Fortuna favours the bold: In Murcia Spain

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Evening sunshine at Banos de Fortuna

Fortuna was the Roman goddess of luck and fate and she must have been smiling on us benevolently the day we decided to meander up to Baños de Fortuna, approximately 25 kms north-east of Murcia some years ago.  In pursuit of the Spanish coast, many people overlook small inland Spanish towns and yet we constantly find such places are well worth a stay and offer a different perspective to Spain that is a million miles away from the Costas.

Baños de Fortuna is a village developed around a hot spring and on the edge of the Sierra de la Pila.  It is three kilometres from the small town of Fortuna with a population of over 9,000; enough to ensure it has a supermarket and a weekly Saturday market, as well as a useful tourist information office eager to give out leaflets.  Situated in a dry and arid landscape that will bring to mind cowboy films, this part of Spain has warm and sunny winters that suit us northern Europeans.

The Romans must also have thought that Goddess Fortuna was smiling on them, when they found running hot water near Fortuna.  Banos de Fortuna has now developed into a small settlement, with two campsites and a spa resort.  We chose Camping La Fuente, a very well provisioned and excellently presented site; the main attraction being a large naturally heated swimming pool.  The site has generous gravel pitches, many with their own bathroom and all with sun-shades during the summer.  Laid out in crescents and small terraces you never feel that you are surrounded by lots of other campers, even when it is busy.  Around the pool are a bar and reasonably priced restaurant with terrace, the staff are helpful and knowledgeable and the campsite facilities include a hotel and bungalows.  At around 08.30 every morning we heard the welcome horn of the bread van that tours the campsite and tempts you with crusty bread and Spanish cakes.

Campsite guests can use the pool for a reduced daily rate and with a temperature of 35C some campers will spend most of the day lounging and chatting in the warm spring water, relieving their aches and pains and putting the world to rights.  A dressing gown, flip flops and swim wear is almost all the clothing you need if the pool is your prime reason for staying at Camping La Fuente and clearly many people visit to relieve their mobility problems.  The site is popular with German visitors and is busy through the winter months and it might be worth ringing ahead and booking if you plan to be here from January to March.

Fortuna continued to smile on us and during our week long stay in November.  We enjoyed sunshine and temperatures in excess of 20C each day; warm enough for shorts and to sit outside and enjoy a breakfast of fresh bread rolls from the bread van, greeting early morning swimmers on their way to the pool.

Lovely as the baths are, it would be a shame to come here and not explore the area.  We enjoy walking and cycling and found this was a campsite with plenty of opportunities to indulge in both.  Just a few minutes’ walk from the campsite is the spa resort, this has been renovated and the hotel buildings have been painted in bright colours that pick out attractive plaster work details.  There are benches and shady gardens of palm trees dotted around the spa and a smart souvenir shop which are certainly worth a wander around.

Using a photocopied map from the campsite reception and Spanish instructions, we set off to climb the 585 metre high hill visible from the site.  The walk was graded on the map as being of medium difficulty and it proved to be a steep and interesting climb through aromatic scrub of fragrant rosemary, lavender and thyme, with occasionally yellow and white splashes of paint on jagged rocks to assist our route finding.  The last few metres were a scramble that required hands and knees, but we were rewarded with extensive views across the dry, semi-desert landscape, dotted with brilliant green areas of cultivation and a peace and quiet you don’t find on many British hills on a sunny day.  We managed to navigate a less precipitous route back down the northern flank of the hill, eventually finding a trail through bushes and past tall agave plants.

The main road to Fortuna is a fairly busy one and the fast rumbling lorries from nearby quarries mean this isn’t a pleasant route for a leisure cyclist.  However, there is no shortage of quiet minor roads that make for very pleasant cycling.  The road to Capres from Banos de Fortuna is a little used, but well-surfaced road that climbs steeply up to the village for around five kilometres.  We rested on benches outside the low white church in Capres while we ate our picnic, the only thing to disturb us were the sounds of sheep grazing among the trees above the church, watched over by a sleepy shepherd.

