Continuing on to Cadiz…. .

Since arriving in Spain nearly ten days ago we’ve had some rain………..boy have we had some rain!  Whilst parked up at the aire in Sanlúcar de Barrameda the rain came and went in waves for nearly forty eight hours.

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The aire at Sanlucar de Barrameda.

In the one extended break in the weather that we did have we had a mooch around the town, but, alas, we didn’t manage much of anything else!  Sanlúcar was the departure point for Columbus’ third voyage in 1498 but it’s probably better known for its light, dry manzanilla sherry made by, amongst others, Bodegas Barbadillo.

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Entrance to the Barbadillo bodega in Sanlucar.

Sherry producers are in evidence all around the town.  Nik, one of my oldest friends, will be disgusted with me for not doing a tour of one of the Bodegas as sherry was one of our drinks of choice on our nights out in our younger days!  (No, we weren’t normal!)  Ah well, maybe we’ll do a tour if we go to Jerez de la Frontera which is the capital of sherry production and not far away!

What we’d really come to this area for, though, was to see Càdiz so after two nights in Sanlúcar we made our way further south to an aire at El Puerto de Santa Maria which is across the bay from Càdiz.

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The aire (carpark) across the river from El Puerto de Santa Maria

We didn’t fancy driving into Càdiz as it’s very compact and options for overnight stays were limited.  The aire at El Puerto, another 24hr manned carpark similar to the aire we stayed at in Seville, is convenient for the ferry which shuttles regularly to and from Càdiz and takes about thirty minutes.

We had only intended staying two nights at the aire but another thirty six hours or so of rain had us confined to the van.  Normally we don’t let the weather dictate to us but it really wasn’t worth venturing out as the rain was torrential and would have been no fun at all to be out in.  We were super lucky though to be able to pick up some free wifi whilst at the aire and managed to watch the England v Wales rugby match on the laptop.

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Yay, RBS Six Nations chez ‘Ollie’!

That was a bonus as I’m not sure Tim could have coped with the disappointment as he’d set his heart on seeing it!  It was easy in Portugal the previous weekend as we just went to an English bar in Lagos to see it but no English bars were to be had in El Puerto.

We finally made it into Càdiz on Monday 13th February, albeit by bus as the ferry wasn’t running due to the weather.  I’m not sure why that was as it was sunny and calm and looked alright to me.  We got there though and it wasn’t raining which was a huge plus as we’d been beginning to get cabin fever in the van!

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Cadiz.

Càdiz, purported to be Europe’s oldest city, is set on a peninsular, and is almost completely surrounded by water.

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Looking back at the old town in Cadiz.

We started our exploration by walking the waterfront and then, after some lunch, walked the myriad of narrow streets and alleys in the old town.

P1010211.JPGIt really is very compact, with a slightly run down look about some of it, but all the more interesting for it.

 

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Narrow streets of Cadiz.

P1010238.JPGIt wasn’t as clean and well kept as Seville but had some pretty Plazas and green spaces.

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Plaza de Espana and Monumento a las Cortes.

A day in Càdiz was enough to see what we wanted to see and, with the sea now looking like a millpond, we were hoping to return to El Puerto by ferry but, nope, it wasn’t to be and back by bus we went.

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Cadiz Cathedral.

After three nights at the aire at El Puerto, which doesn’t have any facilities, we needed to find somewhere to empty and replenish so to speak.  The aire at Rota, half and hour’s drive away, fitted the bill.  It’s free and a short walk from a sandy beach so was a good stop for a couple of nights.

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Rota.

We got out on the bikes and, whilst not exactly all picturesque, had an interesting cycle along some of the local cycle tracks around Rota and Chipiona.

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The nice part of the cycleway we followed from Rota to Chipiona!

It’s completely flat, which cheered Tim up no end, and a bizarre mix of farms and smallholdings haphazardly sprawling inland with holiday homes and apartments equally sprawling along the coast.

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I don’t suppose the vans envisaged sharing the field with free range sheep and goats when they parked up!

It was good to get out on the bikes though and get some oil on them after all that rain.  We need to replace the bike cover we have as it has several rips in it now as the fabric is completely rotten.

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Coming back towards Rota from Chipiona on the coast this time.

Whilst at the aire at Rota we did a much needed clean of the inside of the van and a revamp of everything we have stored in the outside lockers.  In the planning stages of our big trip we had discussed whether we should maybe change our van, ‘Ollie’, for a slightly bigger van with more outside locker storage.  At the time, we felt that if we were living in it full time we’d need to carry more stuff than we did when on holiday.  However, having been on the road for ten months now, we are feeling we are much happier when living with less!

A couple of weeks ago we sorted through our clothes and shoes and dropped a bin liner of stuff into one of those charity clothes bins.  Whilst tidying the van yesterday we managed to fill another bin liner full of clothes to donate.  If we haven’t worn it in ten months we just don’t need it right?  There will be more to go – I’m looking at you flippers – before we get back to the UK I’m sure.  So, we’re glad we stuck with ‘Ollie’ and saved our cash instead of changing him for a more alluring model!

Anyway, I’ve gone off piste and this is getting rambling.  We moved on today to do a tour of the ‘Pueblo Blancos’, white towns, which dot the hills inland from the coast.  We’re starting off our tour at Arcos de la Frontera and we’ll make our way round several towns probably finishing in Ronda.

Nos vemos!

Valencia, in pictures…. .

