Posts for April, 2017


Miro and the Olympic Complex (Barcelona, Spain)

Journal entry for Saturday 1st Apr, 2017 (day 18, miles 70680)

We decided to work independently today. Nina went back into Barcelona to add to her tourist experience with a visit to the Museum of Joan Miro while I stayed in camp and caught up on some business and other chores. In addition since the weather was not great, there being clouds and some rain, we decided that this entry would not only cover Miró but also some of the other parts of Barcelona that have not previously been discussed. Specifically the Olympic venues on Mountjüic (which is also where the Miró Gallery is situated) and the harbor.

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Motorway west (El Frasno, Spain)

Journal entry for Sunday 2nd Apr, 2017 (day 19, miles 70908)

Today we headed west eventually towards the city of Salamanca. Initially our route took us south along the coast past what looked like affluent holiday destinations and an area known as Stiges and then onto the AP-2 a toll charging Motorway that links the coast to the inland city of Zaragoza. Past Zaragoza we diverted to the A-2 still a motorway quality road but now without tolls. It was a very pleasant day. Bright sunshine, exceedingly light traffic, and picturesque country side that seems to be given over almost entirely to agriculture while regularly dotted with quaint little villages.

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Village and churches (Salamanca, Spain)

Journal entry for Monday 3rd Apr, 2017 (day 20, miles 71179)

Today we decided to venture off roads of motorway quality onto national-highway standard roads, so at Calatayud we turned NW onto the N-234 towards Soria and eventually Valladolid and then back onto motorways into Salamanca. The N234 turned out to be a good choice with lots of small villages this time with the road going right through the middle rather than bypassing as was the case yesterday on the motorway. We discovered that every village has at least one church (some times more) that seems to be much larger than could be justified by the size of the village and that many of those churches (and also many electrical poles) have their own resident Stork and brood.

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A little sightseeing (Salamanca, Spain)

Journal entry for Tuesday 4th Apr, 2017 (day 21, miles 71179)

Salamanca is an old city having been besieged by Hannibal in the 3rd century BC. It has the third oldest continuously operating university in the world, the Universidad de Salamanca, founded in 1134. It (Salamanca) is famous for its two cathedrals, the new cathedral, Catedral Nueva, and the old cathedral Catedral Vieja de Santa María. The old cathedral was founded in the 12th century and completed in the 14th. The new cathedral was started in 1513 and completed in 1733. So one can see that stuff has been happening around here for a long time.

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Nina's excursion (Salamanca, Spain)

Journal entry for Wednesday 5th Apr, 2017 (day 22, miles 71179)

I sometimes get a bit bored with the historical tourist stuff so today I decided to stay at the campground and be a slug while Nina undertook another excursion into Salamanca. This time her aim was to visit that old University. Along the way she picked up some interesting pieces of historical trivia regarding the building that surrounds the main square. In the past (unspecified) students attending the University rented rooms in that building. These rooms had unique entertainment value as the local bull fights and torture sessions of the Inquisition could be watched without the students needing to leave their rooms.

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Robert's f....k up (Toledo, Spain)

Journal entry for Thursday 6th Apr, 2017 (day 23, miles 71327)

Well, we got off to a bad start this morning. Out first chore of the morning was emptying our waste water tanks at the campground sani-dump. Unfortunately I failed to notice a short concrete wall beside the dump area and as I pulled out of the dump the right hand side of the truck collided with that wall and completely destroyed the camper stairs and almost completely removed the storage box behind the stairs. That left the vehicle in an un-drivable condition so we spent the next 2-3 hours removing the damaged step assembly from the vehicle and finding a way to carry the damaged storage box on the rear carrier beside the spare tire. The real bad news of this event is that there is some significant damage to the actual camper body in the vicinity of the stair well and that will require some professional repair at some point in the nearish future. In the interim I will seal it with silicon and duct-tape in the hope of preventing water entry.

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Holy Toledo (Toledo, Spain)

Journal entry for Friday 7th Apr, 2017 (day 24, miles 71327)

I woke with the early symptoms of a cold this morning so somewhat to Nina's displeasure decided to spend that day in bed in the hope of accelerating its progress. I guess this is the price of catching public transport in recent days where one is exposed to people coughing and spluttering. Regardless of my absence Nina seemed to have a good day exploring the city and came home with lots of information about this picturesque World heritage city that was once the capital of Spain.