La Cueva Negra, north of Fortuna, is also worth a trip.  This large cave, as the name suggests, has black walls which are covered with graffiti inscriptions, some dating back to those Fortuna seeking Romans.  There is plenty of parking here and public barbeques and it is clearly a popular spot at weekends, although on a November weekday we had it to ourselves.  We walked up to the cave and watched the Crag Martins and Black Wheatears flitting around the rocky cliffs as we looked down over an expansive landscape of low modern villas and citrus and olive trees.  On the same cycle ride we took in the Ermita at Cortao de las Peñas on the edge of the Parque Regional de la Sierra de la Pila, a roadside monument painted white, that is an extension of the surrounding cliffs.

A different day’s cycle ride found us exploring the area to the east of Fortuna and the nearby town of Abanilla.  We cycled through a confusing criss-cross of lanes, through lemon and orange groves and small housing estates, past industrial farming units and along irrigation channels.  This area is less hilly and more suitable for the lazy cyclist.  Although arid, many crops are grown in this area, as well as citrus fruits, peaches and olives, you will spot almonds and market gardening.  Abanilla is a pretty little town, with an attractive town centre and steep narrow streets and steps leading to pleasant plazas.  This is not an area where you will find stunning crowd-puller attractions, but we always enjoy the chance to explore small towns that are off the tourist circuit and ignored by the guide books.  Our 35-kilometre cycle ride saw us returning via La Huerta and on the eerily quiet A-21, through a landscape of dry gorges with peregrine falcon’s calling overhead.

Once you have exhausted all the nearby attractions, or if even the hot springs can’t ease your saddle sores, there are places of interest to visit in your campervan.  We had a splendid day driving along the Rio Segura valley north of Murcia to Archena, another ancient spa town and Cieza, where the huge fields of peach trees must be a riot of colour in spring.  To the south east is Orihuela, a charming town on the banks of the Rio Segura with fine buildings, a hillside castle, swathes of palm trees and a fascinating underground museum, the Museo de la Muralla, where you can see the remains of the old city walls and Arab baths

Hopefully, the Goddess Fortuna will smile on me and let me visit more of this interesting area of Spain at least once again.

Doorways & windows around Europe: some ramblings

 

 

Looking through my photographs from recent trips in our campervan one theme stands out.  I have to acknowledge that I can’t help myself; I am always taking photographs of doors and windows.  You might ask how many photographs of doorways and windows one travel writer needs and the answer is clearly an infinite number.  Wherever I am, either at home in Salford and Manchester or in a new village or city, I look for the detail in doorways and check out buildings above the shops to see the windows and the details on the buildings.  This got me thinking, what is it about doors and windows that appeals to me.  I am certainly drawn to an unusual and beautiful doorway and window and I am a real sucker for shutters and stained glass.  But is it just the aesthetics of the doors and windows themselves or is it something more?  Windows and doors are portals to an inner world that is often private.  Am I secretly longing to know what is behind the openings or am I more interested in what might emerge from those doors and windows?

The Romans had a god for many things, including doorways.  Janus, usually shown as a two-faced god, looks to the future and the past and was also the god of beginnings endings and transitions; the Romans understood the lure and significance of the doorway.    Doors, although often beautiful, are closed; they act as the border between the open street and private space.  A closed door has potential but what is hidden beyond may be good and exciting or it may be evil.  The locked door is a familiar metaphor in many tales; we have to get beyond these closed doors to reach something we are seeking.  A locked door is both a temptation into the unknown and a barrier to access; knocking on an unfamiliar door is always daunting.   Doors have the duality of Janus, being closed and open, locked and unlocked, positive and negative and these contradictions are intriguing.

In contrast, windows are transparent, we can see inside and out through the glass.  Windows are also a public stage for beautiful objects; in our 80-year old flat we have wide windowsills and we use these to display favourite objects, a single ornament and an ancient inherited plant in a pot.  By placing these at the public face of the house we are sharing them with the wider world.  Windows are the eyes of the house and the items in the window give a glimpse behind those eyes.

