Monday, 29 February 2016

Sunday 28 February – Palencia (Spain) and Urrugne (France)

Where’s Colin? He’s at a campsite! Our first in 15 nights! It’s just outside Urrugne at N43º22.225’, W1º41.184’. It’s €17 a night, including a paltry 5A electricity supply.

There were two reasons why we went for a walk around Palencia before we left this morning. One was because we are slaves to our Fitbits, the other was because, to my mind, if a town has gone to the trouble of providing a free motorhome Aire, then it’s only polite to look around the town and, perhaps, to spend a few pennies there.

To the Plaza Mayor we headed first, which was a nice space, but not as impressive as other squares we’ve seen, then onwards (via a panaderia) to the cathedral – our third in three days. We didn’t get a clear view of the main face of the cathedral as in front of it was the finish line for a running event - something of a flashback to last Sunday when we came across the Seville Marathon. Whether this one was a marathon or some other distance we know not, as I’ve been unable to find any information online.

We hadn’t actually intended to go into the cathedral, for fear of bursting in on a service (what with it being a Sunday morning), but when we came upon another entrance on the other side, I put my ear to the door, heard nothing, so we cautiously stepped inside. No service was in progress, but our visit was a bit of a dim one, as only one section (where preparations were being made for morning service) had any lights on.

A walk back along the muddy, swollen river (much flooding was seen slightly further north in our journey today) took us back to Colin:

We were soon heading north. Having got ahead of ourselves yesterday it seemed realistic to reach France today, which got me quite excited at the thought of being somewhere I’ve a fighting chance of understanding what people are saying to me and being understood in turn.

It must have been about two hours into our drive when we overtook a lorry and saw this vehicle ahead of us:

Nothing remarkable, you might think, but this is the same van that we parked next to in Caceres three nights ago, again in El Encina two nights ago, drove past in Salamanca, and would have parked next to in the Aire at Villadolid last night, if there had been space. We followed it along this road for long enough to know that our usual speed is 4kmph faster than this driver, and we had started our day half an hour further north than him, so what were the chances of seeing him again? Although we were half expecting to find him on tonight’s campsite, the last we saw of him was as he sailed past when we stopped for lunch. I bet he’s at San Sebastian…

The overhead matrix signs on the roads have been telling us for the last two days to expect snow, and although none fell on us today, we did drive a considerable distance through a winter wonderland:

The only other notable point of the afternoon occurred* just after 4pm when we crossed a river and in the process passed from Spain to France.  Twenty minutes later we arrived at our campsite where I booked in without a single word of English being spoken. After six weeks in a country where I can’t understand a word of what is being said, it was a pleasing moment!

With tonight being our first campsite in over 2 weeks, the top priority (after plugging everything in to charge) was to sample the showers. We do (occasionally) shower when not on campsites, but Colin’s hot water tank only holds 10 litres, and both Mick and I can manage to get a shower each out of a single tank, so being able to stand under powerful running water for a few minutes was a positive joy.  

(*About 20km before we crossed the border we dived into a fuel station to top Colin up, because 88.9c/litre is likely 12c/litre cheaper than we’ll find fuel on our drive through France. A few minutes later we passed a station selling it at 81.9c/litre. Hey ho.)

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Saturday 27 February–Salamanca, Valladolid fail, and a rapid replan to Palencia

Where’s Colin He’s in another Municipal Aire, this time in Palencia at N42°0.239’, W4°32.074’.

Our day started with the excitement of finding a garage selling diesel at 82.9c litre, which would be the cheapest of the trip if it wasn’t for the exchange rate having gone against us in the last few weeks. Our excitement turned out to be misplaced anyway; the next two garages we passed were marginally cheaper. No idea why, as all others passed today have been 92.9c or more.

