Spain 2017

People read blogs for different reasons. I have read them to get inspiration for trips, sometimes to get specific information on campsites or attractions, sometimes just to while away an hour or so or to see if we got a mention! So I have tried to write this blog so that it caters for all, there are links to detailed parts.

This holiday was originally planned to be a trip to Croatia, but thinking about the amount of driving and mindful that I just had a pacemaker fitted, decided to cut the driving down by going instead to Northern Spain. We also decided to take the ferry, Portsmouth to Santander rather than drive all the way through France.

We have never taken a motor caravan to Spain before, in fact my only previous visits were short stops (Vigo, Cadiz, Malaga) whilst on a cruise to Morocco. Doreen is slightly more familiar with Spain and has the advantage of having learnt Spanish at school. We agreed that she would do all the preplanning for the trip which is the chore that I normally undertake. 

So my only early contribution was to buy some Euros and book the ferries. One of our motor homing friends, Rita, is on a forum that I use and is quite the Spanish expert so I relayed some questions from Doreen, chief amongst them was what did they use to find campsites. Someone else, Lesley, had just asked Rita that samr question, received the answer 'Guia de Areas de Servicio Para Autocaravanas' and promptly bought a copy even though they are not planning to be there until 2018, now that is preplanning! We were cheeky and arranged to borrow it. We also borrowed a Michelin map/guide to free sites/aires in Spain. When going to a new place we like to visit Standfords, the map people, in their Bristol shop and there Doreen bought an eyewitness guide to Northern Spain and a phrase book to add to two detailed Michelin maps for the areas of Spain that we would be visiting: S71 Galicia and S72 Asturias/Cantabria. (I was busy investigating Finnish maps). She got me to get an ACSI camping guide to Europe and a camping card from the Camping and Caravan club. There were also a few apps added eg park4night. 

 

Day 0  25th April 2017. After a last minute hunt for keys drove to Portsmouth, still early. By being moved to a different queue for no reason(?) was almost last onto boat. Cabin was the smallest cupboard. Decent enough meal and weather was better than expected. Did I say the cabin was small! What I did notice was prices were reasonable. We were given a Brittany ferries magazine which we used a lot in the first few days. Unusual for something like that to be other than an advertising platform.

All the miscellaneous stuff is here including photos of our tiny cabin you might want to scan through it first  

 franksblog.webnode.com/blog/spain-2017/driving-in-spain-and-other-oddities/

Day 1 Not a good night's sleep woke up at 2am had co-codamol. Got up at 5.30 shower, then early coffee from machine, then later coffee with breakfast at 7.30, then coffee with Doreen at 8.30. Talk on whales etc followed by Dolphin spotting. Common dolphin right close to ship, plus dog spotting at the exercise area. There isn't much to do on the ship but it's a means to an end. Lovely day not the rain we expected. Found marina aire near airport but could find nowhere to pay, noisy RyanAir operated until late at night. 

 

Day 2 Rain in night, paid for Aire 6€. Then to Saunces,  followed by Santillano del Mar (walked around damply, camera got very wet, blurred view screen and lens). 

 

 

Santillano

Then carried on by coast road to Camillas, sat out heavy rain for an hour then went up to El Capricho by Gaudi one of his few creations outside Catalonia. Amazing place. 

Link to more El Capricho photos: franksblog.webnode.com/blog/spain-2017/el-capricho/

Then along the coastal road to San Vincente de la Barquero, where we couldn't find some of the parking places listed and ended up on the seafront but had to use ramps in the gutter to get level.

 

This might be a good point to mention the route. We went west from Santander mainly sticking to the coast until the coast turns southward and then we followed it south, went into Portugal to about 40km from the border, and then returned to Spain. We followed the river valleys of the Miño and Sil for a while before going North to the coast again. A couple of detours, then went across to the mountains, Picos De Europa, before returning to the coast to catch our ferry 36 days after arriving. The following sketch shows this: 

There is more detail here franksblog.webnode.com/blog/spain-2017/route/

Day 3 Mainly sunny. There was a howling dog in the morning just abandoned for a while by its owner. Breakfast on road coming out of port, looking out towards mountains and back to the port. 