Standing and staring out of a window is a way to travel to other places without moving from home.  Our flat has lots of windows that let the morning and evening sun flood in to the rooms and from these windows I watch the outside world, creating stories in my head.  Whenever we arrive somewhere new the first thing I do [before I check out the interior] is go to the windows and look at the view; I think this is me getting my bearings in a new place, finding out where the sun rises and who I can see and be seen by.  Looking up in a new city I like to imagine myself standing at some of the beautiful windows I see; I wonder how life in this street looks from above and what it would be like to live there.  For me windows only represent the positive; openings to different perspectives and portals for fresh air and sunlight.

The photographs in this post are really just a small selection from my collection of doorways and windows.  The evidence of my addiction is right before your eyes!

 

Top tips for campsites and stop overs when you are abroad

09.14 Vila Praia de Ancora campsite
Idyllic Portuguese campsite

Prompted by a fellow Devon ‘van owner I have given some thought to the baffling array of guides out there for motorhomers to use, buy or download to help you find a campsite in mainland Europe.  Very few motorhomers have unlimited amounts of space to store numerous guides and unlimited amounts of money to purchase them so how do you choose what to spend your hard-earned on?  When travelling we generally plan on a day-by-day basis and out-of-season and in more remote areas you can’t always rely on just coming across somewhere suitable to stay [either a campsite or wild camping pitch] without a bit of planning.  Below is a guide to the resources we have found most useful when we travel abroad.  Each guide or app has its plus points as well as its limitations.

Guides, apps and websites

ACSI card scheme – This is great value for out-of-season touring (from September to June) and this is our first port of call when we are looking for a campsite so that we can get maximum value from it.  You pay for the card and books and campsites in the scheme charge either €11, €13, €15, €17 or €19 per night for two adults with electric.  The card scheme has 1,541 campsites in France in 2018 and just 26 in Portugal, so its usefulness will depend where you are going.  In France municipal sites [see below] can be cheaper than the ACSI sites but in Italy [331 campsites], where campsites are expensive, the ACSI card can contribute a significant saving to your holiday.

Caravan and Motorhome Club Guides – We have these guides for all of Europe and they are sold with a good discount for members.  The entries and campsite reviews are from members and can be quirky and brief.  We like to read between the lines of these reviews and do find these books of assistance, even though the information is not always up-to-date.

The ACSI App – In addition to the ACSI card book we have this app on our phones.  This has a wider selection of campsites than those in the discount card scheme as it contains all campsites inspected by ACSI and is regularly updated.  If you have WiFi or data the ACSI website is also a great resource particularly for the camper’s reviews as well as the information about sites.

All the Aires – We carry this if we are travelling in a country it is available for; the books are fairly comprehensive and kept as up-to-date as a book can be and give an honest review of each aire, its facilities, its outlook and how comfortable it is.

Camperstop App – It is worth paying the €5.49 / year for this app which is invaluable for both campsites and aires / stop overs.  The app has photographs and reviews of sites which can really help in deciding where to go. The app knows your location and this is handy when we arrive at a campsite or stop over that we don’t like the look of as it can tell us where our nearest options are.

In France we will look for municipal campsites in small towns as these are generally good value and near to the town centre for [the essential] bakeries and bars.

Others have recommended Search for Sites and I’ve tried it out and it looks helpful but this isn’t something we have used much.

Home-based research & recommendations

In addition to the above we will research areas we are fairly certain we will be going to, particularly national parks and mountain areas where there are often few campsites and we are looking for the best situation for walking.  This might be Google searches, Rough Guide / Lonely Planet information, some Cicerone Guides include campsites and we sometimes ask a question about an area on a motorhome forum or Facebook page where there are generous well-travelled people with a wide range of knowledge.

You also can’t beat personal recommendations from other campers you meet on the way and these have sometimes taken us to interesting places that we never expected to visit when we set off.

