|20th January 2022||Woodbury, East Devon|
|20th January 2022||Dockside, Portsmouth Harbour||125 miles / 4.0 hrs|
|22nd January 2022||Camping Caceres, Caeres||352 miles / 8.0 hrs|
|23rd January 2022||Camping La Rosaleda, Conil de la Frontera||252 miles / 6.0 hrs|
|25th March 2022||Camping Monfrague||296 miles / 7.0 hrs|
|29th March 2022||Camping El Helguero, Comillas, Santander||318 miles / 6.5 hrs|
|01st April 2022||Smallcombe CL Site, Rattary||23 miles / 1.0 hrs|
|02nd April 2022||Woodbury||31 miles / 1.0 hrs|
We left Camping Monfrague on Tuesday 29th March 2022 around 09:00 with another 300 mile tow ahead to Santander. Traffic was clear and we arrived at Camping el Helguero near to the coastal town of Comillas around 4pm. The site is pretty level, clean, functional and being the only one open on this stretch of the coastline was pretty busy with travellers mainly waiting a day or two prior to their departure back to England.
Our ferry, the Pont Aven was due to leave Santander at 16:00 on Thursday and this left us a day to visit Comillas. The weather continued it’s cold and damp feel as we caught a local bus on Wednesday morning.
Had a spot of lunch in town, took a few photos (below) and then waited for the bus back – which didn’t arrive – leaving us with a 5km walk back to the campsite!
We were pleased to board the ferry on Thursday afternoon, destination Blighty.
Our ferry was due to arrive in Plymouth late morning, allowing a comfortable drive home but unfortunately, during the night, there had been a medical emergency and a lady was air-lifted to hospital. The boat had to travel towards France to allow the helicopter to land – either a distance issue or a sea swell issue – not sure which. This gave us a 4+ hour delay into Plymouth so we decided to find a CL site nearby.
Smallcombe farm was our chosen site and we arrived there around 5pm. The owners were very friendly and helpful, the facilities excellent for our one night stopover. Electric hookup and water on each pitch and a central service area with two toilets, shower and even a washing machine! It was just a 30 minute walk to the Church House Inn at Rattery and we walked there for dinner later that evening. Wonderful local country pub with several log burners providing a nice warm atmosphere
Saturday we arrived home and started the process of unpacking!
We headed into Plasencia for provisions first thing. This included stopping at one of the Ruta de Pan bakeries in the centre of Plasencia – La Tahona de Esther. Moe bagged some delicious cakes and I ordered a rather nice looking loaf of bread.
We then drove to Jerte Valley.
The Jerte Valley, situated in the northern region of Extremadura is famous for the cherry blossom in Spring; an amazing spectacle when over two million trees bathe the valley sides in white.
Following a century-long family custom, the cherries are grown in the traditional way on terraces carved out of the high mountain sides of the Jerte Valley. We had arrived at the perfect time since the trees were in full bloom.
As we drove along the valley bottom, we spotted a signpost for a mirador and after a 10 minute drive, we found ourselves once again marvelling at the magnificent landscape, The concrete statues were a little more of a mystery but appeared to be in recognition of the local workers.
In the evening we ate at the campsite restaurant with Jenny and David.
We wanted to find a nice walk around the national park for Day 3. We were considering the red route which takes in all the significant landmarks and in total is 16km. We had already visited the information centre and the kind Spanish park warden lady had smiled sweetly and said it’s a nice easy route which should take around 3 hours.
When we visited to grab a map today, the second Spanish warden looked at us; then looked a second time and said maybe it will take 5 hours. What she clearly wanted to say was that perhaps there are more appropriate routes for a couple of oldies and one somewhat overweight oldie!
We decided on a shortened route which would still see the main sites but chop about 40% off the walk.
We joined the route at the car park near “Feuente del Frances” and trekked along the side of the river Tajo.
We would arrive at Salto del Gitano where the large outcrop of rocks is home to the many vultures and birds of prey which inhabit this national park. We spent a while observing the sheer beauty of the location before heading onwards and upwards to the Castillo de Monfrague,
We eventually arrived at the Castillo de Monfrague, 3 miles into the trail after a gruelling 3 hours. The last mile to the top of the castle was just brutal but it was certainly worth the effort. The views from the top of the world were absolutely stunning.
And we finally got to eat our packed lunch!
You can just see the road bridge across the river which is where we departed for our hike today.
The return journey was all down hill and a darn sight faster the route to the top. Fantastic hike, maybe next time we can do the full 16k. Here is what we managed to achieve.
