Monday, 4 December 2017

Monday 4 December - Laredo and Bilbao Port

Where's Bertie? He's in Lane 11 of the ferry queue for tomorrow's 10.30am sailing to Portsmouth (rough location: 43.35378, -3.07035).
Weather: Disappointingly, some drizzle this morning after a fair start. Clearing to sunshine later.

In anticipation of not getting much exercise over the next couple of days, we forewent our rest day and ran this morning. 'Twas a nice morning for it.

Dawn view from the beachside promenade, about 30m from Bertie.

That didn't excuse us a walk into town later. Those postcards weren't going to reach their destinations unless we bought stamps and found a postbox.

Our language skills are improving, and today, despite fluffing my lines a little, I managed to ask for stamps in a manner that got me exactly what I wanted without confusion (previously I've pointed to the corner of an envelope and muttered 'sellos'). We didn't do so well in the pastelaria, mainly because there were no labels for us to even try to describe what we wanted. Pointing came to the rescue and we came away (piggishly) with two cakes apiece. All have now been eaten. Oink.

Brittany Ferries opens check-in from 4-7pm on a Monday afternoon, before the Tuesday morning sailing, allowing people to stay in their vehicles in the queuing lanes overnight. That gave us an obvious and easy place to stay tonight, which will avoid the need for an early start or any stress about getting here in the morning. With the 50km journey here behind us, we had completed in two days (i.e. from Santander) a journey of 100km that took us 11 days in the other direction!

I can't say that the signage at the port was particuarly clear, but we managed to locate the one open check-in booth, and here we are. The next motorhome to pull up behind us was a Hymer B444DL - remarkable as that's exactly what Bertie is, and whilst we've encountered many others from the Dynamic Line (DL) range on our travels, that's the first other 444 we've seen.


I'll try to remember to write one more post, once we get home, reviewing the trip (not to mention the ferry ride - provided that I'm not too traumatised to mention it...), but given my past performance in blogging laziness as soon as we reach home, there's no guarantee. In anticipation of failing to pen that last post, I'll just record here that it's been a very enjoyable trip and we're both looking forward to returning to Spain at some point next year.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sunday 3 December - Laredo

Where's Bertie? He's back in the dead-end road/car park at Laredo, where he's already been on two other occasions on this trip (exact location: 43.4149, -3.42815)
Weather: Periods of rain.

We managed to run in the dry this morning, and it seems that Sunday is the popular day for the activity. Lots and lots of people were seen doing the same, although only one other woman. That explains how*, even at today's pace (it was Long Slow Run day) I managed to achieve the second fastest female on that circuit this year on Strava (Strava = a very popular exercise tracking app that I only got around to downloading last week).

By the time we had run, breakfasted, showered and all that gubbins, it was knocking on for lunchtime. Thinking we'd best squeeze in elevenses, the kettle was put on, whereupon Mick suggested we should go out for coffee and croissant instead. That we did, making it half way to the same cafe as yesterday before walking back to check we had turned the kettle off (of course we had!).

The cafe was heaving, and plenty were on the beach and the promenade too. Far more than yesterday. The result of shops being closed in Spain on a Sunday, thus there are few distractions in a nation that already likes its exercise and its social eating/drinking?

Had we not returned to Bertie due to kettle paranoia, we would have got our croissant. As it was, we'd just missed the last ones. We settled for the suggested substitute of toast instead.

After a walk back in the rain (didn't wear waterproofs today, hence it rained on us!), and a spot of lunch, it was mid-afternoon by the time we got Bertie ready to move on and thus a decision had to be made as to where to go. The short-list was: 1) to the other side of Santander to an Aire where a pitch and electric can be had for €6; 2) to Liérganes - a place we particularly liked but a bit of a detour; or 3) Laredo, again.

Laredo obviously won, although we could be anywhere as the weather is such that we have not stepped out of Bertie since we arrived. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow, for our last full day in Spain.

(*It's also probable that women are less likely to use gadgets, gizmos and technology to the same extent as men, but I think the main factor is the lack of women running in Santander. My lower standing on the 'leaderboard' for yesterday's much-faster run reflects that most people run around the park in a clockwise direction, so I had more competition; today we ran in the unpopular anti-clockwise direction.)

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Saturday 2 December - Santander

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Aire in Santander.
Weather: Showers, some of hail, but with some good sunny spells in between. The heaviest hail/thunder shower was at 2.09 this morning; gosh, it was loud!

The main reason we came back to Santander was because there's a really good place to run right opposite the Aire. This morning, we each did a couple of circuits of the parkland, in opposite directions, in a relay stylee. Mick, setting off well after me (he was still in bed as I was ready to go) managed to pass me the keys on his way past without either of us needing to break stride.

That was all good fun, and I only got slightly wet in one shower (Mick avoided all rain).

After our late breakfast, we opted for the beachside promenade for our next leg-stretch, but without repetition of where we went on our previous visit. This time we turned left when we hit the coast.


Last time we were here there were lots of bikini/shorts clad people playing a bat and ball game on the beach. There was no bat and balling today. The beach dwellers were instead mainly clad in jackets, hats and gloves - even some of these chaps who had installed two sets of goalposts (made out of waste pipes) and drawn a pitch on the sand:

Some of the footballers were wearing jackets, hats and/or gloves; one roughty-toughty was wearing shorts and a had a bare chest.

We had reached the end of the promenade and were just looking at where the cliff-top path went, when it came to our notice that the sky was going awfully dark again. An about turn was swiftly made and to a cafe we went. Over coffee and croissant, at a table with Christmas decorations, we looked through the rain-lashed picture windows, watching two chaps strip off their t-shirts and dive into the waves.

The rain was, of course, irrelevant whilst they were swimming, but, personally, I would want it to be dry when I emerged. But then I'd want the air temperature to be about 15 degrees warmer too.

I had good intentions to go back out this afternoon, to take some recycling to some communal bins and to find a Tabac to buy stamps. With showers coming through regularly, and with a trashy novel gripping me, I didn't make it. I absolutely have to get stamps on Monday; I've got postcards written, and we leave on Tuesday.