To book or not & the one house rule

We generally travel with only a rough plan and are not interested in tying ourselves down by booking campsites when we are abroad.  We have never found this necessary, even when we have been away in July and August so long as we are flexible enough to move on if a site is full [see the house rule below].

Our house rule is to start looking for somewhere for the night by around 17.00.  This is just because we did get caught out in Mecklenburg in northern Germany on one trip.  There were plenty of campsites around the Mecklenburg lakes and none of them were full as it was only June.  The mistake we made was to be too busy enjoying a lovely sunny evening and leaving looking for a campsite until after 18.00 and German campsites don’t keep the evening hours that are common in southern Europe [and even Poland where we had just come from].  At each campsite we arrived at reception was closed and the barriers were down.  We eventually got a pitch on a site that we could drive in to but we didn’t have the key for the toilets and had to hang around for another camper to show up to use them, which was somewhat disconcerting for other campers!

 

Data roaming on ferries – don’t get caught out

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The Portuguese coast near Porto Covo

I thought using my phone for data and calls in Europe was a simple transaction nowadays.  I have a contract with a fair amount of data, calls and texts and I can use this just as I would at home in the UK.  This makes so many things easier as we travel around Europe, we can google for local veggie restaurants, check the opening times of attractions and the weather and call home and we thank the EU for this convenience on a daily basis.  But, on our recent trip to Spain and Portugal I found that on a ferry using your mobile phone gets more complicated and expensive mistakes can easily be made.

I was surprised to find I had a data signal on my mobile phone as we sailed out of Bilbao but naively assumed that connections had improved so much they could now reach out to the Bay of Biscay.  I had switched my phone on to pick up the ship’s wi-fi but as I had a data signal I decided I didn’t need to go through the rigmarole of signing in to that.  Then a text message pinged up telling me I had spent £4+ on data outside my allowance, then another text with a higher amount, then another and so on.  There was no explanation as to how I had gone over my data allowance and I spent a few frantic minutes checking my phone account to see if I could clarify what I had done but as the text messages mounted up I [sensibly] switched the phone off for the rest of the ferry journey.

I switched my phone on again as we docked in to Portsmouth.  The last text message I had received informed me I had spent £34+ on data outside my allowance.  I checked my data usage again and couldn’t see how I had spent that, my data usage was well within the gigabytes I pay for on my contract.

I rang Three, my phone operator, as Mr BOTRA drove us away from the south coast to see what this £34 additional charge was about.  The operator very efficiently informed me that with data roaming switched on [as it is quite safely all over Europe] when on a ferry or cruise ship my phone will automatically seek any connections.  When the phone can’t find a two, three or four G network it will seek out a satellite marine mobile provider via the ship; this was the first I had heard about marine mobile.  It seems these marine mobile providers are outside a normal data allowance contract and so are charged separately and those on Britanny Ferries that we were travelling on are very expensive charges [although they do warn you about these charges on their website].

It is some consolation that these data roaming charges, as this article suggests, have caught other people out as well as me, with some ending up with bills much more than the £34 I now had to pay.

Fortunately my story of ignorance has a happy ending for a frugal traveller as Three, noting that I have been a loyal customer for many years, refunded the £34 I owed for the few minutes my telephone was connected to the marine mobile satellite.  They did this without me having to ask [I was still in shock] and quickly, so Three deserve a big thank you.

Next time I will just keep my phone switched off on a ferry and relax and enjoy the view.

 

 

Spain & Portugal: What did a two months campervan trip cost?

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The river Tormes in Salamanca

We loved touring around Spain and Portugal and highly recommend it.  If you’re planning your own trip to these or many other European countries these costs might be a useful guide, although WARNING – everyone’s trip is their own and everyone’s spending is different.  We are not uber-frugal campers and anyone could do this trip cheaper [even we could if we tried] but this is our trip, it isn’t all about money and we set out to enjoy it in our own way.  So below are a few notes on our spending.