Joined A8 motorway, very pretty but left it to get to Ribadeseiia, stayed mostly on back roads. Used A8 to get around Gijon then arrived at Candas and followed gps until I thought "I'm not going down there", a 15% hill, very narrow, so went the long way around to a park4night site. The person who put the lat long in would have been better putting it on the nearby main road near the sign to the site, saving all from difficult entrances. Walked into town and port, sunny but very windy did a small amount of shopping.

 

Day 4 Full sun (not as forecast). Took train to Gijon. The route encounters a big industrial area, power station aluminium smelter(?) This would please a railway modeller, tracks on several levels, small radius curves etc.

 

A taxi trip to the headland at Gijon, Cimivilla,  (driver kindly gave us a tourist map). We walked around the headland then coffee on Mayor plaza, (back to miniature coffees), then walked back to the station taking in a market where we were entertained by lady fishmonger preparing conger eel for sale and then lunch. 

Day 5 Oviedo and Mieres. On the basis of yesterday's 30 minute train journey €3 return and today's 4 mile bus rides  €1.20 each way, public transport in Spain is a lot cheaper than at home. We left the van at a motorhome park place and later dumped waste there. Oviedo is very modern with an old centre. After some rain the sun came out and we followed an Asturian pipe band as they precessed around the town's heritage sites. 


Stayed at a very poor aire at Mieres, by railway and motorway and dingy blocks of flats. Doreen repaired silver screens.

 

Day 6 1st May Drove a mountain circuit through Pola and Barzana, photo stop at 1179m. Found out the this was to be part of La Vuelta in 2017 last used in 2011 when Bradley Wiggins lost out heavily to the eventual winner of the tour. 

We came across out first Hórreo or grain store on this trip in a small village where we stopped for a while. These are scattered around Northern Spain but we understand if you buy a new property without one you get a replica one made, even when you have no grain to store. People live in them! PS still had some damp in the camera hence the misty view. Ending up at a campsite, Cudillero ACSI 17€, showered and filled up with water. 

 

 

Day 7 Went down the A8 to Tapia de Casariego with Doreen doing the driving. A couple of days ago in Oviedo I stepped off a curb awkwardly and of all things jolted my shoulder. It seemed to cure my knee completely, but the pain in my shoulder has been getting worse not helped by all the steering needed to get through the mountain roads yesterday. Iboprufen gel applied without much effect. Anyway we are at an aire, 4€, overlooking a beach and 300m from a nice little township. Unfortunately two minutes after we paid a group of people came to strim and mow the grass, hope they have a siesta soon, it's very noisy. That has often happened to us. Once on Orkney in a large municipal campsite where all the grass needed cutting, the worker picked on our little bit.

 

 

Day 8 Drove further west out of Asturias and into Galicia. Sat Nav insisted on a minor road up a hill in a forest near Viveiro but after sampling it, we turned back and relied on the map. Found a nice quiet Aire in Cariño near the town and beach at a school, we arrived just as the kids were leaving for the day at 14.30. We met some English people that we had identified before we saw their vehicle (Socks with sandals, but to be fair he did have nasty leg ulcers to cover up).  All stayed quiet until people started arriving at what I had taken to be an abandoned building nearby but was a sports hall. At the same time, around 18.00, loud drumming started up from of all places the library 100m away. Luckily all seemed over by 22.00. 

 

 

Day 9 Retraced our route from the village to get on a coastal route to Ferrol. After Ferrol we needed to avoid toll motorways. By going through Betanzos avoided being sucked in to A Coruña and got to beach aire at Caion. Walked around village and port. Took chairs on to beach for an hour or so. Sunny first thing, it was  cloudy by the afternoon but we still got enough sun.

 

 

 

We saw small stone buildings on stilts, often with crosses on the ridge at each end they were also Hórreo, we had seen wooden ones in Asturias but in Galicia they were stone or brick. We had by then decided they were mini granny flats/mausoleums.

