberry gin no less, cheap as chips. The top of the rock was covered in cloud which is pretty regular. The Med meets the Atlantic here and that throws up the cloud and generates strong winds felt all  along the coast, like a funnel. IMG_0056After a good afternoon in Little Britain we returned to Spain via the marina (and the Star Wars convention……..well, it was May the 4th……). I was there, honest. Just forgot my selfie stick.

We rounded off the day with Tapas in a lovely old bar recommended by our Host. Excellent food and a lovely fruity Rioja to wash it down. Black pudding sausage and sardines in oil were definitely highlights.

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You don’t want to get too good at this hosting lark, Mikey. We could be back……