Our day also started with a definite chill in the air as we drove the few kilometres into Salamanca, finding a very handy place to leave Colin just a few minutes’ walk from the centre. This photo was taken from the entrance to the (free) car park:

With the cathedral being such a prominent building in the city, towards it we headed, stopping on the way for a look at the public library – or more particularly the building which houses it, which is complete with a courtyard, with an upwards view to the top of the university building:

All was quiet as we arrived at the cathedral a few minutes later, where we didn’t have to queue to pay our €4.75 a head entrance fee (inclusive of audioguide). You actually get two cathedrals for the price of one, as the old cathedral wasn’t demolished to make way for the new, instead the new was built effectively as a large extension. Although the audioguide was a bit tedious and had unnecessary music before and after every item (probably only five seconds apiece, but that adds up to quite a lot when there are so many items), the cathedral landed in my top two of the trip (Burgos still holds top spot).

My photo of the cupula is woefully inadequate in illustrating its splendour:

As are my snaps of some of the many wall paintings in the old cathedral:

By the time we’d finished in the cloisters and were making our way back to the new cathedral it was obvious that we had (by accident, not design) got ahead of the rush. It was certainly busy both inside and out as we left.

The Plaza Mayor was our next stop, and it was a fine sight…

 …but it was also perishing, with the occasional flake of snow falling, so lunch seemed like a good next move.

This was likely our final Menu del Dia of the trip and it was rather a good one. It was only after we’d eaten that I looked the place up on Trip Advisor, thinking it would be well reviewed, based on our experience and the fact that it was packed with diners even before 2pm, yet it had a very mediocre rating of two and a half stars. We certainly had no complaints, particularly about portion sizes – the next photo shows just our starters:

€11 a head for three courses, including bread and a drink each

Two friends had said such good things about Salamanca that we should have felt enthused to see more after lunch, but we weren’t. That was, perhaps, down to the cold weather. If we should find ourselves in the area again when it’s about 20 degrees warmer, we will give it a second chance, but for today we had had enough.
Decision time: to stick to Plan A, which was to go to a campsite just outside Salamanca and take advantage of having mains electricity – or make tracks northwards to get ahead of ourselves. Taking the latter option, the SatNav was instructed to take us to Valladolid, which it duly did (via another blizzard). Alas, fate wasn’t on our side and after 2 nights spent coincidentally parked next to the same van (who we also saw in Salamanca), tonight there was no space either next to them or next to anyone else. In fact, the entire car park (which was truly massive) was full to the gunwales. A rapid re-plan was needed.

On reflection, we should have just aimed for Palencia to start with. There are two Aires here, and having found the first one to be completely empty we continued on to the one nearer to town, where we found loads of space (and loads of vans). As we’re now ahead of ourselves on our journey home, perhaps we’ll take a little lookette around the town in the morning.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Friday 26 February–Cáceres and El Encinar

Where’s Colin? He’s in the Municipal Aire at El Encinar, which is the suburb of somewhere, 13km south of Salamanca. I’ve no idea what there is around here – we arrived in a snow storm and wasted no time in putting all the blinds up to keep the heat in.

I think that we’re done with winter warmth now. After yesterday’s 20 degree sunshine, today came in cool and wet. Not ideal weather for walking around a town, and if we had more time we likely would have had a quiet day with our books.

We reckon that the Aire (max capacity 10) peaked at 30 vans last night, making me think that Cáceres is a popular place. It wasn’t until the place swiftly emptied just after 9am that I realised that it’s located close to a main north-south route, thus it’s heavily used as a stopover. The mass evacuation did, for us, mean that we could move out of our ‘buses only’ bay and into a ‘motorhome only’ bay, which we did immediately before braving the rain to wander up into the town.