A rugged 4x4 Hymer (on a Merc base). Never seen one of these before.

(We've got a close neighbour again tonight. I nipped out and looked at the state of fullness: to our left there's a space, a van, then five empty spaces. To our right there was a space, a van, then four empty spaces. Yet, they opted to take the single space to our right. As I've said before, I've no cause to complain and they have every right to park there (and it's not as extreme as the van that parked right next to us in an otherwise empty 150-space car park in Comillas), but I'm fascinated as to why they would choose to park so close to two other vans, when could have had an empty space either side of them.)

Friday, 1 December 2017

Friday 1 December - Santander

Where's Bertie? He's back in the municipal Aire at Santader, where he spent a couple of nights in early November (exact location: 43.47218, -3.80276).
Weather: Awful start, with rain, hail and high winds. Some sunny spells between violent showers (rain, hail, sleet) later.

We were rudely awoken early this morning by hail battering Bertie's roof. Along with rocking as if he was at sea, it was enough to have me declare "I'm not going for a run in that!".

It was tempting to ask the Aire owner if we could stay another night (the max stay is officially 3 days), but the lack of certain groceries was the push we needed to move on.

Grocery shopping and LPG filling proved trying. I'd wanted to nip into the Carrefour in Santander, but found its (and all of the nearby) car parks guarded by height barriers. So, we proceeded to a Lidl, where the car park was full and so tight that we would have struggled to squeeze Bertie into a spot anyway.

Temporarily abandoning our supermarket needs, a diversion was made for LPG, to the same petrol station we used previously. The decision to go back there was slightly against our better judgement, but the experience was even worse today. I'll gloss over a detailed description of the shenanigans, but just mention that this is a manned station, where an attendant fills your vehicle for you. That's not an unusual scenario in Spain, but it's incredibly inefficient as everyone is waiting around for one man to do all of the filling, then to write out a chit, to be taken into the kiosk for payment. The whole inefficient scenario is not helped by all of vehicle manoeuvring that needs to go on due to the poor design of this particular filling station.

Groceries were finally procured from another Lidl (bizarre, inefficient parking barrier system there), then it was just a stop for diesel before our errands were run. Yes, we could have got diesel at the same place as the LPG, but that would have required us to turn around and queue for another pump, and we had almost lost the will to live just in getting LPG.

On the bright side, that's the first time we've put any fuel in Bertie's tank since San Sebastian on 16 October.

Settled into the Aire here, we were just finishing up a late lunch when a patch of blue sky was spotted. Making the most of it, we dived into our waterproofs and went out for a leg-stretch, making one full circuit and one mini-circuit of the park opposite before the sky started looking too ominous to continue. Good call: I hadn't had Bertie's door closed behind me for more than five seconds before the rain came down.

Eeeh, that's another lot of wittering on a day when we have essentially done nothing!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Thursday 30 November - Cóbreces

Where's Bertie? He's still at the commercial Aire at Cóbreces.
Weather: Heavy rain, with some hail and thunder, but with a nice bright spell in the middle of the day.

Lying in bed this morning listening to hail pelting the roof, and thunder crashing just to the east of us, I opined that there was little point in moving on today. It was clearly going to be another day of doing very little, and if we were going to sit inside Bertie, we may as well do it somewhere with electricity.

With that settled, I then set about making a major change of plan. The shipping forecast told me that there's going to be a spell of fine weather from Sunday until Wednesday morning across the Bay of Biscay, and the Brittany Ferries website told me that they had space on their crossing from Bilbao to Portsmouth on Tuesday. It's a more expensive way of getting back to the UK than driving up to Calais, but it saves around 800 miles and a few days. So, I bit the bullet and booked it. From 'I don't go on ferries' to over a dozen boat trips this summer in Scandinavia, to commiting myself to 24 hours on board. Yikes! I'll be drinking a pint of milk next*.

Thus, we will be back in the UK a few days earlier than planned, but those days would have been spent driving to Calais, rather than having frivilous fun.

Late this morning, coffees were hastily necked, and waterproofs donned. We could see a big chunk of blue sky approaching, and whilst we didn't expect that it would last for long (hence the waterproofs), we thought we would at least get some exercise partially in the dry.

Not only did that sunny spell last, but by the time we were finishing our circuit it had warmed up considerably.

A few days ago, during a discussion on eating out, we agreed that, as much as we like a good Menu del Dia, we couldn't manage to eat that quantity on two consecutive lunchtimes. Today we disproved that theory. In the interests of not sitting around in Bertie for all of the rest of the day, we wandered back up to the local restaurant and indulged again. It will probably be our last meal out for this trip.


Except for a couple of short-ish showers, the fine period lasted a good couple of hours (maybe even three), but as I type it's heavily overcast again and the rain is drumming down. Even so, a hardy peacock has just wandered past...

(*Ha! No chance!)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Wednesday 29 November - Cóbreces

Where's Bertie? He's still at the commercial Aire at Cóbreces.
Weather: Mainly heavy rain, with a few hail showers mixed in, and just a few sunny spells.

By quarter past eleven this morning I had all my running gear on, including trainers, but was procrastinating on getting out the door. Rain always sounds worse on Bertie's roof than it is in reality, but even so, there was no denying that it was very wet out. At half past eleven I bit the bullet and ran.

There was one flood and countless unavoidable puddles to splash through, and by the time I got to the top of the hill and turned into the wind, I could no longer feel my thighs. Shorts are my legwear of choice in the rain as it's less fabric to need to get dry (and they're made of Pertex, so are very quick drying), but finding that not only was it wet and windy, but also only 4 degrees, they may not have been the best choice.

Mick went out when I got back and he got caught in the first hail shower of the day, as well as catching a particularly torrential downpour.

By the time we went out for lunch, Bertie's bathroom had thus become a drying room.

Lunch was at the same restaurant as we visited a couple of weeks ago. We both chose badly on the starters, but that was put entirely right by swapping with each other. I also failed to be specific enough on my coffee and, for the first time ever, was served one made with milk. As milk is, to my mind, a substance of the devil, I donated it to Mick, pouring most of his espresso into it, as mine was a decaf. All in all though, another excellent meal and for €9.20 a head.