A cold and bright start to our second day at Monfrague. We kitted out the bikes and set off along a via verde (traffic free cycle route). The via verde starts just a few metres along the main road outside the campsite and follows the Madrd to Badajoz railway line. The via verde itself is most likely constructed on an earlier version of this railway line.
It’s a strange route because despite the length and quality of this off-road cycle track, there isn’t really a notable end point. In fact the start is only marked by a roadside cafe, the only spot for refreshments. The trail just ends; a few kilometers short of La Bazagona although it’s not clear that La Bazagona itself has any shops, cafes or services.
The route has no other facilities, such as picnic benches or toilets. It’s all incredibly unspoilt.
We had cycled for about the first 10 miles of the trail, without realising we hadn’t brought any puncture repair kit or any tools with of any sort with us. We decided that at 10 miles this would be the furthest either of us would want to walk back with a wounded bike! So we turned around at that point.
The countryside is great, but the most notable aspect of the ride was the sheer tranquility of the setting. Not a sound from a car or any agricultural machinery. Just stunning quiet broken only by birdsong, the occasional field of cattle and goats with their bells. Oh, and two trains passed by on the new railway line.
The warm weather stayed with us throughout the afternoon and we ate a BBQ back at the caravan.
We woke up to another damp and dismal day at Camping Monfrague in the middle of the autonomous region of Extremadura. This is a fine name for this mountainous region of Spain and we hope the weather will allow us a little time to explore.
The campsite is next to one of the visitor centres and we pay a visit to obtain some leaflets and details of walks and cycle rides in the area.
Monfrague National park comprises an area in excess of 18,000 hectares stretching along the river Tagus, and surrounded by areas of oak-covered parkland. It provides an important refuge for many rare species of Mediterranean wildlife. Due to its well preserved woodland and scrubland and in the presence of endangered fauna, this is one of the more remarkable nature reserves in Europe.
The park maintains a population of more than 250 Black vulture breeding pairs, the largest breeding colony in the world. There are Spanish Imperial Eagles, Black Storks and Iberian Lynx.
Here are some of the birds living in the park.
During the afternoon we headed off in the car to visit various viewpoints and armed with our binoculars, attempted to identify some of the rich bird-life at Monfrague.
Here is our afternoon in pictures- we had seen a number of Black Vultures and Griffin vultures along with some terrific scenery.
We headed to the campsite bar and restaurant for a few drinks and dinner with a couple from North Yorkshire – my home county.
This would be our final week at Camping La Rosaleda in Conil. The weather has not improved and the forecast shows no signs of improvement whatsoever. Just lots of rain and cool temperatures.
We decided we will head off today. We took down the awning last weekend during a morning of dry and sunny weather and that proved to be a good decision. Not only did it rain later that day but there were very strong winds, in excess of 60 mph.
We hit the bar on Sunday for Ester’s leaving do. She has been a terrific asset to the campsite and its guests and she will be sorely missed. We make a snap decision last night that we will leave today and don’t have the time to say Cheerio to everyone. Just as well perhaps as the number of Covid cases at the site is ticking up.
We have a relatively early start and a 300 mile drive ahead of us to the National Park in Extremadura – Monfrague National park. We are on the road just before 09:00 and have a smooth and quiet journey to Plasencia, arriving at the campsite around 3:45pm
The campsite is somewhat ramshackle and we are told to find ourselves a pitch and no need to advise reception where it is. The pitches are of poor quality, not very level and right now, extremely muddy. We find ourselves a plot on the edge of the site on a sloping but relatively dry pitch.
We manage to forage for some concrete blocks to level the outfit and we settle down to our first night at Camping Monfrague.
The toilet and washing facilities are clean, functional but somewhat brutal with regards to aesthetics!
Following our trip to Sevilla, we had just two days to prepare for the arrival of our friends Duncan and Ruth from England. Despite missing their outbound flight at Stansted – a Wetherspoons overrun (perhaps the most expensive pint ever served in a Wetherspoons!) – they eventually arrived at San Fernando Bahia Sur just a few hours later than expected, although they had abandoned their first stop-over in Sevilla.
That wasn’t the only piece of bad luck – they managed to bring with them some typical British weather and we saw significant amounts of rain (pretty much the first of this trip) throughout the entire week.
There was much juggling of schedules as we abandoned many of the outdoor activities for the week.
This is going to look more like a food and wine tour as we took shelter from the inclement weather.