A different turn must have been taken on our way, as we found ourselves in a large square we hadn’t visited yesterday, right in front of the main gate to the old town:

We could have ascended that tower and walked the section of the town wall at this point (for €2.50), but indoor activities were appealing to us, so off to the cathedral we went. It wasn’t big, as cathedrals go, but it was interesting enough as we took in the altar pieces, the ‘bling’ in the museum and climbed to the top of the tower (half way up which I recalled that I don’t do well on spiral staircases; I was horribly dizzy by the top). It did afford a good view, even on this dull day:

Next was a museum, where our ill-timed arrival coincided with a tour group. Fortunately, as we’ve visited quite a few museums lately, we were happy with the quickest of glances around the archeologial rooms as we tried to shake them off. Unfortunately, they were also happy with the quickest of glances, as they caught us up and trapped us in the impressive underground cistern (this museum was, as with most we have visited, housed in an historic building, this one with its own basement rainwater storage facility). Finally managing to squeeze past the group, we hot-footed it to the bit of the museum I was most interested to see: the art gallery. The group didn’t turn up there, so we were at leisure to admire the pieces. It gets my ‘best gallery of the trip’ vote, mainly for the lack of renaissance art.

Emerging back into the rain it was feeling distinctly like lunch time and having been given flyers advertising the menus of various restaurants as we passed, we selected this one based on the menu having good entertainment value. I was literally doubled over and crying in the street as I read it:

Mick went for the ‘In a mess of mushroom and fungi’ followed by ‘Cochifrita of Pig to the chopped garlic’, which turned out to be a good choice. I went for a simple mixed salad starter followed by ‘Squid curled to the Roman’. Before all that arrived though, a dish of tripe in a sauce arrived at our table, which turned out not to be to my taste and (surprisingly) Mick was put off just by the look of it (I say surprisingly because usually he’ll try anything). It’s either pot-luck with the appetiser, or they just throught they’d have fun with us, as everyone who arrived after us got either crispy fried pork or olives, with little toasty-cheese things, all of which we’d have been happy to scoff:

By the time we’d done the necessary with Colin at the service point, visited Lidl and got on the road, it was gone 3.30, so we set the SatNav for a place halfway between Caceres and Salamanca, on the basis that we would get up early tomorrow and drive the rest of the way. Mid-drive minds were changed and we decided to do the bulk of the drive today, finishing at an Aire 13km south of the city. The second half of the drive gave us rather unexpected weather conditions:

From sunny and 20 degrees to snow and freezing level within 36 hours! We thought that when we dropped down towards our night-stop it would turn to rain, but although the roads became clear, it was still snowing convincingly when we arrived. I think it has stopped now, although the wind has picked up in its place.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Thursday 25 February – Badajoz, Elvas (Portugal) and Cáceres

Where’s Colin? He’s at a municipal Aire in the town of Cáceres at N39 28.814, W6 22.033. There are officially ten spaces here. When I went out and counted a short whie ago there were 26 vans. Colin is masquerading as a bus, as are many others.

Our day started in Badajoz, which is a good thing really, as that’s where we’d gone to sleep last night, and I did get the briefest of looks around the place before we left this morning. Whilst Mick went for a run along the river, I strode out for the town and made it to the castle before half of my allotted 30 minutes was up, causing me to turn back.

Soon we were off over the border into Portugal and to Elvas, pausing only for the purchase of baked goodies on the way. One of the main attractions of a visit to Elvas is to see the late 16th/early 17th century aqueduct, and it is indeed an impressive sight as you drive towards it:

Our parking spot for the day was just behind the aqueduct. Colin’s in view in this shot, taken from up by the town:

The town does boast some very impressive fortifications, being entirely enclosed within multiple layers of walls…

…one of which forms a star shape, for which it has attained UNESCO World Heritage list status. However, once you’ve seen the aqueduct, the walls, the castle and a church or two then there doesn’t appear to be much more to do. We managed to wander around for a couple of hours, including a significant chunk of time spent searching for postcards (we found some in the Tourist Office at an extortionate 90c each), writing them and queuing in the post office for stamps. We would then have had lunch at one of the restaurants advertising a three course meal for €7.50, except that the only restaurant which wasn’t completely empty only had stand-up tables. I fancied neither standing nor being the only patrons, so back to Colin we went for sandwiches, our meal out temporarily deferred.

