There are many places that travel writers refer to as one of Spain’s ‘best kept secrets,’ in truth when you visit pretty much any of these so called hidden corners you realise that they are no secret to the Spanish. The Spanish value and conserve attractive villages and on a weekend you rarely have any of them to yourself.
That isn’t to say these places are not worth visiting! We were in northern Spain in our campervan and had been seeking out some of Spain’s Los Pueblos más bonitos, their most beautiful villages. The walled town of Pedraza in the province of Segovia in the Castile and Leon region is one of these villages and was just off our route one wintery Sunday. We decided it would make a perfect detour for an hour or so.
Not wanting to get the Blue Bus stuck in the narrow streets that led to the large car park by the castle, we opted for the small parking area below the substantial walls. It was already busy as we pulled in but this was before lunch time and there was still manoeuvring room.
Glad to find a space, we tucked in without turning around, an amateur error! Almost immediately a small Spanish car came in behind us, so close its bonnet was under our bike rack! An old VW ‘van then tucked in within centimetres of our bonnet and as the car park filled up around us we slowly realised getting out was going to be challenging. We decided to explore the lovely town and hope that all these people were just here for a half an hour stroll.
The Plaza Mayor is the focus of the town with arcades of shops and restaurants, where people were beginning to gather for a long Spanish Sunday lunch. We admired the San Juan church and its lovely square tower on the side of the square and walked to the imposing 13th century castle that has been restored.
After exploring the streets of Pedraza, admiring the view from near the castle and browsing in some of the shops, we returned to a still crowded car park. Cars had packed themselves on both sides of the narrow parking area and turning a 5.4 metre ‘van was now impossible.
The entrance to the gravelly car park was at the bottom and it then sloped steeply up to a gateway which was blocked with hazard tape. We realised we either had to stay here until the Spanish rolled out of the restaurants or, as this was in the direction we were pointing, we could try and use the higher taped-up exit. While I provided extra eyes and waved my arms around, my partner shunted the ‘van backwards and forwards out of our space. Once free he eased between the cars, skidding on the steep gravelly gradient. I ran ahead and quickly hauled the post out of the ground and moved the tape aside. Our Renault skidded through, trailing rubber and we were out!
As I attempted to replace the tape, excited Spanish drivers, having spotted there was now a 5.4 metre space in the car park and a new entrance, tried to drive past me. I was worried someone in authority would suddenly arrive and tell us this exit shouldn’t be used and had to muster my most assertive Spanish to return the tape across the gateway.
We broke two campervan rules on this day. Driving into a busy and tight car park is best avoided and if you do, always turn the ‘van around while you can!
We stayed at:
Camping Riaza, a level site in the Segovia province north of Madrid. There are mountain views from the site and some road noise. A pleasant small town with shops and bars is a short walk away and there is information about local walks. The facilities are clean and the showers are continuous (no push buttons here) and very hot.