We loitered in the restaurant beyond lunch, waiting for the rain to abate enough to make a dash back to Bertie. Meanwhile, a pilgrim walking the Camino left, then a while later came back to shelter some more. It was not a nice day for a walk today.

The weather wasn't conducive to doing anything after lunch, beyond hotfooting it back to Bertie. It's not forecast any nicer tomorrow either.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Tuesday 28 November - Cóbreces

Where's Bertie? He's back at the commercial Aire in Cóbreces where he spent three nights a couple of weeks ago (exact location: 43.38896, -4.21078).
Weather: Frosty but glorious start, with a band of cloud slowly moving in from the north in the early afternoon. Rain from around 6pm. Gloriously warm mid-afternoon when in the sun and out of the breeze.

There's probably not going to be much to say during the rest of this trip. For the next few days we are going to be revisiting places we stayed on our westbound journey. We then plan on visiting one new place before our northwards journey begins in earnest, which - given that it's not going to be warm in France at this time of year - will be mainly driving.

Today's revisit is (as you will have seen above) Cóbreces, chosen because, at a time of year when there are almost no campsites open, this Aire has electric hook up. Our timing in returning here has been spot on - the window vac (one of the few items that we cannot currently charge from the solar panel/leisure battery) ran out of power this morning. With the cold nights, our cab windows are acting as very effective dehumidifier elements, making the window vac a very valuable tool.

Talking of cold nights, remember that summer duvet we bought back in France, at the beginning of this trip, when we realised we had erred by bringing a winter duvet? Last night (well, 5 this morning) was the first time when I woke up feeling not warm enough. Last night was also the first time that the temperature has dropped low enough inside Bertie for the heating to kick in (we set it for 7 degrees overnight when it's forecast to be cold, to make sure the frost thermostat on the hot water tank doesn't dump our water).

Anyway, enough wittering about stuff and nonsense!

We've been for a couple of walks, but nothing noteworthy. Running kit and PJs have been washed and got dry in the sunshine (variously under the windscreen wipers and on the dashboard, as 'Parking, not Camping' rules apply here, so you're not allowed to put 'stuff' outside, like the rotary airer). And, just as I've been typing, a Spanish motorhome has arrived and - you'll be unsurprised to hear - has rejected all of the large (multi-space) gaps between motorhomes that it could potentially have taken, and has squeezed itself into the single space between us and the office/amenities building.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Monday 27 November - Llanes

Where's Bertie? He's still in the Aire at Llanes.
Weather: Mainly sunny. Very cool start.

Not much to report today; I got engrossed in finishing the book I've been reading (Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White).

There was a little bit of coastal walk before we headed into town for lunch:


And there was some wandering around the town, parts of which look to be medieval...

...with some smart buildings...


...and one of a particularly unusual modern design - the Port Office (I think):


Then, by complete contrast to everything else, there's the monstrosity that is the old cinema:

It looks like I've captured some people disapparating.

During a bit of window shopping, Mick chose this one as his pick of the day:


Lunch out didn't happen. Being Monday, half of the bars and restaurants were closed and those that were open were largely deserted, even at gone 2pm. There was just one that was busy, but their menu didn't suit (no fish or seafood, even though they were on the quayside?!). We weren't up for being solitary diners today, so we abandoned our hopes of trying the local bean stew (Fabada Asturian) and consoled ourselves with more cakes from the same Pastelaria as we visited yesterday:


After such a lazy morning on my part (Mick had run whilst I had lounged with my book), I had to take another walk along the coast and around the town just before sunset in an effort to justify the cake. It's probably a good thing that we are moving on tomorrow - this is a town with a whole selection of fine, hard-to-resist cake shops.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Sunday 26 November - Ribadesella and Llanes

Where's Bertie? He's in a municipal Aire at Llanes, where it costs €3 for 24 hours (exact location: 43.42394, -4.76796).
Weather: Mainly sunny, but with clouds coming and going.

It was a chilly 2 degrees as I set out for a run at first light this morning. Being so early, there was nothing going on on the river (lots of canoeists yesterday, rowing fast circuits involving jumping out onto the beach, running along dragging the canoe, then doing a quick launch back into the water), but I entertained myself by investigating the other side of the estuary. It's a long beach over there, although the tide was in, leaving no beach behind. I have the mental image of a hot summer's day, with an early afternoon high tide, with hundreds of holiday makers gradually migrating to huddle together on a smaller and smaller patch of sand.

Mick was up and raring to roll by the time I got back, so not long after breakfast, off we set, intending to move 20km along the coast to a nice spot on an estuary.

For reasons that are a little unfathomable in retrospect, we didn't even stop there, rejecting the location before we even got to the car park itself, even though the car park, when we found it, was really quite lovely.

We then tried another place two kilometres along the coast, but that one wasn't attractive, although it would have been a good base to take a look at that stretch of coast. So, we came to Llanes.

I had been pre-warned that the Aire here has the most ridiculously complicated entry system, and that warning was valid. Worse, at 11am, the partly-misted-up touch screen was largely unreadable with the sun on it, making it an extra trial to navigate my way through inputting passport number, country, address, name and email address, not to mention having to choose a numbered parking bay (then choosing another one when it erroneously said my first choice was taken). Accordingly, I didn't trouble myself with inputting accurate information. Considering the price of €3 per day, it's a mystery why the town decided to use the most complicated system ever encountered, and I hope that someone has told them that it is putting people off from staying here. The Italian chap who was just arriving as we got back from our walk would almost certainly have failed the entry test if we hadn't helped, and at least three other vans have driven off from the barrier since we have been here (why would Spaniards even carry their passports? How many people, like me, would just input any random number into that field to see if it will accept it?).

Not wanting to have to go through such trials a second time, I made a snap decision that we would stay here for two nights. Whilst the location of the Aire is nothing to write home about, our walk along the fortified coast, and through the town had us immediately take a liking to the place and if we were allowed to stay for three nights, we would. (I wonder how long one has to leave for before the 48-hour max stay resets itself?)