In times gone by, naughty people would get strung up from one of the hooks on this pillar, apparently.

A bit narrow, some of those streets.

As Elvas had taken less time than expected it occurred to me that we could squeeze in the shortest of visits to Cáceres (another UNESCO World Heritage site; we’re being such culture vultures today!), which had been dropped from the list of places to visit due to a lack of time. Back into Spain we went, across a huge plain on an often very straight road, arriving in Cáceres by 4pm.

Our walk up into the town wasn’t promising, with graffiti tarnishing the surroundings in every direction we looked, such that I was struggling to see any indication that this is a tourist destination and one worthy of its World Heritage listing. Then into the old town we arrived, where there’s not just the odd medieval-looking building dotted amongst moderness; the whole of the old town is, well, old!

The most informative visit we’ve made to a Tourist Office to date had us come out thinking that this place deserves far more than a quick pre-dinner stroll. We shall return up the hill tomorrow morning for a more detailed look around.

A bit of a fight broke out whilst we were in town…


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Wednesday 24 February–Fregenal de la Sierra and Badajoz

Where's Colin? He’s in the very new Municipal Aire at Badajoz.

My misgivings about spending the night in the Aire at the bus station in Fregenal, which is also frequented by artics, were either unfounded or I was just very tired. Between putting my book down last night and Mick waking me to tell me that the alarm was going off this morning, I heard nothing. Funnily enough, as soon as I was awake, there were bus engines galore (they really ought to turn them off when they’re on the stand for more than a minute, I reckon).

Clear skies weren’t forecast at all, and they didn’t last into the afternoon.

Our walk for today, chosen from the six glossy route cards given to us by the Tourist Office, was an 8-mile lollipop-shaped outing, on fast-going terrain such that it only took us two and a quarter hours (described in more detail on That had us back in Colin for a lunch so early that any Spaniards seeing us eating our ham/cheese sandwiches no doubt thought it was breakfast. By 1pm we were all packed away, the ‘there’s a service point right next to us’ chores had been completed, and we were away.

This trip was originally billed as being a tour of Spain and Portugal, but it was soon apparent that we weren’t going to fit in the Portugal element. However, I’ve never been to Portugal, and there’s a particular town just a few kilometres over the border I’m interested to see, and as it lies just a short detour from our route north it seemed silly not to swing by.

That’s where we would have headed this afternoon, but the Aire there doesn’t look nice in the photos in the Aires book, and the on-line reviews aren’t good either. Meanwhile, just 20k away in Badajoz, on the Spanish side of the border, is a brand-new Aire, which hasn’t yet made it into the book, which has excellent reviews. So, even though the town doesn’t receive a promising write up in the Rough Guide, we opted to come here instead, and to head over the border tomorrow.

Previous experience on this trip tells us that places which are poorly reviewed by the Rough Guide are not necessarily uninteresting to us, and first impressions of this place were favourable. The Aire is next to the river, right next to the old bridge, with a clear view across to the old town, with its fortifications and many churches.

Colin is in this photo, but he’s blending into the great big bus of a motorhome behind him, so he doesn’t really stand out.

A slightly better composed shot of the town across the river, omitting the Aire.

Unfortunately, our arrival coincided with both siesta time, and rain. The rain finally abated and the sky brightened at 5pm, and I wasted no time in declaring a quick trip to the Art Gallery to be in order; it’s only just over the other side of the bridge, so surely we could make it before another shower came in? I was wrong. By the time we had jackets and shoes on and Colin’s blinds had all be closed, I’d just put my hand on the door handle when the heavens opened (heavily enough to wash the dust off Colin, I reckon). There was no chance of us choosing to go out in that. Shoes and jackets were shed and we resigned ourselves to not seeing anything of the town.

