A great couple of days in Girona. Girona has some wonderful medieval architecture and the region is quite well off so the buildings are all well maintained. We found a great location to stop – the ground floor of an underground car park has been given over to motorhomes and for 12 Euros a night was a real bargain. The owner could not have been nicer. The stop was in the middle of town and the only odd thing was driving down the narrow urban road and being surrounded by apartment blocks in the camping stop.
We stayed in a site alongside vanlife royalty – Julie and Jason from OurTour (https://ourtour.co.uk/home/) are on their way south and we spotted their van when we arrived at the stopover. Their blog was one of the resources we first found when we started planning the trip.
Anyway, top of the Girona list was groceries and washing. It’s all excitement living in the van. We had already found the local lavandaria, so off we went!
Another couple that we met – Andy and Julie from NZ told us about a wonderful walking tour, so we booked that for the afternoon of the next day.
So, the next day we had a couple of hours wandering around in the morning, walked the city walls and visited the churches and museums and then met up with Christian – our guide for the afternoon. We had a great couple of hours walking the town learning the history and seeing the backstreets that you would never find on your own. Christian also showed us the Game of Thrones filming locations from a couple of years back (no, never seen it!).
We couldn’t quite make the Valencia to Barcelona trip in one day, so we stopped off for a night at the delta of the River Ebro.
It was weird driving out to the free aire which was only about two feet above sea level. The marshland all around us is partially conservation but also used for wetland crops like rice.
The road was very narrow in places and with a drop straight into the marshy waters, it was a surreal experience driving for 10km ‘out to sea’.
The stopover had about 20 campervans and we had a reasonably quiet night – punctuated every half an hour with shotguns. Conservation means different things to the Spanish! We never did work out what they were shooting at – we guessed perhaps migratory birds – we saw similar in Valencia.
We also managed to fit in two or three geocache finds – our first in ages!
Another long driving leg to Valencia. The bumbling that we did on the way down will not be the plan for the journey back north – we have visited this part of the coast before so from Valencia onwards we will make longer legs as we also head for a date in Rome (it’s about 1700 km from Valencia!)
Because Valencia is a big town, there are not any motorhome facilities in the heart of the city. We parked at a motorhome stopover about 8km south of the main town. It was pretty basic, but just what we needed.
The first day we visited the Science park and aquarium, and the amazing architecture left us completely gobsmacked.
On the second day we went into the town proper and visited the market, the twin towers, the Cathedral (obviously!) and the old silk market/stock exchange that became known as the Cathedral of Commerce.
We also found time to cycle along the coast a few km. It was very quiet and a little surreal as we cycled around a corner and stumbled upon a nude photoshoot among the sand dunes!
Wow – So it’s now been four months since we left blighty! We can’t believe the time has gone by so fast – and we have not covered three countries yet! Well, four countries if you count British Overseas Territories! We have been settled in Malaga, next to the beach, waiting for a care package from the UK, and planning out the next few months – including a trip to the UK for family visits, festivals and motorhome servicing. It will be after brexit so let us know if you need special orders bringing back – food, drink, German cars, polish cleaners, energy etc.
We wanted to note down some highlights and low-lights from the 2018 part of the tour.
T says his favourite places so far have been Porto, Lisbon and the Caminito del Rey. S says that she loved Porto and rediscovering cycling, at La Rochelle. We both agree that the low points have been missing family and T damaging the bottom of the van trying to get up the hill to visits the Grutas at Mira de Aire.
Superglue has sorted the van, and Skype has been a boon keeping in touch with the family, especially regular calls with our son holding the fort back at home. The separation from family was especially difficult over festive period – xmas day Skype was wonderful but also managed to increase the sense of separation somehow.
We didn’t quite have the tech together to enjoy the Queen’s speech (or Danny Dyer’s for that matter!) but we’ve splashed out on wifi internet and have been downloading shows to binge watch over the next couple of months and give us something more up to date than the hard drive full of movies that Charlie sorted out for us!
Christmas day was in the van, we found a good turkey joint, ready stuffed. With spuds and veggies including sprouts it was passable. Note to selves: It is impossible to cook roast potatoes in the current oven – what we actually ate was boiled potatoes covered in oil.
We poshed it up in a proper campsite for a couple of days while we visited the Caminito Del Rey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caminito_del_Rey). This is one of the oldest entries on the ‘must-do’ list and since we put it on the list it has changed a lot! The King’s Little Path is a walkway along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro. The walkway dates back to around 1900, when it was originally built to get supplies up the mountain to two fledgling hydroelectric projects and a railway. The walkway eventually fell into disrepair and was very precipitous with all the railings gone and quite a few 6 foot plus gaps! We put it on the things to do list about five years ago at which time it was definitely a death trap and was known as “the world’s most dangerous walkway”. But in the last four years, it’s been turned into a proper tourist attraction and the pathway largely replaced.
There is a 2km hike to the start of the Caminito and at the end a 2km hike to a bus stop for a trip back. It’s still a bit dangerous. No kids, no pets, no smoking. Hardhats at all times etc. The views down into the gorge are quite breathtaking and as per normal, the photos don’t really do it justice. Definitely one for the to-do list folks, but not if you are squeamish about heights!
A high point was T spotting some footprints and being convinced they were bear tracks followed by an hour of being very skittish (Toby not the bear). Later research suggests that they are badger prints 😉 Photo included – you can decide for yourself! Toby said he had to take the photo just in case the camera was the only part of him recovered.