Here's a glimpse of the bit of coast we walked, running the length of the town:


These two snaps were taken from the same spot


I failed to take any snaps of the town itself. Maybe I'll think to do that tomorrow.

Our choice of coffee stop by the river in town proved to be good, as the waiter somehow devined that we would appreciate a bit of wifi and, unsoliciated, wrote down the password for us. Finally, after four failed attempts on slow wifi elsewhere, I have a new audiobook downloaded.

It's been far too long since we had proper cakes from a proper cake shop, but almost immediately after leaving the café, we fell into a Pasteleria. So excellent did the display look, it was difficult making a choice, but not knowing the Spanish for 'Oh gosh, I really don't know!', we made snap decisions when the assistant got to us. Mick's selection was somewhat larger than mine:


Intentions were good to go back out this afternoon, but our late lunch was a large one and a certain lassitude set in. We'll have to hope the weather is good again tomorrow for further explorations.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Saturday 25 November - Ribadesella

Where's Bertie? He's still at the Aire at Ribadesella.
Weather: Rain until early afternoon, then overcast with a few light showers.

When I checked today's forecast just before bed last night, it had improved considerably, from rain all day to just rain overnight, with sunny intervals all day. Pah! The reality was that it rained continuously all morning.

To Mick's surprise, I sprang decisively out of bed by mid-morning, donned my shorts and a waterproof top and took myself off down the hill for a run. To my surprise, when I got back, Mick was ready to go himself.

We thought that might be the extent of our exercise for the day, but when the rain finally abated this afternoon, we went on a mission to find some squash (as in pumpkin, not as in a dilutable drink). I didn't mention yesterday, but the town lies over the rise of a hill from us and whilst that hill is by no means big, the road that runs down it is remarkably steep.

I think I mentioned a few days ago that I've just started crocheting together my complete set of 126 granny squares into a blanket. I'd not got very far into that before I started to think that maybe I'd not picked up enough of the yarn I'm using for the joining. Last night I established that after two columns, I've used 52g of yarn. There are nine columns in total, and I only brought 200g of that yarn with me. Darn it!
(Talking of darning it, my darning needle is crucial to the construction of the blanket, as there is a lot of darning in of yarn ends to do, so it felt like near-disaster tonight when I accidentally flung that needle across Bertie and thought that I'd lost it behind one of the seats. With great relief I found it on the floor next to the seat, but it has highlighted that I really need to pack more than one darning needle.)

And, ummmmm, even with all that whittering about yarning and darning, there's nothing else to add about today. Definitely a quiet one.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Friday 24 November - Cangas de Onis and Ribadesella

Where's Bertie? He's at a Municipal Aire just above Ribadesella (exact location: 43.46025, -5.05421).
Weather: Overcast all day, becoming showery after 4.30pm.

After three days of activity, it was a lazy start to today, which is to say that I nominated Mick to get up and make tea and breakfast, whilst I lounged around in bed for an unreasonably long time.

Having already had three one-night stays (bearing in mind that one of the aims of this trip was to stay longer in each place, where legal and sensible to do so), we might have been lazy all day and sat out the dull and damp weather in Cangas. However, the car park hadn't been the quietest place at 7 this morning, and I doubted it would be so on a Friday night either, so 'onwards' was my vote.

Our departure wasn't immediate, with a walk first being taken back into town to a supermarket, and with the walk back being broken at a cafe for coffee and croissant.

With groceries stowed and Bertie drained and watered, we were about set to leave when I realised that I'd selected our next location based on a faulty mental map of Spain. Checking the real map confirmed I was accidentally taking us east, and east was not our intention today. Five minutes later, the result of a rethink was that we were going to Colunga (home of some dinosaur tracks, so I've read).

That intention persisted for a few kilometres when I redirected us to Ribadesella instead. I'd read good things about the Aire here, and it was less of a journey, so I thought we may as well come here and put a bit of thought into the rest of the trip. With just 2 weeks to go (during which time we need to leave Spain and drive back up through France), making things up as we go along needs to be replaced with a vague plan, taking into account the places we want to visit/revisit on our way back east. (Spoiler alert: the result of that planning is that this is as far west as we are getting on this trip.)

Our arrival at this Aire was accompanied by disappointment. The photos on Park4Night make it look a lot nicer than it is, and also incorrectly suggest that it has a view of the town and the estuary. The reality is that it's on a slope, sandwiched in between two roads.

Even my photo makes it look much nicer than it is. This snap was taken during a brief busy period. There was one other van when we arrived and we are now alone.

Having made the effort to drive here, we weren't going to go away without a look around, so off we went into town.


The beaches are on the other side of the estuary, but they're not too far away via the nearby bridge.

The town itself is nothing special, but not bad, and it's not the time of year to see the harbour at its best as most of the restaurants in that area were closed. The walk out along the promenade, to the mouth of the estuary, was pleasant, and if we had any Spanish language skills we would have been edified by all of the information in that area, including audio-information points, panels of text, and these rather good ceramic illustrations of the town's history:


Completing our tour with a walk up to the top of the headland to see the church (or half church, as it now is) up there...

...a narrow old-town street deposited us back into the main town, whereupon all we had to do was climb back up and over the hill to the Aire.

Lunch and planning took up enough time that we thought we may as well stay here the night. Who knows, if tomorrow is as wet as forecast and if the roads prove to be quiet overnight, we may even stay two nights. We'll see...

Kev - here are another few properties for you, including a couple at the higher end of the market:


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thursday 23 November - Covadonga and Cangas de Onis

Where's Bertie? He's in the allocated motorhome parking in a large car park in the town of Cangas de Onis (exact location: 43.35227, -5.12577)
Weather: Mainly sunny, with varying amounts of high-level cloud.

After a quiet night in car park P4, Bertie was relocated early this morning to the religious complex that sits at the top of Covadonga, but we didn't set out straight away as I discovered that the wifi of the nearby Gran Hotel was completely open. Half an hour later, we had everything downloaded that we needed, and the quiet car park had been transformed by the arrival of the first few coachloads of tourists.