By 6pm the skies were clear, but by then tea was cooking, so it wasn’t until 7pm (just about sunset) that we finally made it out for a very short stroll across the bridge. The town is obviously making an effort to make itself appealing to tourists, as between the Aire and the town sits a series of half a dozen bi-lingual information signs giving the history of the fortifications.

 The town/EU has obviously invested in recreation facilities too, with pathways, outdoor gym equipment and children’s play areas having been recently installed alongside the river.

If it wasn’t for the lack of time remaining, I’m sure we’d spend the morning tomorrow looking around. As it is, we’ll be heading west first thing.

(Random aside: “Autogas!” I cried twice before Mick realised my meaning and managed at the last moment to pull into the fuel station I’d spotted before we sailed on by. It’s the first time we’ve had trouble getting a pump to couple with our adapter, but we got there in the end (ha ha! Mick was holding the pump this time so for once it wasn’t me who got a hand covered in spray-back). It was the most expensive LPG of the trip, albeit only by 0.1c. Overly simplistic calculations this evening tell me that when we’re not hooked up to electric, and we’re running the fridge full time, we burn somewhere in the region of 0.7 litres per day.)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Tuesday 23 February – Valverde del Camino and Fregenal de la Sierra

Where’s Colin? He’s in a municipal aire at the bus station in Fregenal. I’m hoping the buses don’t run too late or too early.

After two days of limited visibility due to a dust cloud, today dawned blue-skied and bright, with much better air clarity. Indeed, there were views to be seen today, and our morning walk on Route 10 (ish - see for more detail on that) allowed us to enjoy those views over the green and undulating area.

All our our neighbours from last night had moved on by the time we returned to Colin (I don’t think most of them even went into the town, purely using the Aire as a stopover), and after lunch we made tracks too.

The road between Valverde and Fregenal is very winding and uppy-downy, but it goes through a very scenic area. It would have been most enjoyable if it hadn’t been for a poor road surface causing Colin to vibrate so much. Every now and then we’d hit a resurfaced section of road and it’d be a welcome relief for a few seconds before the old, crazed surface resumed.

Arriving in Fregenal I wasn’t too enamoured with the Aire, although first impressions were (I hope) misleading as we seemed to hit rush-hour when lots of buses were coming in, as well as artics coming and going, parking in front of the motorhome area, presumably for their lunch breaks. We’d also arrived mid-siesta, so our first walk into the town bore no fruit as both the Tourist Office and the castle were closed until 5pm. Back in Colin with a wait ahead of us and lots of vehicle noise all around, I muttered a bit about going somewhere nicer, but the final decision was to stay. 

Looking up to the castle and one of the churches, as viewed from about ten yards behind Colin.

At 5.30, information about local walk options was obtained from the Tourist Office (the download on their website wouldn’t work for me) and into the castle we went, which happens also to house a fish market and a bull ring:

I’m not sure whether we were supposed to go up onto the castle walls, but there was nothing (and no-one) to say we couldn’t, so we climbed up the steep seats of the bull ring to the access point, just right of centre in the above panoranic shot.

The railings up there seemed rather flimsy, but at least there were some, unlike on the narrow, winding staircase up to the top of the tower visible on the right. We completed our visit with a walk around to another (more substantial) tower (out of shot on the left), on the side of the castle which gives a bird’s-eye view over the town. Talking of birds, it was up there that we came upon proof that baby pigeons do exist, as Mick spotted this tiny ball of yellow fluff in a nest (on the other side of some glass; we caused no disturbance):

Another planning session, whilst we waited out Siesta this afternoon, established that even with the bonus day of 29 Feb we're a day short to do everything we'd wanted to do on our way back up Spain. Something is going to have to be omitted, and I suspect that something will be Cacares.

(Random extra note: two good deeds today - removing a screw from behind a car's tyre, and (after watching multiple manouevres to try to get their van within range of their very short hose) we made a French couple happy by volunteering ours.)