The ones on the right are in Portugal

 

Day 10 5th May Noticed crack in windscreen as sun caught it, how long has it been there? It lined up exactly with the adhesive residue from a sticker I had removed from the screen earlier this year. Drove along coast to Pontecesso where we did our weekend shop and as we walked out of the supermarket met our first torrential downpour of the day. From there to Finisterre (Fisterra)  literally "the end of the world". At N42.9 W9.27 this is the furthest west in Europe that you could go by road. Talked with some American pilgrims who had just finished the 'French route', taken them about a month. Apparently the cathedral at Santiago is only a stopping point, the end point since pagan times is just past the lighthouse. See the Miscellany page for the story of the Camino.

 

Leaving Finisterre we became aware that there was a lot of squeeking in the rear of the van. We thought it was coming from one of the lockers. Perhaps the bread we recently bought had pushed one of our plastic boxes to rub against a locker door. It became known as the baguette incident. Ended up at ACSI campsite at Louro near Muros 17€. Rained heavily as I was putting up screens result, tore them again! 

 

Day 11 Serviced the van, showered, coffee, wrote postcards, walked to Louro on the beach, Doreen fell in shop. Stayed on beach while laundry was done then lazed around van whilst it dried. D mended screens, restaurant in evening. Very bony fish. 

 

 

Day 12 Back tracked a few kilometers to see the Hórreo at Carnota, biggest in world, bought hats to replace those left at home. Then to Noia where we walked around and had an ice cream and we went to a possible pitch in Santiago but having looked at it we didn't want to overnight there. We went to Bertamirans aire instead which was noisy. Very hot.

Carnota

  

Noia

 

Day 13 8th May. We caught bus to Santiago which was an adventure. Very cheap at €1.5 for 8km but timetable online didn't match timetable at bus stop and neither matched reality.  It was seemingly very disorganised, especially at the three storey bus station in Santiago where there are no timetables or bay allocations on the ground floor where the buses are, and with two different companies doing the trip and having different ticketing systems it was stressful. 

Walked 1 km to Cathedral. Lots of scaffolding marred the view of the building, lots of tourist tat on sale in and around the Cathedral but it was an exciting old town. 

 

Bought stamps at the main post office which was an adventure in itself. Had lunch a little way from the main tourist area and walked back by a shorter but steeper route. Once we had taken our return bus trip we shopped in Carrefour and drove to Boiro. There was difficulty locating the aire, it certainly wasn't where two German and a Swiss motorhome had stopped. 

Day 14 Hugged the coast through Villagarcia then stopped for coffee and cake in the motorhome at Cambados harbour, drove via Raxo where we parked to get a panoramic view. 

 

Into Pontevedra where a young lad organised parking for us. Looked a bit like a scam. Didn't seem to be, he didn't even hang around us for a tip. If double parked drivers handed him their keys. 

Nice walk in full sun to plaza, then on to the bridges that gave it its name, felt very conspicuous in hat, shorts and T shirt. Men typically wore trousers, were bareheaded and jacketed. Came as close to a bull ring as I want to get. Then on to a aire in the delightfully named Arcade, north east of Vigo. Lovely looking but a bit whiffy, the black waste disposal had not been flushed. Noticed the other vans were at the other side of the building in general parking but most importantly upwind! We joined them.

 

Aire Arcade

 

View towards motorway and Vigo behind

Day 15 We walked around the marina, mainly small day boats and local fishing craft. Got back to the van before a shower.  Rain is now due for the next few days. As you can see from the next two photographs it was cloudy but luckily as we moved south it stayed more or less dry with some sun.

 

We had read an article from the Guardian newspaper travel section called "Wild Portugal" and had brought it with us.

Went south on N550, avoiding tolls, until the motorway became toll free as it crossed the border where we encountered a 40 minute hold up on the Portuguese side. Some vehicles were being searched and all id's being thoroughly checked. We were asked what our destination was, that received an approving nod and we were waved through with a smile. Later we found out all the extra security was for the Papal visit to Fatima. We got off the motorway just before it became a toll road again, and we went south east on N roads until we got to Ponte De Barca. When we got to the castle at Lindoso a little further on, mentioned in the Guardian, it was still dry but the forecast rain in the form of a shower came when we were levelled off on our pitch. We later explored the castle and the village before the next shower came.  Heavy rain in the night with far off thunder, all as forecast. In fact as far as we could tell the whole of Northern Spain and Portugal was to receive loads of bad weather. It was important to get to this spot as it was Doreen's birthday on the morrow and at least this way she got to see this lovely area in more or less dry conditions. 