Whilst they all started their tours, off we headed, back down a little way, to ascend a hill on the other side of the valley. Why we chose to go up that hill, together with a clutch of photos of the outing, can be found on our walking blog, by clicking this link although for anyone not inclined to click, here are a couple of snaps:

The basilica at Covadonga and Cruz de Priena (the hill we went up) beyond

Lots of lumps and bumps in the Picos over there

Lunch and a few household chores (when we start transporting quantities of grit into bed on the bottom of our feet, it's time to sweep the floor!) preceded our look around the basilica and the chapel constructed in an open cave on the hillside, accessed via a tunnel. By then, it was approaching siesta time, the coaches had gone and there were just a handful of people about.

Chapel in a cave

The basilica itself was surprising for how incredibly plain it was on the inside - not the norm for Spanish churches at all. It was an anti-tardis too, in that it seemed so much smaller inside than out.

Cangas de Onis is a town that sits only about a quarter of an hour's drive away from Covadonga and we came here not knowing if we would find one of the four motorhome spaces free in what is described as an 'oversubscribed Aire'. All four were available.

We took a good walk around the town this afternoon, finding it to be much bigger than expected. It's clearly a touristy place too, although quiet at this time of year.

I'll finish with some photos specifically for Kay and Kev. Look at the prices of these three properties near here, which may be described as 'in need of renovation' to varying degrees.



(note: if you click on any of the photos they will open up bigger)

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Wednesday 22 November - Poncebos, Bulnes and Covadonga

Where's Bertie? He's in car park P4 just below Covadonga (exact location: 43.31412, -5.06237)
Weather: Glorious sunshine and surprisingly warm.

Last night the wind picked up and swung around to become southerly. That had quite an impact on the temperature and, contrary to our expectations of a frosty night, we awoke to a balmy 15 degrees at 7 this morning - double the temperature it had been 12 hours earlier.

Putting Bertie back into the same parking space in Poncebos as he had occupied yesterday, we found four other motorhomes who had clearly spent the night. We suspected that restrictions wouldn't be enforced at this time of year, (if, indeed they are enforceable; they could just be deterents), but I'd still rather go for the 'no restrictions' option if there's one nearby.

A while later, off we set for a walk up to the remote village of Bulnes. You can read more about that (and see a set of snaps of the outing) by clicking this link.

It was warm enough today that, even though Poncebos was still fully in the shade when we returned, we didn't immediately dash off in search of sunshine, as we had yesterday. Over lunch I considered the question of 'where next' and I put a case forward for driving up to Sotres. Mick wasn't enthusiastic about that option, so I looked at the map some more and thought the lakes above Covadonga might be worth a visit.

A pause in Arenas allowed us to pick up some bread and nearly knock the owner of the Tabac off her stepladder, then onwards and westwards we came.

I'd not thought to look to see if our guidebook said anything about Covadonga, so it was a surprise to arrive here to find numerous large car parks. We are in P4, which must hold at least 100 vehicles. We've been alone ever since we arrived, and all of the car parks we passed to get here were empty too, but it's apparent that this is a massively popular place in summer.

This car park will be fine for overnight, but feels a bit too isolated for leaving Bertie unattended tomorrow. So, soon after we arrived, I nipped out to see what over parking was available in the village.

Returning an hour later (by which time Mick was worrying that I'd got lost), I had discovered that: a) the village* is further away than I'd thought; b) the road up to the lakes is currently closed for resurfacing; and c) there is parking available up at the Basilica. (*I say 'village' but the guidebook tells me that it's not a village, but a cluster of buildings around the Basilica. There seemed to be houses and businesses to me, and to my mind that constitutes a village.)

The wind, which has been noticeable for much of the day, leaving roads strewn with leaves and twigs (and the occasional branch or tree), has picked up another notch tonight, leading us to turn Bertie's nose windwards just as dusk was upon us. That's stopped us from rocking, but it still sounds like it's raining as leaves are getting blown around and hitting his roof.

Here are a few random snaps of the day, in case you don't feel inclined to click on the link I gave above to nip over to our walking blog:


The path up to Bulnes is visible on the right hand side of the valley

Part of the tiny village of Bulnes, accessible only on foot or by funicular railway

Daisy. Just look at the eyes on her!

Clear water in the Cares river

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Tuesday 21 November - Poncebos and Arenas de Cabrales

Where's Bertie? He's in a large car park 2km south of Poncebos (exact location: 43.27542, -4.83391)
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine

It was 1 degree outside as we left Mier this morning and a frost covered the valley. Bertie had done a sterling job with his insulation, with his internal temperature only dropping to 9 degrees.

It was no warmer outside when we reached Poncebos, where we found a car park with remarkably small spaces, but we managed to find one into which Bertie could be shoehorned. That was a bonus as from StreetView I had assumed the car park belonged to the funicular railway and that we would have to park on the sloping road.

The walk along the Cares Gorge is, apparently, the most popular walk in this area, and that was where we were going today. I've written about it and included photos on our walking blog, and if you click here you'll be transported to that post. Here I'll suffice to say that it was a path worthy of its reputation and our few hours of incredible scenery were made even better by seeing an otter in the Cares river, just a few minutes after setting out.

It had been relatively warm in the gorge for much of the way. Poncebos, on the other hand was still a chilly place when we returned. Thus, even though I was already forming a vague plan to walk from there again tomorrow, we wasted no time in packing everything away and heading 6km back down the road to Arenas de Cabrales. I'd noted the huge car park there as we'd driven past earlier and it looked like it would catch the sun.

We sat there for a few hours, getting Bertie nicely warm, and would happily have stayed there all night. We know that other motorhomers do, but the signage at the entrance seems to prohibit 'the installation of motorhomes with the intention of staying overnight', which seemed quite specific to me. Equally, we would have gone back up to Poncebos, but the signage there prohibits motorhomes 'from dusk and all night' and is even multi-lingual. So, we opted for this car park, which we had spotted when passing earlier. It's huge, and being located a bit 'in the middle of nowhere' I can only assume it's used as overflow parking for the Cares Gorge in summer, with the users having to walk an extra 2km each way (or maybe there's a shuttle?). Of all the spaces here, there are only a couple that are level, but as we're the only vehicle, that wasn't a problem for us. Of course, if another motorhome should happen along (which seems unlikely), they will be forced to park right next to us.