Monday, 22 February 2016

Monday 22 February – Valverde del Camino

Where’s Colin? He’s exactly where he was yesterday. We’re allowed to stay here for 48 hours and we intend to reside for most of the allowed period.

I’m nearly out of laptop battery, having just written the blog about today’s walk (which is on, so this is going to be a short one, which shouldn’t be too difficult, because other than the walk all we’ve done is sit around reading, take a walk to the supermarket for supplies and briefly chat to our British neighbours (the Aire is at capacity tonight, with six vans here –two of us are Brits, with a couple of French and a couple of Spanish).

And, ummm, that’s it. Said it’d be short. I’ll not include any photos on the basis that anyone who's reading this has probably already seen them on the walking blog.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Sunday 21 February – Seville, Santiponce and Valverde del Camino

Where’s Colin? He’s in a Municipal Aire on the edge of the town of Valverde del Camino at N37º34.871, W6º45.088. There’s a service point here, although all drains (except the toilet emptying one) are blocked.

With Monday looming and plenty of things we still wanted to see in the area it was an early start and, just as soon as Mick had been for a run and showers had been had (electric and water easily available = showers whether we need them or not!), off we went across the river to find the Archeological and Folk Museums.

The police closure of the road that lay between us and our objective was the first indication that something was afoot and we soon worked out what, when we entered the park and found drinks/banana stations being set up: it was the Seville Marathon today.

Drinks/bananas station being set up

Runners coming through the same area later. I slipped on a banana just after taking this photo. You can't be too careful when there are bananas around, you know.

With much to fit in before 3pm (Sunday closing time for the afternoon’s attractions) the plan had been for a very quick look around the two museums, which are both housed in buildings which are quite imposing from outside…

…but that plan went awry when we found the contents of the Folk Museum, in particular, to be far more interesting than expected – especially the exhibit about ceramic tiles.

Dodging past runners, across the road to the Archeological Museum we went (the first museum we’ve been to where our assertions that we are British weren’t believed, and passports had to be produced to gain free entry). There we started with the ‘Prehistorical’ floor, which wasn’t a patch on my benchmark of the excellent museum at Murcia (it was Murcia, wasn’t it? It was a long time ago now!). The visit was redeemed, however, when we got upstairs to an incredible display of roman remains. Alas, by now we were seriously short of time (aside from our plans for the rest of the day, we needed to grab some lunch, fill Colin’s water tank and be out of the car park before our stay exceeded 48 hours), so we almost ran around exhibits that could easily have filled an hour or more, all the time cursing the ‘Monday Problem’ (i.e. the stuff we want to visit is generally closed on Mondays).

Dodging runners again, we made our way back to Colin and over lunch (pausing for a chat with a British chap who popped by) we contemplated what to see this afternoon. It was by now apparent that we only had time for either the monastery or the Roman remains at Santiponce, not both. We chose the remains, which turned out to be no small place, being the in-progress excavations of the Roman town which was the birthplace of Trajan and Hadrian.

The first thing you see after entering the park is one of the outer walls of the huge amphitheatre (although we didn’t actually visit it properly until last), which gave us our first taster that this place was going to be more impressive than we’d thought:

It’s known for the number of almost complete mosaics which have been uncovered there:

And for the amphitheatre. I particularly like this photo, which had a person-free view until the moment I pressed the button, when this child came running out from one of the access points from the tunnel which runs under the stands:

A panoramic shot does, of course, distort things, but viewed on full-screen I think this one works pretty well:

With only ten minutes left before closing time, we visited the exhibition room where Mick watched a bit of a film about the place whilst I skim read the information panels. It being apparent that the place deserved at least another hour, I was just thinking about staying parked where we were overnight, and returning tomorrow, when I re-remembered the Monday Problem. Grrrrrr!

Leaving on the dot of closing time, we concluded that whilst we didn’t know what we’d missed at the monastery, we were happy with our choice, but that it was a shame that it wasn’t open for another hour.