 

Lindoso. Aire, Castle and Viillage

Day 16 11th May Doreen's birthday. As expected we woke to rain and after breakfast, as it was too early to go to the campsite that we knew of just 15km away back in the direction of Ponte de Barca, we thought we would take a trip over the nearby eastern border into Spain. Crossing the border a couple of km away we went as far as Lobios then retraced our route back to Portugal, but initially the Portuguese border guard wouldn't let us in. Instead insisting we went into Portugal via Valençia which would have been a 200km detour. Eventually he relented and we went the 17km to the campsite by the shorter route. 

 

We went to the 'Lima Escape' campsite in the ACSI book but didn't connect the name to the Guardian article which mentioned it until day 2. The time we were to spend in the campsite was wet and miserable. The showers were faulty and every time we went to use them they were cold, and the other sort of showers were persistent. There was also a PA system nearby which was blasting out music, radio broadcasts of the Pope's visit etc, more or less all the time up to 10pm on all three days. The site manager would have given us a lift to a restaurant in the nearby town but if we had been caught in one of the cloudbursts on the way to reception we would have been soaked in seconds so we cancelled. Cooked a curry instead.

River running by our door Hook up cable drifting!

Day 17 Campsite owner was on duty so reported the cold showers. She drew a map to Lidl near Ponte Barca and it was more or less correct, it just missed out one important detail. We went wrong twice, getting launched on to two different main roads with no turning places. Eventually found Lidl did our shopping, had lunch in a lay by and tried the road to Soajo mentioned in the Guardian but it was too narrow and precipitous so we turned back.

 

Day 18 Rain again. Showers cold again. Got the van ready paid 26€ for our two nights and headed off popping into Lidl on the way but we got lost again. Sinking feeling as we go on a viaduct looking down at Lidl knowing the next exit is 6km away! Couldn't even scrub round shopping as the road wasn't the right one for Monaçõ where we were to cross into Spain. So after we had retraced our path got to Lidl we set out again, this time on the correct road. It was a very pretty road but didn't much accord with the map. Anyway crossed into Spain without incident and went to the hilltop village of As Neves. 

We decided to stay put as we had a good parking spot and it was 4pm Spanish time. Our GPS told the correct local time CET but phones and iPad kept Portuguese time BST, Portugal is on the opposite side of the River Miño a km or so away.

The next bit is  covered here in more detail  franksblog.webnode.com/blog/spain-2017/the-rivers/ but the next couple of entries below give an overview.

 

Day 19 Sunday  In improving weather we did a figure of eight route, east along the Miño valley then a little north and west through the hills then back east on the A52 before crossing our original path. 

 

We had already stopped at the river crossing and at a mountain viewpoint and our next stop was at Melón which was very interesting. 

 

A ruined monastery which was far more extensive than the guidebook had hinted at. There was even fireworks and some sort of procession.Then to Ribadavia which has a castle and an extensive Jewish quarter, before arriving at our free night stop in Ourense on the banks of the Miño.

Day 20 Monday 15th May A fantastic day once we had braved the traffic in the morning rush as we crossed Ourense from west to east. Once we had got to Esgos we were in hills gradually climbing to 940m and we stopped at a viewpoint Alto del Rodicio and brewed morning coffee looking down on the large village of Maceda 6 or 7 km away.

A route close to the Rio Sil was available to the north we had elected not to go by that route to Castro Caldelas but once we had crested the hill at Rodico it all seemed quite tame so we headed to Parada de Sil and I really suggest you go on the link to read more  franksblog.webnode.com/blog/spain-2017/the-rivers/ 

Somewhat in need of a rest we got at length to Castle Caldelas and before having a well deserved break and a cold drink we went and explored the Castle. 

