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!
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 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.
One night in the town of Tudela. We spent a fine afternoon exploring the cobbled alleys and climbing the hill to look at the large statue of Jesus (Corazon de Jesus). We didn’t get to see the cathedral as the only way in was to pay 4€ for the museum!
The overnight stop was free and in the corner of a car park and included sewage disposal. FYI, In a motorhome there is not such thing as TMI, sorry!
After leaving Tudela the main thing to sight-see on the road to Pamplona is the Las Bardenas Reales National Park.
For us it was a 35 km gravel track adventure – proving that you can go offroad even in a 5 ton motor-home. Hiking routes and cycling routes are also available.
It was fine, the gravel tracks were well graded and we managed a constant 12kmh. Plenty of places to park. The Park was wonderful – it’s a very unusual sedimentary formation with more robust rock over the top. It makes for some fantastic scenery.
T had an idea for an awesome drone shot chasing mothership across the semi-desert, but the park has a military base and bombing range in the middle and it’s a no fly zone for drones.
We stopped for lunch and right over the top of us came a pair of jets and they proceeded to carry out practice bombing runs. It was bloody loud! Good job for the safe flying app really – the jets were only at about 400 feet over the top of us.