First there was a hike over the cliffs to El Nautico – the great restaurant at the Port of Conil. We were here a little earlier on our visit, El Nautico, Port of Conil.
Friday we had booked a tour of the Tio Pepe Bodegas in Jerez. A pleasant tour was rounded off with some sherry tasting. The site has an immense amount of history, but it would have been nice to have been able to see more of the actual sherry production.
Bits of the schedule which weren’t abandoned included Sunday lunch at La Fontinilla – this is still probably the best restaurant in Conil.
En-route to La Fontinilla we paid a visit to the micro-brewery in Conil.
A rather soggy tour of Vejer-de-la-frontera culminated in lunch at another fine restaurant – the Moroccan restaurant El Califa. We had booked tables outside in the garden under the pretext that our booking would be cancelled if there was inclement weather. Despite the torrential rain, we were pleasantly surprised to find a table reserved for us in the conservatory.
Finally, no better way than to finish off their trip with a visit on the final night to the campsite restaurant.
We had managed to cover the main attractions in Seville in a busy two days. Day 3 and we would have a lie-in and then a walk along the river and across it to have brunch in Triana.
Whilst walking along the Tirana streets, we noticed just how close we were to the Seville Tower.
This is another controversial building in Seville. At 40 floors high it is the 7th largest office block in Spain and it towers above the old town of Seville. Completed in 2015, Unesco threatened to remove world heritage status from the Seville Cathedral and the Alcazar although in the end, this never happened. D remembered that he thought there was a bar and viewing gallery at the top of the tower.
We decided to see if it was open.
We grabbed a beer at the bar on the 40th floor and just marvelled at the views for what seemed like most of the afternoon. Moe took a great picture of the tower with the sun receding in the background.
* * * * *
By late afternoon the sun was warming everything up and we wandered along and sat beside the river Guadalete. An early dinner before our travels back to Conil was at La Bartola, a Tapas bar close to the hotel in the Santa Cruz quarter.
La Bartola was an inspired find. It was certainly the best Tapas bar we’ve eaten at in Spain and we sampled lots and lots of dishes and local wines. It’s hard to pick a single highlight from the Tapas food (it was all good) but from the wines, Vino de Naranje – an Orange Wine – was a huge hit. This is a sweet wine and we felt best enjoyed post desert.
Then on to a bar for a swift night cap.
* * * * *
An early start on Monday morning, breakfast in a local cafe and then a 20 minute walk to Santa Justa railway station. An uneventful journey, but very comfortable journey to Cadiz arrived on time, as did the bus taking us on the final leg to Conil.
We’ve had a brilliant weekend in Seville.
Saturday morning and another chilly but sunny start to Day 2 in Seville. We ate breakfast at a local cafe and then headed to Seville cathedral.
The same tip applies to the Cathedral as to the Alcazar – buy your tickets on-line first but you will need passport details and to show your passport when you arrive at the monument.
We entered the Cathedral around noon with an allocated time of 12:40 to climb the Giralda tower. The church is the third largest in the world behind St Peter’s basilica in Rome and St Paul’s in London. It is reputed to be the largest gothic church in the world.
The church is stunning, the climb to the top of the Giralda Tower hard work but worth it – the views from the top are marvellous. One to look out for would be a “rooftop tour”. We didn’t have time to book one but we could see various groups participating and it looked an interesting idea.
Again, some pictures from our visit to Seville Cathedral.
* * * * *
Setas de Sevilla (“Mushrooms of Seville”), initially titled Metropol Parasol, is a wooden structure located at La Encarnación square in the old quarter of Seville, Spain. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer and completed in April 2011. It has dimensions of 150 by 70 metres and an approximate height of 26 metres and claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Its appearance, location, delays and cost overruns in construction resulted in much public controversy.
The structure consists of six parasols in the form of giant mushrooms, whose design is inspired by the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville and the ficus trees in the nearby Plaza de Cristo de Burgos.
An elevator takes you to the top floor and a series of walkways meander around the top of the wooden structure.
There is a 12k giant screen experience on the top floor, which is well worth watching.
* * * * *
We’d spotted a rather nice looking Italian restaurant on our travels around Seville. San Marco’s in Santa Cruz.
This is what the San Marco website says.
San Marco Santa Cruz is a restaurant located in old and preserved Arab baths of the twelfth century. Our cuisine is Mediterranean with Italian character, based on ingredients of proximity to guarantee an inspiring and incomparable flavor.
I can only agree that the setting, atmosphere and food was first rate.
A night cap ended another busy and great day in Seville.