Our plan was to shop in A Rua but first we had to get there. The road (OU536) was twisty in parts and had climbed from 700m to 950m and back down to 800m in about 20km but it was after we refuelled in A Pobra de Trives that the fun restarted.  The road started weaving from side to side as it clung to the hillside. You often couldn't tell whether it was going to go left or right until you caught sight of it either below you or above you on the opposite side of the valley. We were aware of an Aire at S Clodio so we drove on the N120 there, criss-crossing the Rio Sil but going downstream. There is a map if you follow the above link.

The Aire at S Claudio was delightful, next to the Rio Sil see above, there is a play park for adults and one for children and a bar and even a beach and we decided to stay two days...

Day 21 That was fated not to happen as Doreen's earache was getting worse. So we walked into the village 

 

(they even had a stork) 

and found a doctors surgery and struggling with her hearing, the pain and the lack of english speakers she saw a doctor who said she should go straight to hospital. The nearest being at Monforte de Lemos which was conveniently on the N120 in our desired direction of travel just 32km away. We found the hospital OK but couldn't park so I dumped Doreen at the entrance drove 500m away and parked by the roadside and walked back to the hospital and as arranged stayed near the entrance. Luckily there was a cafe. I had the smallest cup of coffee I have ever seen, the cup could have come from a dolls house. Doreen had her ear syringed and was out in quick time now being able to hear and being out of pain. We had a lovely walk in the sun and in a street cafe had my annual coca cola.

Inexplicably although we can see the photos we took at Monforte they won't copy across from the phone.

We then drove to Chantada where we crossed the Miño again before finding the Aire near a sports complex. 

 

Our journey in had bypassed the town and after the easy stroll in we were amazed to see how big and bustling it was. Doreen had had her birthday dinner delayed, so we opted for having it here. We were given the nicest meals of our trip and excellent service without one word of english. The bill after wine and beer came to 22€ and in a burst of generosity we gave a €5 tip to our waiter who had given us such good service whilst looking after about eight full tables. 

 

Day 22 Rain at start of day as forecast but it stayed light. The Roman fortified city of Lugo was impressive and for the most part dry, if not sunny. The Aire is high up in the town and not too far below the walled city. Found it using Campercontact App rather than our Spanish Aire book, this was a case of finding decent parking not a place for the night. We climbed up through a park then walked around the walls. There was something going on in town with lots of children involved.

 

 

We then drove north in sunshine, we passed the source of the Rio Miño. Rather than go all the way to Ribadeo we cut the corner off to get to our campsite at Barreiros, not too far from Foz. It was hilly and at some point we passed into cloud and slowed to a crawl. After establishing that every thing was closed here as well we got to our campsite, Camping Gaivota, opposite the beach.  We wondered why so much was closed this Wednesday, turns out it was Galicia Literature festival ... public holiday. 

 

Day 23 Quietly spent doing laundry, dodging showers, used our windbreak and fed the sparrows. Had a windy walk on the beach. I overcooked the BBQ chicken. 

Pitch to Beach 50m

 

Day 24 We went along the coast briefly stopping at the tourist spot Catedrales (basically a hole in the cliff but if you have seen or indeed been inside Trollhatten Norway its rather underwhelming) and ended up in Ribedio to do some shopping. It was here that we realised that in Spain Lidl is one of the expensive supermarkets). We drove on the motorway towards Navia and then some way down the Navia valley on the western bank of the river. Even though we put in an eventual destination to the south east on the other side of the Rio Navia and there were river crossings, the SatNav was insisting that we return to Navia. Eventually we gave in and drove back to Navia, back on the motorway to Luarca, then headed south to our night time aire at Navelgas. This road, the AS219, was an amazing if rather stressful drive of 27km, rising from sea level to 500m then back down to 230m. At Navelgas we went to the gold museum. Yes this tiny place is famous for gold. In 2015 it held the world gold panning championship, no I didn't know there was such a thing. Unfortunately no free samples. 

We encountered these huge dogs left to wander with the sheep on several occasions this one came close enough to slobber over us. We think its a Spanish Mastiff. The average used to be 100 sheep, 1 shepherd and 1 dog to keep the wolves and bears away.