  1. Of the 66 nights we were away only seven of these were spent free-camping, the rest of the time we were on campsites [although we stayed on low-cost camperstops and ACSI sites].
  2. In Portugal we had coffee and cake in a cafe almost everyday because it is cheap enough and the cakes are fantastic [hence the €434 spent in cafes] but we are vegetarian and so had very few evening meals out in restaurants as Portugal isn’t always ready for vegetarians.
  3. We did drink wine or beer every night but we did try some very cheap [and very good] red wine [the lowest we tried was 1.89].
  4. As you can see, we paid to get in to some attractions as we travelled, budget travellers could skip these.
  5. Other spending includes an occasional washing machine, presents for loved ones at home, bike spares, some clothes and a few household replacement items.
  • Diesel – €523
  • Food [supermarkets etc] – €864
  • Cafes & restaurants – €434
  • Campsites – €931
  • Bus fares, taxis etc – €48
  • Entrance fees to attractions – €174
  • Other spending – €146
  • TOTAL SPENDING – €3,120

Interestingly, this amount is more or less the same as we would have spent had we stayed at home [and while away we’ve not been using gas, electric or water in the flat] so the only additional cost to our normal spending has been the ferry.  Portsmouth to Bilbao is an expensive route at £730 but it does take you straight to Spain and I feel that this amount represents better value when spread out over a two month trip.

We have been generous with our budget and expected higher spending than this on our trips away so our annual spending for our first year of retirement is still looking good at the moment despite additional spending following the incident.

 

Spain and Portugal campsites & overnights

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Evening light on a campsite

In the spirit of sharing for anyone who is planning their own trip to northern Spain and Portugal, during our two months trip around these two countries we stayed on some great campsites, a few indifferent ones and a few free camping places.  The full list with the low season cost and some comments are below:

Campsite name Comments Cost
Port at Portsmouth Edge of the lanes for checking in, facilities nearby open 05.00-23.30, some noise and 4 other vans  €           –
Casalarreina Aire near Haron, Spain On the edge of a small town, pleasantly situated by sports area, short walk in to Casalarreina and shops and cafes  €           –
Camping Fuente de la Treya, Soria Good hot showers, not the cleanest, main road above site so some noise, grassy and trees, okay for one night, electric €6/night  €    21.50
Camping Carion del Rio Lobos, Ucero, Spain Lots of shade under the trees, clean facilities, showers very fine spray and not quite warm enough  €    28.50
Camping El Acuedecto, Segovia, Spain On the edge of the city, marked pitches, buses to city, clean facilities & roomy showers, water not very warm, plenty of dishwashing and laundry sinks  €    26.00
Camping Gredos, Hoyos del Espino, Spain A sloping site in the pine trees, peaceful and walking & cycling in the natural park, excellent hot showers, wash up a bit grim, pitches a reasonable size  €    18.10
Camping Parque National Monfrague Malpartida de Plasencia, Spain A large site, ACSI, English spoken, some shade, uneven pitches, good hot showers, shop & bread  €    17.00
Camping Don Quijte, Salamanca, Spain Large, level and sandy pitches that are marked with hedges & have plenty of shade, good cycle route to the city and good hot showers with clean facilities, ACSI  €    17.00
Camping Sierra de la Culebra, Figueruela de Arriba, Spain A peaceful site in the countryside, some shade, sandy, facilities dated & have shower curtains but acceptable, ACSI  €    17.00
Active Lima, Entre Ambos-os-Rios, Portugal Site in pine trees, few definite pitches, facilities basic & no hot water at sinks, showers lukewarm, English spoken, ACSI  €    13.00
Parque de Campismo do Paco, Vila Praia de Ancora, Portugal In eucalypus trees & oak, no marked pitches, popular site, facilities fine, hot showers & toilet paper, only lukewarm water for wash-up, ACSI  €    11.00
Parque de Campismo de Cerdeira, Campo do Geres, Portugal A large terraced level site under trees, organised & modern facilities, shop, showers, clean but lukewarm, wash up outdoors  €    23.00
Campismo Arco Unipessoal, Arco de Baulhe, Portugal Small terraced site, 300 m from a town, facilities open, clean & showers reasonably warm, open views to hills, wifi at bar, ACSI  €    17.00
Parque de Campismo Municipio de Meda, Portugal A neatly laid out small site by the swimming pool, good English spoken at reception, toilet paper, very hot showers, fully adjustable, clean facilities, good wifi on pitch, an excellent site by the town  €    11.00
Camping Quinta das Cegonhas, near Gouveia, Portugal Terraced site with views down the hillside, good information on walks, facilities clean & showers hot, English spoken, well organised, good wifi on pitch  €    19.10
Toca da Raposa, Meruge near Oliveira do Hospital, Portugal Small site with trees for shade, friendly welcome, walks information available, clean facilities & good hot showers, wifi at bar, ACSI  €    15.00
Coimbra Aire at Parque Verde / Piscinas, Portugal Car park near the town & river, popular & busy, road noise, toilets that are open in the day  €           –
Quinta do Pomarinho, Castelo de Vide, Portugal Sandy site with some trees but limited shade, lovely views of hills, good facilities, wifi by reception, 1 1/2 hr walk to town, hot showers, lots and lots of information about walks locally  €    20.00
Camping Alentejo, Evoramonte, Portugal By a busy road, flat site, some shade, pool, clean facilities, showers only warm  €    12.00
Costa do Vizir Camping, Porto Covo, Portugal Large site with many facilities near the village, showers fine & clean, paved roads, no views but peaceful  €    17.10
Foia Autocarravana parking near Monchique at 902 m, Portugal Car park with cafe, shops & antennae at top of hill, good views, traffic late at night & early morning  €           –
Vale a Carrasqueira Camperstop, Caldas de Monchique, Portugal 14 pitch camperstop with lovely views over a wooded valley, extra €2.50 to use pool, wifi, basic clean facilities, good hot showers  €    12.50
Camping Alvor, Alvor, Portugal large site with pool, shop & motorhome service pint, busy due to ACSI reduction, hot showers & clean facilities although a bit dated  €    13.00
Algarve Motorhome Park, Silves, Portugal Large gravel aire by the road, little shade, clean & tidy, 2 showers cost 50c each  €       8.50
Parque de Campismo Municipal de Serpa, Portugal Sandy site, some slope, some trees, good hot showers & clean facilities, Intermarche & cafes near & town only 10 mins away  €    10.05
Parque de Campismo Markadia, Odivelas, Portugal Beautiful & peaceful position on the reservoir with generous pitches, clean facilities, roomy & hot showers, bread  €    19.44
Orbitur Parque Campismo de Evora, Portugal Marked pitches, facilities dated but acceptable, showers hot, 2 kms from centre, large pitches  €    14.58
Elvas car park by Aqueduct, Portugal Large slightly sloping car park, beside the stunning aqueduct & 15 mins walk from the town, popular aire  €           –
Camping Os Anjos, Campo Maior, Portugal Small terraced site with open views, clean facilities, no toilet paper, water for wash up & showers not hot enough, information on walks, 1.5 kms from the lovely town  €    17.30
Camping Cuidad de Caceres, Spain Terraced site that is popular & large, each pitch with bathroom, some road noise, shower a bit feeble but hot & nice to have space, ACSI  €    17.00
Camping Parque National Monfrague, Malpartida de Pasencia, Spain Still busy but good welcome, wifi, roomy showers with hot water & good flow, good wash-up facilities, ACSI  €    17.00
Camino de Santiago Camping, Castrojeriz, Spain Peaceful site with marked out pitches & bread by small town, showers push button for short time but hot, only 1 hot tap for wash-up, ACSI  €    17.00
Camping de Haro, Spain Large site with shady marked pitches, well organised, heating in sanitary block & good hot showers, 10 mins walk from the town, ACSI  €    19.00
Bilbao Port for Britanny Ferries Flat & busy car park after check-in with toilets available, arrive between 16.00-19.00  €           –

Touring and walking around northern Spain

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In the beautiful Rio Lobos Canyon

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.

 

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The aqueduct in Segovia