Being 8 degrees when we arrived here at approaching 6pm, and with a clear sky, we are predicting another frosty night.

(I was going to include some photos in this post, but the signal here is weak (hey, we're in the middle of nowhere and deep in a gorge - it's a miracle there's any signal at all) and my battery is low, so if you want to see the snaps, you'll need to click on the link to our walking blog

Tuesday 21 November - Poncebos and Arenas de Cabrales

Where's Bertie? He's in a large car park 2km south of Poncebos (exact location: 43.27542, -4.83391)
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine

It was 1 degree outside as we left Mier this morning and a frost covered the valley. Bertie had done a sterling job with his insulation, with his internal temperature only dropping to 9 degrees.

It was no warmer outside when we reached Poncebos, where we found a car park with remarkably small spaces, but we managed to find one into which Bertie could be shoehorned. That was a bonus as from StreetView I had assumed the car park belonged to the funicular railway and that we would have to park on the sloping road.

The walk along the Cares Gorge is, apparently, the most popular walk in this area, and that was where we were going today. I've written about it and included photos on our walking blog, and if you click here you'll be transported to that post. Here I'll suffice to say that it was a path worthy of its reputation and our few hours of incredible scenery were made even better by seeing an otter in the Cares river, just a few minutes after setting out.

It had been relatively warm in the gorge for much of the way. Poncebos, on the other hand was still a chilly place when we returned. Thus, even though I was already forming a vague plan to walk from there again tomorrow, we wasted no time in packing everything away and heading 6km back down the road to Arenas de Cabrales. I'd noted the huge car park there as we'd driven past earlier and it looked like it would catch the sun.

We sat there for a few hours, getting Bertie nicely warm, and would happily have stayed there all night. We know that other motorhomers do, but the signage at the entrance seems to prohibit 'the installation of motorhomes with the intention of staying overnight', which seemed quite specific to me. Equally, we would have gone back up to Poncebos, but the signage there prohibits motorhomes 'from dusk and all night' and is even multi-lingual. So, we opted for this car park, which we had spotted when passing earlier. It's huge, and being located a bit 'in the middle of nowhere' I can only assume it's used as overflow parking for the Cares Gorge in summer, with the users having to walk an extra 2km each way (or maybe there's a shuttle?). Of all the spaces here, there are only a couple that are level, but as we're the only vehicle, that wasn't a problem for us. Of course, if another motorhome should happen along (which seems unlikely), they will be forced to park right next to us.

Being 8 degrees when we arrived here at approaching 6pm, and with a clear sky, we are predicting another frosty night.

(I was going to include some photos in this post, but the signal here is weak (hey, we're in the middle of nowhere and deep in a gorge - it's a miracle there's any signal at all) and my battery is low, so if you want to see the snaps, you'll need to click on the link to our walking blog

Tuesday 21 November - Poncebos and Arenas de Cabrales

Where's Bertie? He's in a large car park 2km south of Poncebos (exact location: 43.27542, -4.83391)
Weather: Wall-to-wall sunshine

It was 1 degree outside as we left Mier this morning and a frost covered the valley. Bertie had done a sterling job with his insulation, with his internal temperature only dropping to 9 degrees.

It was no warmer outside when we reached Poncebos, where we found a car park with remarkably small spaces, but we managed to find one into which Bertie could be shoehorned. That was a bonus as from StreetView I had assumed the car park belonged to the funicular railway and that we would have to park on the sloping road.

The walk along the Cares Gorge is, apparently, the most popular walk in this area, and that was where we were going today. I've written about it and included photos on our walking blog, and if you click here you'll be transported to that post. Here I'll suffice to say that it was a path worthy of its reputation and our few hours of incredible scenery were made even better by seeing an otter in the Cares river, just a few minutes after setting out.

It had been relatively warm in the gorge for much of the way. Poncebos, on the other hand was still a chilly place when we returned. Thus, even though I was already forming a vague plan to walk from there again tomorrow, we wasted no time in packing everything away and heading 6km back down the road to Arenas de Cabrales. I'd noted the huge car park there as we'd driven past earlier and it looked like it would catch the sun.

We sat there for a few hours, getting Bertie nicely warm, and would happily have stayed there all night. We know that other motorhomers do, but the signage at the entrance seems to prohibit 'the installation of motorhomes with the intention of staying overnight', which seemed quite specific to me. Equally, we would have gone back up to Poncebos, but the signage there prohibits motorhomes 'from dusk and all night' and is even multi-lingual. So, we opted for this car park, which we had spotted when passing earlier. It's huge, and being located a bit 'in the middle of nowhere' I can only assume it's used as overflow parking for the Cares Gorge in summer, with the users having to walk an extra 2km each way (or maybe there's a shuttle?). Of all the spaces here, there are only a couple that are level, but as we're the only vehicle, that wasn't a problem for us. Of course, if another motorhome should happen along (which seems unlikely), they will be forced to park right next to us.

Being 8 degrees when we arrived here at approaching 6pm, and with a clear sky, we are predicting another frosty night.

(I was going to include some photos in this post, but the signal here is weak (hey, we're in the middle of nowhere and deep in a gorge - it's a miracle there's any signal at all) and my battery is low, so if you want to see the snaps, you'll need to click on the link to our walking blog

Monday, 20 November 2017

Monday 20 November - Panes and Mier

Where's Bertie? He's in a car park, in between a children's playground and an outdoor gym, next to the river, in the tiny village of Mier (exact location: 43.31515, -4.67470).
Weather: More glorious blue skies.

Our day started by weaving around a bit. Backtracking south from the coast, we returned to Unquera, where we had shopped on Saturday morning. We would have nipped back into the supermarket on this first pass, but an early-ish start meant it wasn't yet open. Instead we headed the 4.5km west to Colombres and breakfasted at the Aire there before availing ourselves of the service point. Backtracking once again to Unquera, a quick supermarket dash was done, before completing our squiggly route by heading south, to the village of Panes.