 

Day 25. Yesterday's experience with the roads worried us for the onward journey as we could see from the map and the SatNav it was much steeper rising very quickly to 510m then on to 660m at Tineo but the reality was that it was fairly easy. 

 

The plan was to bypass Tineo go south a few km on to the AS15 but a confusion at a roundabout had us travelling through Tineo before we could go on with the plan. The AS 15 thoroughly deserved its green line on the map it was beautiful but two things spoilt it. 1. Why on earth was there a coal fired power station in the valley. It was quite surreal going round a corner to find a cooling tower at the valley bottom with coal yards beyond.

 

 2. Why when there was room did they not put more places to stop to appreciate it. We found one dodgy place and one good place to stop in almost 50km.  

 

When we came to the motorway junction and changed to the Asturias map we realised that this was the junction where we had left the motorway on day 6. The plan for the rest of the day was simple, go towards the Picos de Europa on the motorway avoiding Oviedo. We wanted to get to Cangas early on day 26 as there was limited space, so looked for an Aire on the way and found one at Nava with only three decent sized pitches. We walked into town along a stream and there was some sort of organised marching going on and a market. We had a beer in the sunshine and thought Nava was a nice place. We were by a running track so on our return did a few walking laps before meeting our Spanish neighbours and going to bed. 

Day 26 Sunday Dull, when we got up our Spanish neighbours had gone and been replaced by a friendly Dutch couple in a Cathargo who were full timing and who started doing their laundry. We drove the 40 or so km to Cangas, every one else seemed to be doing the same thing. All the carparks and overflow carparks were pretty full and they were charging for entry, normally free. But as we drove in we were waved through and lo and behold the four places that are the 'official' aire pitches were empty, result. We then went walking around Cangas and shopped. 

We had been told that a good place to eat was the Bus Station. Well neither of us much liked our meal there I had the worse paella ever, most of the identifiable things were just bits of shell. After that we went to drink cider in a sidra (cider) bar, they have a tradition of pouring cider straight armed from above their heads into the glass which they hold as low as they can. It is supposed to result in adding air to the cider in fact what it does it put more on to the pavement than in the glass. Luckily they only pour some of the bottle in this way! Thunderstorm in night.

 

Day 27 Monday 22nd May Full sunshine again. We planned to take a bus to Covadonga then transfer to a minibus to the lakes as our first introduction to the Picos de Europa. You were supposed to be able to buy a through ticket for that at the bus station but the small kiosk for that ticket and indeed the main ticket office stayed resolutely closed. Eventually we realised that people were going into the restaurant to buy their tickets. We enquired about the lakes but could only buy a ticket as far as Covadonga.

We got to Covadonga and tried to get on or buy a ticket to get on the smaller buses that were milling about but they were all prebooked by coach operators. There was an upmarket tourist tat shop with a heavy religious theme, an hotel and a museum which held the only english speaker. He explained the situation about the minibuses. Every ten minutes it seemed another coach arrived up the narrow twisting road to the summit and found a parking space behind the museum and a small fleet of minibuses would take the occupants to the lakes. The larger coaches were always moving to let ones out. As well as this people were going to the shrine and to the Cathedral. The only option was to return to Cangas which we could do by the regular bus service in about two hours. Covadonga is a worthwhile destination in itself with the Cathedral on a rock and a cave which is a Marian shrine and also commemorates the leader Pelayo who in 722AD resisted the advance of the Moors (Muslim army) from Africa who conquered the rest of the Iberia.

 

We returned to Covadonga and then moved on one day earlier than planned  to Posada de Valdeon, by way of the Desfiladero de los Beyos a scary narrow gorge sometimes the two sides were almost touching above us. 

 

Then by way of  passes 1306m and 1450m to the village at 940m. 10€ per night with or without electricity the view alone worth that.

 

The detailed part of the blog about the Picos de Europa is here franksblog.webnode.com/blog/spain-2017/picos-de-europa/

 

Day 28 the one disadvantage of being surrounded by mountains is sun didn't peep over the peaks until 9.30. We then went on a walk and saw vultures in full sun. 