Back in a baking Colin (32.2 degrees inside; must have been about 23, maybe 25, outside) a 60-mile drive was then before us (via a fuel station – expensive at 90.9c/litre this time) which brought us to Valverde, where there is a choice of 10 walking routes available to us (although the only information I have is from the town’s website, which makes finding out about each walk a bit of a painful process), so tomorrow we should be off for a stroll.

(Forgot to mention – the air has been filled with dust/sand today, with a brownish haze hanging over everything. Happily, it’s much better here in Valverde than it was in the Seville area, but Colin's covered.)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Saturday 20 February – Seville

Where’s Colin? He’s still in his car park right by the centre of Seville.

I’m exhausted! I always find sight-seeing and museums far more tiring than walking 20 miles, and today was a case in point.

The cathedral was first on our (very short) list of things to see, although it didn’t demand an early start as it doesn’t open until 11. An amble, via the Parque Maria Luisa, brought us to the short queue outside the cathedral’s not-yet-open gates by 10.30. I wasn’t prepared to stand and queue for half an hour, so we went off for a walk around the vast building. By footprint, it’s the third largest church in the world; by volume it’s the largest, so it took us a while to circumperambulate it, but even so it was still before 10.50 when we got back to the entrance, by which time we thought that if we were going to be killing time then we may just as well do so in the queue.

When the cathedral was planned in 1402 it was (apparently) said that it would be “a building on so magnificent a scale that posterity will believe that we were mad”. In my opinion, by being so big, it loses some of its impact, as there is no vantage point in the nearby streets where you can take in the whole of the building at once. This snap is the best I could manage.

Once the gates opened it didn’t take too long for us to get to the front of the queue, where we parted with €3 each, on top of the €9 entrance fee, in order to get an audioguide. I’m sure we wouldn’t have spent anywhere near as long inside without the latter, which included 40 points of interest.

As well as not finding the outside as striking as, say, Burgos cathedral, due to its sheer size, for me the inside suffered in the same way: it’s so vast that I thought the impact of magnificent alter pieces was diluted. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good and interesting couple of hours that we spent inside, before we took to the ramps (not steps) which ascend 35 levels to the bell platform of The Giralda – a tower which sits adjacent to the cathedral. As you might expect (particularly on a clear skied day like today) the views from up there were superb … once you’d patiently waited for a space to open up at a viewing point. I don’t know how many people were in the cathedral and up the tower whilst we were there, but it’s certainly not a place that’s lacking in popularity.

Once down in the garden of the orange trees (the only feature remaining from the mosque which originally stood on this site), we had a good view back up to the tower:

It was gone 1330 when we emerged back onto the street and I was ready to eat a scabby dog. Even so, we walked some distance from the most touristy area before we selected a tapas bar, where we placed a substantial order:

A tasty lunch! Not a morsel went uneaten.

We’ve noticed over the last six weeks of sightseeing that, as well as public buildings (like museums and galleries)  being closed on a Monday, those which charge often have a day, or half day, of the week when entry is free. To date we’ve never been in the right place at the right time, but today we finally hit it right for the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo – somewhere I probably wouldn’t have gone if we’d had to pay, but which I thought worth a look, if nothing else because it’s housed in a 14th century monastery which was restored for the 1992 World’s Fair.

The building was indeed interesting:

Hold on! Are we suddenly in Stoke on Trent? The building also has a pottery making background.

The contemporary art was far less interesting than the building.

The riverside was positively teeming with people on this fine, warm afternoon, as we walked back along it to Colin*, and the pleasure boats were busy too – a contrast to the one we saw yesterday with only half a dozen passengers on board.

We’re not quite done with Seville yet, as there are a couple more museums, just across the river from us, which I want to visit. Spending another day in Seville will, however, cause us to run into the ‘Monday problem’ as there are a couple of places 10km out of the city that I’d like to visit … but of course they are closed on a Monday, which is the day on which we would naturally arrive. So, either something has to be omitted, or we have to brace ourselves for an overload of culture tomorrow as we try to cram in two museums, some Roman remains and a monastery.