Just about everywhere we have been on the Cantabrian coast has had an air of properity about it. Houses have generally been well-kept, and there have been remarkably few abandoned building projects and house prices have been high.

We found Panes (which is over the regional boundary in Asturias) to be a bit shabby, with abandoned buildings and a significant abandoned building project. A doer-upper of a house can be bought there for €30k and a plot for €26k. It does, however, have a nice big sunny car park bordering what the signage described as botanical gardens, but which I would, if generous, call an arboretum. Whatever, it was a nice bit of parkland, alongside the river, and it had a good path that ran for 2.6km around its perimeter. We walked that path once, then I got changed and ran it twice, whilst Mick did another walking circuit (he has a sore knee; my sore knee is all better - Yay!).

Whilst the village may not have captivated us, the park's setting was lovely for a run:

View on the outward leg of the circuit.

Looking the other way

Our move from Panes to Mier was purely to position ourselves better for where we want to be first thing tomorrow morning. Before making the move there was discussion about whether this spot would be in the sun and, as we didn't know the answer, we left coming here until mid-afternoon. On reflection, we should have waited until half past five, because we got here to find that, as suspected, the sun had been stolen by the surrounding steep-sided hills. In full sunshine in Panes, it had been 28 degrees in Bertie (and that was with the door open). As soon as we arrived here we closed most of the blinds to keep the heat in and our breath was vapourising as we went for a look around.

That's where Bertie is tonight. It may be nippy, but it is stunning.

It's one of the reasons we are not going to stay in the hills for long. Our main stated destination of this trip had been the Picos de Europa, but we've been having such a good time on the coast (where it's mainly warm) that it has guided us to think that maybe being in snowy mountains, with lots of steep valleys where the sun barely reaches, is an activity better suited to a different month of the year (although no month of the year will make Bertie narrower or the roads wider, so in that respect winter is a good time to be here, as the roads are quieter).

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sunday 19 November - Pechón

Where's Bertie? He's still in the coastal car park at Pechón.
Weather: More wall-to-wall sunshine.

During this morning's discussion of 'should we stay or should we go', Mick observed that "It's very nice here, but there's not much to do.". He was quite right, in that we had exhausted all of the walking options with yesterday afternoon's outing.

But it's Sunday and Sundays are a good excuse for doing very little. So, having checked the weather forecast and established that pushing the walk I had pencilled in for tomorrow back to Tuesday wouldn't put us in bad weather, we opted to stay.

A pre-elevenses walk was taken to the next beach along, but that was entirely in the shade, and is small, so it didn't hold us for long. By the time we got back, the seaweed harvesting man was back in action, so I made a flask, threw some croissants into a tub, and we went for elevenses on the rocky island below us, so that we could watch him from closer quarters. The sun wasn't in a helpful position for that, but we ambled around the beach once we had finished, and got to see him in action:


Whilst he was loading the resulting harvest into his trailer (he'd only taken two tractors down to the beach today, and was doing the loading manually with a pitchfork), we had a good look at his tractor. Aside from modifying the air intake to increase its height, he'd put a can of expanding foam to good use in waterproofing around the gear levers:


We wondered whether he had ever had his engine conk out whilst in the water. I'm not sure whether the tow rope coiled up on the front of the engine is indicative that he has, or that he's prepared for the eventuality.

Our only other activity of the day has been a walk up into the village, with an empty 5-litre container, to use a public water tap. The last water we picked up has turned out to be so chlorinated as to be severely unpalatable. We haven't started on the new bottle yet, but hopefully it's not on the same supply network as the last lot!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Saturday 18 November - Pechón

Where's Bertie? He's in a car park, in a stunning coastal position, at Pechón (exact location: 43.39268, -4.48496)
Weather: Glorious sunshine, with just one small cloud that blocked the sun for a couple of minutes.

Going for a run this morning may seem like a contrary thing to have done, given what I said yesterday about my knee, but past experience told me that neither exercise nor rest would remarkably alter its state. Moreover, the cure last time came the morning after I'd jumped over a gate and landed heavily on that leg, so I thought maybe a run would help. I limped up the road by way of a poor excuse for a warm up, then burst into a jog - whereupon all pain stopped. It stayed stopped for quite a while after I'd finished too. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the golden glow on the snowy Picos de Europa mountains as the sun made it over the hills to the east. It was a bit parky, mind, with the highest temperature I saw on a thermometer whilst out being 4 degrees, and the lowest 2 degrees.

Mick would have been happy to stay put in San Vicente for another night, but I wasn't enamoured either with the slope of the parking nor the noise of the night-time revellers going home in the early hours of the morning, so after breakfast we got ready to move.

Before we left, however, we took one last stroll, as today was market day (had it not been so, we could have parked in the actual car park, rather than in the roadside parking, and not been on a slant). Most of the stalls held no interest for us, the exception being the cheesemonger. Having accepted that it's unlikely that we are going to venture far into the Picos de Europa area, and having had the local cheeses recommended to us (thank you Humprey!), we were pleased to see that this stall had a good selection, with about half a dozen blues, including two village names we recognised. We went for the Tresviso and very much hoped we were going to like it as the easiest thing to do was to accept the piece that was already cut, which was bigger than we would have chosen had our language skills not been so pathetic*. We ate some for lunch and are pleased to report that we liked it very much. I'm now wishing we had bought some of another type too. I must learn my numbers and how to ask for pieces of something, in case we come across the same stall at another local market.

Tresviso cheese - very blue, aged and firm, but not overpowering in flavour.

Pointing Bertie westwards once more, we journeyed all of 8km to our next stopping point - a supermarket. Their car park was not inspiring, and was not in the sun, but we paused there for elevenses: a) to try to use their wifi (failed - it wasn't working properly); and b) to decide where to go next. I outlined the two choices to Mick, we made a decision, then I noticed a nearby (2km, as the crow flies) parking area that had good reviews, so we came here for a night instead.