We had a beer then a siesta before going to the restaurant and Doreen having Chickpea stew which was really Cheek of Pig!

Day 29 Drive out of the valley took us south to the N621 reaching 1560m before dropping considerably to 1230m. Once we are on the N621 we climbed to 1620m then a descent to 290m at Potes. This was acheived mainly on a short stretch of about 15km where we dropped over 1100m. 

Drove through Potes after finding diesel and then on to the cable car at Fuente de, quick trip up and down the mountain and back towards Potes to our campsite. With that we had ticked all the boxes for Northern Spain and in particular the Picos.

Day 30 From my log: Stayed in camp, watched birds, moved to new pitch, watched birds, did laundry, thunderstorm with BBQ. A pretty good summation of the day although I should say that one of the birds was a short toed eagle and the pitch move was made thanks to being tipped off by David and Mary from Weston super Mare. Also all the washing had dried and was packed away before the long heralded thunderstorm arrived. Luck didn't hold for the BBQ though. 

 

Day 31 Stepped out at 5am for star gazing in clear skies, later it was often overcast and or wet. Eagle circling again, seems to come around at about 4pm, the same time every day. Went to restuarant on campsite for dinner. Rather an odd meal, when they do first plate second plate we have found the second often includes a couple of fried eggs and soggy chips, irrespective of what the rest of the meal consists of. More thunderstorms about. The weather of the last two days wasn't too much of a disappointment given that we had had such good weather for most of the Picos and that even in the last two days it was still full of sunny interludes - we got our washing dry no bother.

 

Day 32 Time to leave the Picos, now in sunshine of course! With having ticked the boxes, with four days to go before our ferry home and with an uncertain weather forecast we were at a bit of a loose end and we had come up with several alternatives. Some of which would have involved quite long journeys and were vetoed. So our trip today was to Cosio Rionansa. The route favoured by our satnav involved going north to the coast a few miles of motorway before coming south again. There was however an alternative. So we started out going back to the N621 at Potes then north and through the start of the gorge Desfiladero de la Hermida. This was very twisty and in two places had nasty overhangs to avoid. So it was quite pleasing to turn off it at Linares and head east but what a road, climbing out of the gorge. Where is wasn't twisty, it was just plane steep.

Once the first 5km of hairpins was over it wasn't too bad but it descended and climbed twice more before the final descent into Puentenansa. A short drive then to Cosio. The deal at this aire, by the side of a restuarant, was that the first 24hrs was free then it cost 5€ for the next night, there was also a fee for emptying and filling. I liked the place but Doreen wasn't too keen although the village over the road  was we thought rather nice. One downside was that the two churches both had bells chiming the hours and quarter hours all through the night. We didn't use the restuarant other than to have a beer whilst we registered.

We went for a walk later and were blown away by the swallows skimming the roads and their acrobatics into the eaves, and a large bird circling, hoping that it was an eagle we were rather disappointed to find it a black kite although that was a first for us. We were also intrigued by a long building, water came from a spring and was channeled some distance to a concrete and stone trough where the water spilled over at the opposite end. A few days later seeing another similar structure we twigged that it was a communial wash house, the ribs to each side of the water were not just decoration. 

Day 33 Sunday 28th May. We knew of another aire which was just space on a general carpark at the village of Barcena Mayor in the parc natural Saja-Besaya so we headed for there, soon we were climbing though cloud which we broke through right by a viewing point. A few  moments later the cloud arrived.

It was a few meters to the summit at 600m and we broke out of the cloud again only to find on the descent that there was no cloud on the other side of the hill so I don't know what the meteorological name for that cloud was but I'm calling it a 'valley filler'. After another half hour of driving we found the ascent to the village blocked by a peloton.We stopped in a tiny village to make a coffee rather than try and overtake and spoil their racing. When we moved off later there was no sign of them so they must have turned off on a tiny road that looked as if it went straight up! So we arrived at the large carpark outside Barcena which was filling up but found a nice place by some trees. 