Argh!  I’ve been suffering from Blog stress this last week.  I’ve been trying to upload this blog post for the past six days when we have managed to pick up some free wifi but the photos just wouldn’t load up.  I’ve faffed and fiddled and faffed some more to no avail so thought I’d leave it for a few days and hope the glitch sorted itself out.  Today I have had some success and have managed to get some of the pictures uploaded.  Yay!  I haven’t been able to load up the ones taken in portrait so lot’s are missing but hey ho.

On Saturday 24th September 2016 we took the cheap as chips bus into the centre of Valencia direct from just over the road from the aire.  At €3.00 each return it was a bargain.  We found the Tourist Information office just around the corner from the bus stop to pick up a map of the city.  The very helpful chap behind the desk suggested a walking tour of the city which takes in most of the ‘must see’ monuments.

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Valencia Cathedral.

 

 

 

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Palicio de Benicarlo.
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Torres de Sarranos.
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Torres de Serranos from the back.

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Mercado Central.

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Mercado Central.

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Ayunt Amiento.
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Plaza de Toros.

 

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Mercado de Colon.

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The gentle stroll, including a picnic in one of the parks, took us nearly four hours and was a good way to get our bearings around the old town.  We’ve hugely enjoyed our little sojourn in Valencia but two days of city life is enough for us so, after waking up to a beautiful sunrise through the bedroom window on Sunday, we set off a further fifty or so kilometres south to Dènia, a seaside resort on the coast.

My battery is now flat so I’ll upload this whilst i can!

Adios!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first full week in Spain…. .

The past week has, again, been one of contrasts.  We arrived on the Mediterranean coast on Wednesday 14th September 2016 ready for a restful few days.  The first job was to get ‘Spain’ stuck on our map of Europe.  It’s taken us nearly four months to reach a new country!

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Finally we can colour in another country.

We kicked back and relaxed at one of the aires on The Parc Naturel del Delta de l’Ebre for three nights enjoying some flat cycling every day, a spot of birdwatching and free wifi.  The area was designated as a Natural Parc in 1983 and is one of the largest wetland areas in the Western Mediterranean.  It is home to around 95 species of breeding birds and also serves as a stopover point for a huge number of migratory birds.  Not unlike ourselves really!  It’s the first time I think we’ve seen wild flamingos at close quarters.  Being a wetland area it attracts its fair share of mosquitos but also hundreds of dragonflies in every different colour imaginable.

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Coffee break at the marina at St. Carles de la Rapita.

We spent three nights there before taking a foray inland to the medieval fortified town of Morella.  We didn’t know if it was worth the ninety minute detour inland after having finally reached the coast but it turned out to be a real hightlight for us.

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Approach to Morella.

We stayed at the free aire 1km outside the town giving us a marvellous view of the town, especially when lit up at night.

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View from the aire of Morella lit up at night.

It reminded me a bit of a pavlova or of this egg sandwich we made at our first Helpx!

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‘Moregga’!

The castle above the town is over 1000m above sea level with a ring of ancient walls defending the lower reaches.

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Fortified walls of Morella.

 

P1080176.JPGWe did one of the signed walks around the outskirts of the town which gave us fantastic views over the surrounding plains and a view of the castle and walls from a different perspective.

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Another lovely walk.
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Morella seen from a different perspective.

We also paid a very reasonable €3.50 each to visit the castle.  The views from the top down over the town and across the surrounding countryside were exceptional and well worth the climb up.

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Looking down from the castle.

What we really also enjoyed about this area was the landscape.

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View from the castle walls.

It’s a mixture of isolated farms amongst rugged terrain, rocky hilltops, woods and ravines.  Hundreds of dry stone terraces and walls adorn the hillsides giving an insight into the hard graft and labour it took to farm successfully in this area in days gone by.

Having spent two nights at Morella we drove eastwards to Valderrobres, another medieval town with a fortified castle and 14th Century Gothic church.

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Valderrobres.
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Gothic church of Santa Maria la Mayor.

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We spent a couple of hours wandering around the old town before deciding to head back down to Peñiscola on the coast.  Peñiscola is a fortified promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean made famous by the filming here of El Cid in 1960.

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Peniscola – ‘city in the sea’.

P1080247.JPGIt’s also been used recently for the sixth series of Game of Thrones.

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Game of Thrones series six filmed on Peniscola.

It was built by the Knights Templar on the remains of an old Moorish citadel in the 13th Century. Within the walls lie many narrow, windy, cobble stoned streets lined with restaurants and tourist shops.

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Peniscola’s narrow strrets.

It is buzzing with mainly Spanish tourists.  We stayed on an aire a couple of miles away and enjoyed a leisurely cycle in along a purpose built cyclepath taking us to the ‘city in the sea’ as Peñiscola is known.

P1080248.JPGIt’s very touristy but has a very lively, family friendly, air about it and we enjoyed whiling away a couple of hours exploring.  We continued our cycle west along the coast for several miles which revealed much quieter coves with significantly less people!

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Looking back west of Peniscola. 

Today we headed east along the coast on the bikes taking a pitstop for an hour to have a look round the market in Benicarlò.

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Benicarlo market.
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Market at Benicarlo

 

I went for my first swim in the ‘Med’ this evening but shot out of the water when my legs suddenly started stinging.  I think I’ve been stung by a jellyfish although I didn’t see any but, looking at the rash I have, I can’t think of anything else it might be.  That’s put me right off a second swim now!

Tomorrow we’re moving on again but, to where, I’m not sure.  Best get the maps out and have a look!

Hasta luego!