After arriving in Bilbao on the ferry we immediately drove inland to explore parts of Spain we hadn’t reached before. We were heading for the Canyon of the Rio Lobos Nature Park but took some detours along the way, driving through the vineyards of Rioja and seeking out the fascinating dinosaur footprints north of Soria near the village of Enciso, where over 1,400 footprints have been recorded [obviously some more impressive than others].
At the visitors centre of the Canyon of the Rio Lobos our Spanish was tested to beyond its limits as we discussed options for walking with a member of staff. As far as we could tell he seemed to be insistent in talking us out of taking the Gullurias footpath, as he said this just went through lots of woodland and was not worth following, but maybe we lost something in translation. The circular path does take a route through varied woodland at first before reaching a stunning view point over the limestone cliffs of the canyon. The path then descends in to the canyon and follows the river back to the visitors centre. It is a fantastic walk and if you find yourself here just go for it. We camped near Ucero and also walked up to the spectacular castle overlooking the village and on another day cycled in to the canyon beyond the hermitage where the paths are quieter and the canyon is narrower and greener.
Many of you will have heard our plans to visit the three cities of Segovia, Salamanca and Toledo on this trip. Segovia came first and it was stunning but it also helped us recognise that we didn’t want to spend all our time sightseeing in cities and Toledo soon got dropped from the list for this trip. Instead we spend a few blissful days in the Sierra de Gredos regional reserve. In the sunshine we cycled along the old drove roads and walked up to a glacial lake. Leaving the high ground, we drove along the river Jerte through fields of cherry trees and as the altitude decreased the weather got hotter. With temperatures in the mid-30s we only spent a day in the Monfrague National Park, known for the variety and numbers of birds, before heading north again.
Salamanca stayed in the plan and we couldn’t have timed it better [absolute chance], arriving at the start of the Festival of Santa Maria de la Vega, the patron saint of Salamanca who intervened to save the city from ransacking in 1706 during the war of the Spanish succession. On our first evening we joined the throng, many in the elaborate national costume, at a flower-based ceremony outside the cathedral and then to watch fireworks over the river. The campsite is an easy 6 kms cycle ride away from the city centre allowing us to go back and forth and visit the city over a number of relaxing days. We enjoyed the peaceful setting of the two-storey and five-sided cloisters in the Convento de las Duenas, where we also bought a box of cakes the nuns bake. Mostly we wandered around the city awestruck at the elegance of the sandstone buildings and dreamed of living in a flat with shutters at the window and a balcony overlooking one of the city’s plaza.