The village was clearly a tourist trap but so pretty that we forgave it. All day people arrived by car and coach the bars and restuarants soon filled up and the souvenir shops did a brisk trade mainly in local woodcarvings. We saw some at their craft. It is the start of some walks but all were over 10km and looked extreme so we settled for an icecream instead. 

As you can see it gradually got sunnier until in late afternoon showers started, there was an immediate exodus of 80% of the cars  we reckon the remainder of the car occupants must have been still eating. Then during the next gap between the showers the rest left, leaving us and two cars but by the morning just us. At sometime later also between showers we decided to put on our 'silver' screens and I managed to catch Doreen's finger in the door. There was a lot of blood but thanks to some sterling first aid whilst trying to remember the theme to Emergency Ward 10 no permanent damage was done (we carry wound closures as well as a full first aid kit). The main thing after, was hearing a bird which we couldn't see clearly but later identified as a blackcap then listening to the thunderstorms all around. At one time the flashes were almost continuous and you couldn't seperate the thunderclaps.

Day 34 Woke to a cloudy morning in a deserted carpark saw and heard our blackcaps again but then were visited by an albino blackbird. You can see he is only partially so but still very rare. 

 

So with two days to go and today being a dull day we decided to go towards the coast and choose between one of two ACSI sites either side of Comillas. The first was in the hills to the east at Ruiloba it looked a bit cramped and was definately a drive to the beaches. So we went to the other one which is said to be at  S Vincente de La Barquera but is very close to the west of Comillas. A very good site and there we met several Brits either starting or finishing their holidays in Northern Spain. It was still dull and rainy when we arrived but later the rain stiopped and we went on the short walk to the beach. Doreen paddled as that is one thing that she hadn't done on the whole trip. We then  sat at a beach bar and talked to a Geordie couple who were at the start of their holiday and who planned to go much further into Spain and Portugal than we had.  

Day 35 Tuesday 30th May A bright sunny day. We drove into Comillas and parked where we had parked to go to El Capricho back in April. This time intending to to visit the palace right next door. There was no one at the ticket kiosk and when we got to the building we were thwarted by it being open for prebooked guided tours and there were no spaces for several hours. 

We returned to the motorhome and drove to the beach car park. Had a walk around the small harbour then decamped to the beach had an hour or so R&R and both had a warm paddle. 

We had a coffee near the beach and later we walked into town and had a meal. I have covered our experiences with meals in the Miscellany section.

Day 36 All we had to do today was leave the campsite return to Santander, refuel, and get in the queue for the ferry which was due to leave at 21.15, we had picked up the tip that we could park up at the ferry terminal and leave by a side entrance to explore Santander on foot. So that's what we did, arriving about midday. There was also a handy Lupa supermarket to get the last minute food and drink. Apart from that we wandered the streets of Santander. 

 

Early arrivals and the Tunnel

Market

Cathedral

Santander in the sun was a very good place to explore but I don't recommend using the tunnel as it was thick with exhaust fumes and after looking at nearby shops we went to the other side of the hill and had a coffee then visited a market before returning to the ferry queue. The vehicle in the next row was a pop top Renault Trafic and we had some good conversation with the owners before being interupted by what I can only describe as the worst sort of 'ex-pat', happy to live in Spain but full of condemnation for immigrants in Britain. 

Having started this blog with the tale of how we were last on the ferry this looked like the same thing was going to happen as row after row of vans passed border control ahead of us but when It came to our turn we drove past most of them and straight on board putting us within a few vans of the stern where we would be exiting at Plymouth. The first thing we did after visiting our cabin was to  buy an upgrade for £30. The beds were still small but the beds were at deck level and the cabin was bigger.

Again the journey was a good one. I'm glad I bought beer in Santander as on board in the shop the choice was Guinness or Peroni both in cans. In the morning we went from brilliant sunshine to fog and we slowed and sounded the fog signal for hours I really thought we would be late at Plymouth but as we neared the coast of England the fog lifted and we arrived on time and as expected were amongst the first off. We did stop, at Honiton for some english fish and chips.

We got back to Salisbury at around 8.30pm on the 1st June having travelled a total of 1,834 miles.