(*We left all of Colin’s blinds closed today, yet such was the sunshine that we returned to the highest temperature we’ve recorded in him yet this trip: 29.5 degrees.)

Friday, 19 February 2016

Friday 19 February – Doñana and Seville

Where’s Colin? He’s in the motorhome Aire area of a large car park right by the centre of Seville, at N37º22’21”, W5º59’40”, at a cost of €15 per day, including electricity.

The SatNav starred again this morning, taking us on a route out of Sanlúcar that had us breathing in (we wouldn’t have believed that we could squeeze past the parked cars in one street if another van of Colin’s size hadn’t preceded us; as it was we cleared those cars with just inches to spare) and cursing its attempts to lure us the wrong way down one-way streets. Added to that roads with low speed limits and some of the most brutal types of raised crossings* and it took us longer than anticipated to cover the 10km to the bit of Doñana national park which sits on the south side of the river.

After waiting out the rain, a 3-mile circuit was taken which was perfectly pleasant, through sandy-floored pine forest, but was disappointing for not giving a better taster of what the rest of the park might be like (at least, I assume from what I’ve read that it wasn’t representative).

Seville was our next objective and within five minutes of finishing our walk, we were off. It’s a place that was only tentatively on our agenda, as I wasn’t sure if we would be better leaving it for another time. However, in part thanks to the sudden realisation that with this being a leap year we have one more day available to us than I’d thought, we have time in hand so we thought we may as well come here as not. Based on just one afternoon’s wanderings, I’m glad we did.

My research on possible night-stops presented us with three contenders here. The one used by all of the motorhome bloggers who I follow is 8km from the city, but has good facilities and is right on a bus route. Another option, also included in the ‘All the Aires’ guide, is about a mile from the city, but the reviews on Park4Night weren’t promising. Then there was the place within a five minute walk of the centre, which isn’t yet in the Aires guide, but which had lots of good reviews. We decided to aim for convenience and look at the latter first. I should perhaps reserve judgement until we’ve spent the night here, but we’re at the back of a large, secure car park, right on the river bank, and we have an electricity and water point in our space. The Plaza de Espana is just across the river from us (a five minute walk). And the price for this serviced city centre parking spot? €15 per 24 hours. Not bad I’d say … unless it proves really noisy overnight (I say whilst listening to what sounds very much like a marching band just across the water).

Colin’s sitting behind the reeds on the right-side of this shot.

It was approaching 3pm before we were lunched and ready to explore, but we had a very enjoyable 3 hours in this city which immediately appealed to both of us. By luck more than by design, the first place where we found ourselves was at the Plaza de Espana. I’ve managed to flatten it out in this panoramic shot, but hopefully it gives an impression of the magnificent semi-circular building which was built for the Spanish Americas Fair (1929?):

As the cathedral closes at 5pm, we’ve left our visit there for the morning, but we did walk past it as we made our way to the Museo de Bellas Artes. What a place the gallery is! Even ignoring the artwork, the building itself is worth a visit, being a former convent. Room 5, pictured below, is the former chapel:

And there were some impressive ceilings elsewhere in the place too:

Not to mention a number of courtyards:

The fourteen rooms of work of Spanish artists, spanning from the fifteenth century to the twentieth, was a bit heavy on Renaissancey stuff for my liking, but was most definitely worth the investment of a couple of hours of time.

The day was cooling down by the time we emerged back onto the street, but the skies had also largely cleared, making it a fine evening for a stroll along the riverside:

(*Spain does like to raise some of its zebra crossings up to pavement level, even if those pavements are on the high side, giving brutal speed-humps (often scarred with grounding marks) Some places colour the non-white sections of the crossing in red or blue to highlight that there’s a hump in the road, but many don’t. It’s a miracle that we haven’t yet accidentally hit one at an inappropriate speed (i.e. greater than 10mph).)