We had a fantastic meal at the restaurant at the start of the Caminito, and enjoyed the solitude at the campsite: there were two other ‘vans with us, but otherwise the site was empty. Pretty eerie for a huge campsite.
We couldn’t really come by this neck of the woods without visiting a corner of the Sherry triangle, now could we? And what better place than Jerez itself – it gave it’s name to Sherry after all? We fit in some exploring and a tour and tasting of the Sandeman vintage sherry and tapas. What could be better?
At Jerez, we also had our first taste in a while of ‘wild camping’ – we on on street in a location where campervans and caravans are permitted (perhaps unofficially!) We stop here for a few nights and have no issues. We also visited the zoo – our first Spanish zoo!
As we leave Jerez, we also top up the LPG and Diesel tanks and start off towards Gibraltar. We have a couple of potential stops but in the end we just make straight for the rock.
We spotted the castle visit on one of our research sites and as it was almost on our route, we did this as a driveby on the way into Portugal.
The castle is awesome – we had seen couple of photos but we ‘knew’ that with an entry price of 2€ that it would not be great. Wrong again – the castle is part of a hotel and conferencing complex and is in excellent preservation. We spent three hours exploring the castle and grounds and although the conferencing suite was in use, the castle and grounds were almost deserted.
We also collected some huge chestnuts from the gardens (boiled them and had them for breakfast the next morning).
Late lunch in the Mothership in the castle grounds and back on the road for our trip into Portugal and Ponte de Lima.
The drive into Portugal was really interesting: as we came down through the hills, the first thing we noticed was all the bonfires. No idea why there are so many and none in Spain – perhaps different laws regarding wildfires, but that first Portugal afternoon, and every day since, we have noticed lots of fires – towns, countryside – everywhere! Odd!
First impressions of Ponte de Lima were stunning – it’s a small town set on a wide river with a roman era stone bridge. Fan-blimmin tastic. The camping stop was next to the river right in the middle of town. No facilities, but great location! We did a few KM walking the town in the evening and there are a couple of wide tree lined promenades by the river including musical lamp posts. Yes, they pump a local broadcast from the lamp posts – it’s very neat!
Pizza in the van for dinner and a Denzel Washington film from hard disc. A great first afternoon in Portugal.
The next day we did 30 km by the river with bread and cheese for lunch and back to mothership mid afternoon and set off for Porto.
Pontevedra is almost on the west coast of Spain, it’s in an area known as the Spanish Fjords. We spent a lazy afternoon walking around both the hilltop town and following the river Lerez which winds around the base of the old town. Pontevedra is another town on the pilgrim’s path network to Santiago, so the scallop shells feature a lot in the architecture. Dinner was a huge stew made by chucking almost everything we could imagine into a big pot and letting it simmer for one film.
The next day and it’s a cycle ride out of town to Pazo de Lourizán – a dilapidated palace that’s been home to the forestry research service since about 1940. The trip was a 50% washout, no-one is allowed in the palace – it’s pretty derelict, but we did wander out around the formal gardens and greenhouses. Lunch was bread and cheese down by the river and leftover stew for dinner. We started to feel like an old spanish couple, sitting on a wall near looking for shade enjoying a beer and just watching the world go by.
It was great to get out on the bikes again after about a week off and we managed 32km with the hill up to the palace being a nasty 4km including 2km of dirt tracks after we got a little lost ahem. Well, we knew exactly where we were, but not where anything else was.
First blood on the motorhome is a broken sunscreen/flyscreen on one of the Heki rooflights. We hope we can get that sorted in a few weeks as a warranty repair when we get back into Spain – there is a Dethleffs dealer in Seville.
The camperstop is a very large parking area dedicated to campervans and coaches. It’s about 15€ per day, but that’s without electric and no fresh water. On the plus side, there is a row of shops next to the parking area and we managed to snaffle some WiFi, always useful!
A 3km walk from the camping stop and then a tour of the town culminating in a visit to the Cathedral. A wonderful building.
Lunch was at an excellent tapas restaurant and we picked up some of the local almond biscuits (yes, some more). An evening spent doing 3 weeks of laundry in a spotlessly clean fully automated laundrette. And a late night catching the F1 GP on a German free to air satellite TV channel and up very late the next day and beginning the journey south to Portugal – again taking a pilgrims route.
From Leon we set out roughly eastbound towards Santiago De Compostela. We knew that we would not make it in one day, but we had some camper stops programmed in. The first 40 km from Leon were wonderful – the road followed the pilgrims route (or the other way around) so we saw many backpackers as we drove steadily down the highway – many with the scallop shell associated with pilgrims of St James (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago).
After 40km, our route diverged and we were on the main route west. Our programmed camper stop ‘on the outskirts of the a national park’ ended up being an industrial estate and for the first time ever we said, ‘Nope’ and we selected another stop this time in Lugo and drove the extra 40km. Another four letter place name.
This was a great little stop in a great looking town. It was tricky to find and very tricky to get back out again – Sally sat nav got confused and there were some very steep hills to negotiate. But the Camper stop is a large tarmac area halfway up a hill and on the edge of a lovely park. A freebee and with water and sewage drop off.
T found an abandoned unfinished building and set up for a drone shot the next morning. We walked the town and explored the city walls – pretty impressive that they are almost complete!
The following day and a quick flight with the Mavic, then pack up and ship out. Sally satnav got very confused and we almost drove over a pedestrian bridge trying to get out of town. Some tight manoeuvring and a lap of the city walls later, we were on the right road.
Our dashcam footage might be a little toe curling at times, wonder if we can export it – we’ll check!