What a spot! It's lovely here. Here's a collage of the view, the first taken just after we had ventured down to the beach and walked across to (and over) the rocky outcrop, the second taken as we got back from this afternoon's walk, just at high tide:

Do you see the thing in the sea on the left side of the beach in the 'low tide' shot? That's one of three tractors being operated by a single chap down there, harvesting seaweed (one tractor had the rake to get the seaweed out of the sea, another was used to pick up the resulting pile of weed, then there was the one with a trailer, into which it was deposited). We watched his work for quite some time and were surprised at quite how far into the surf he took his machine. Here's a zoom shot:


The tide, incidentally, came in quickly to cover the beach. There was still a large expanse of sand when we came back from the rocky outcrop, but only about twenty minutes later we would have got our feet wet. In fact, Mick nearly did, but that was just one of those sneaky waves. These two snaps were taken seconds apart:


Having downloaded a walking route from wikiloc.com, after lunch a pleasant hour and a half was spent visiting a couple of other beaches and a viewpoint. The latter didn't give much of a view, because of trees.

Back at Bertie, we turned him around to put his windscreen away from the magnificent view. That not only gave us the solar gain from the last of the afternoon sun, but also put us level (taking advantage of Bertie's inbuilt slope from back to front). If we stay here again tomorrow, we'll be turning back around in the morning, no doubt to the amusement of the occupants of the other van that came and joined us late this afternoon (a rare breed - they took the space right at the opposite corner of the car park!)

(*We are working on our lack of Spanish. I downloaded the first part of a Spanish course a few days ago.)

A Few Stats

Today is the end of our fifth week in Spain and we are now sitting 200 miles, by road, from where we entered the country.

We have, of course, driven a little further than that, having weaved inland and then back to the coast a few times, but we are still on the tank of fuel we bought just after crossing into Spain.

Whilst the intention of this trip was to stay longer in each place, not to minimise the mileage, our reality of not moving very far is working out well. It's irrelevant whether our next location is 5 or 50km away: having never visited this area before, it is still new to us. I can't think of anywhere we've been that wasn't worth visiting, and in many cases we would happily have stayed longer, if the rules/etiquette had allowed.

Our lack of miles does, of course, also have a financial benefit, as the cost of fuel is usually the most expensive aspect of our travels (ignoring the purchase of Bertie!), so the Spanish portion of this trip has been excellent value thus far. That said, the downside of short journeys in a lumpy country is that our MPG figure is low (currently just under 28mpg, compared with the opposite extreme of having achieved 36 driving through Benelux and northern Germany in June).

We might have to put in some bigger journeys next week, as we are now in an area with a lack of Aires, and we can only go for so many days without a service point (the toilet being the limiting factor; water is always easy to come by around here, with public taps all over the place, and we don't get through much anyway).

Talking of Aires, with Spain being generous with its provision of free motorhome parking areas, plus the general statutory right to sleep in a parked vehicle overnight (provided you don't stray into the definition of 'camping'), our overnight costs for the first five weeks have come in at a grand total of €58.60 - a ridiculously low figure.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Friday 17 November - San Vicente de la Barquera

Where's Bertie? He's in a parking area alongside the estuary at San Vicente de la Barquera (exact location: 43.38343, -4.39784).
Weather: Overcast start soon clearing to give us sunshine.

We seized the day and left Comillas in the dark this morning, driving the 11km along the coast to San Vicente for breakfast.

The tide was out (and the egrets in - there are lots of them perched on those boats) when we arrived.

An early start and an early breakfast meant that we were out and about early - before anything was open, in fact.

We didn't initially hit the best bits of San Vicente, as our first priority was to walk up to the top of the town to look at another potential parking spot, as the estuary-side parking is (for larger vehicles) parallel slots, which involve putting two wheels into a very-slanting gutter. Up through the alleyways between residential apartment blocks we went, and decided that whilst the car park up there was much flatter, it was also a lot less attractive. We decided to just live with the slant*.

Our return to Bertie took us via the church...

Looking at the less-interesting end of the church, from a viewpoint. Contrary to first-glance appearances, this photo is not in greyscale.

...the castle, the harbour and then via a cafe for coffees...

Whether through luck or an improvement in our language skills, we got exactly the coffees we were after this morning!

...and finally via a panaderia where we bought some incredibly expensive croissant. It was with great relief that they proved to be excellent.

A bit more wandering around revealed that there was a laundrette only about 100m away from Bertie, and whilst I had managed to resist the urge to use the one in Comillas (which was much closer even than that), today I could resist no longer. Doing laundry is the inconvenient aspect of living life in laybys and car parks, so it seemed silly to pass up the second good opportunity in as many days. The closeness meant we were able to nip back to Bertie whilst the machines were doing their things and I used the time productively to lay out the complete set of 126 granny squares that I have just finished crocheting, to decide in what order to crochet them together. Once crocheted together, I then need to add eight borders in order to declare the blanket complete, so it will keep me busy for a while yet:


By the time the laundry was put away, I was ready to eat a scabby dog (it was knocking on for 2pm and breakfast had been early), so out we went for lunch. Scouring menus in this town stuffed full of eating places, we didn't find anywhere offering sorropotúthn (the tuna and potato hotpot described by Humphrey in a comment last week, which sounded right up my street) but there were plenty of Menus del Dia to choose from. We went up-market today and chose one of the more expensive options, at €13.

The quantity of wine Mick is given has been reducing each time we eat out. On Monday, I joked that next time he would just get a glass, and that is exactly what happened.

The puddings defeated us, and we waddled back to Bertie, although we did manage to get ourselves back out for another stroll as dusk was falling.

Tides in, and plenty of fish are to be seen in the clear water alongside us.

Other news of the day is that somewhere between sitting down for breakfast and standing back up after breakfast, something unpleasant happened to my right knee. It feels exactly the same as the affliction I suffered a couple of years ago, which hurt every single day (especially going uphill or up stairs) for seven months, before disappearing as suddenly as it started. I hope this occurrence won't be as long lasting.

(*A couple of other motorhomes here have got their leveling ramps deployed. We've resisted on the basis that the use of the ramps would take us out of the definition of 'parking' and into the definition of 'camping', and thus take us from 'legal' to 'illegal'.)