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Museo del Ejército (Toledo, Spain)

Journal entry for Saturday 8th Apr, 2017 (day 25, miles 71327)

Today I joined Nina for a day touring Toledo. For her some of the day was a repeat of yesterday but she seemed to enjoy showing me all the things she had discovered. However we started the day with a visit to the Alcazar and the Spanish Army Museum (Museo del Ejército) which was not on Nina's itinerary yesterday . The Alcazar is the iconic building with 4 towers situated on the highest point of the city. In one form or another it dates back to Roman times. More recently however it was the scene of a major battle of the Spanish civil war when a group of Nationalists were besieged in the Alcazar by an overwhelming force of Republicans. The museum itself had a fine collection of old weapons and military odds and ends but without a much better knowledge of Spanish history I found it a bit disjointed.

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To Madrid by train (Toledo, Spain)

Journal entry for Sunday 9th Apr, 2017 (day 26, miles 71327)

Today we took an excursion into Madrid and will find a hotel for the night and return to Toledo tomorrow. We simply did not want the hassle of trying to find a camping spot in the Madrid metroplex, and once we learned that there was a fast train available that covered the 46 miles in 30 minutes (maximum speed 270 km/h or 168 mph) and cost only Euro 12.50 per person the deal was done. So why Madrid ? For us ( or should I say Nina the culture fiend ) the big attractions were the National Palace (Palacio Real), Guernica exhibition in the Centro de Arte Reine Sofia and the Prado.

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... and return (Toledo, Spain)

Journal entry for Monday 10th Apr, 2017 (day 27, miles 71327)

We spent yesterday and last night in the "old" section of Madrid with its historic and artistic attractions. So we decided that this morning we would catch a bus up-town to modern Madrid with skyscrapers and modern commercial buildings. Again we are amazed at the price of transport. This 30 minute bus ride was one euro each.

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A pleasant drive (Cordoba, Spain)

Journal entry for Tuesday 11th Apr, 2017 (day 28, miles 71535)

A pleasant drive through Olive groves and mountains to Cordoba

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Mezquita (Cordoba, Spain)

Journal entry for Wednesday 12th Apr, 2017 (day 29, miles 71535)

The big attraction in Cordoba is the Mezquita. The Mezquita is a very large and impressive Islamic Mosque with over 800 column supporting the roof. It was built in the 10th century when Cordoba was the greatest city in Europe rivaling Constantinople and Baghdad. Following the Christian reconquest of Cordoba in 1236 part of the Mezquita was converted to a Christian Chapel requiring the removal of 16 columns. Later, in the 15th century, a massive Christian (Catholic) Cathedral was created inside the Mezquita. To facilitate this conversion a more of the original column were removed and the original minaret transformed into a bell tower. Significantly the mosque was not destroyed by the christians during or after their reconquest. Today over 70% of the original mosque structure still remains.

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Olive day, to Granada (Granada, Spain)

Journal entry for Thursday 13th Apr, 2017 (day 30, miles 71658)

I mentioned in a previous post that the campground Carlos iii was a bit tight for us due to the mulberry trees. Well it got a lot tighter over the past couple of days as a group of Italian motor-homers arrived yesterday and have filled all the spots around ours. So when it came time to leave this morning there was no room near us for negotiating our way out. In the end I had to reverse between trees and camper vans around 3 corners with literally inches to spare on either side. We have definitely discovered that the correct dimensions for a motorhome in Europe is NOT 7.9meters L x 2.4 meters W x 4.0 meters H.

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First look around Granada (Granada, Spain)

Journal entry for Friday 14th Apr, 2017 (day 31, miles 71658)

Mid morning we caught the local bus into the downtown area of Granada with the plan of getting our first view of the city and getting our head around "the lay of the land". We also planned on picking up our ticket to the famous Alhambra which we had previously ordered online. The first thing we noticed once off the bus was how packed the place was with pedestrians. At times it was almost impossible to move. But despite the crowd we managed to get around and see some of the city, the river walk, Mirador San Nichols and views of Alhambra across the small river valley.

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Flamenco evening (Granada, Spain)

Journal entry for Saturday 15th Apr, 2017 (day 32, miles 71658)

We went our separate ways today. Late morning we caught the bus together into the city and then separated. Nina went to do more sightseeing and I went looking for adhesives and sealants to fix the damage to the camper body work near the destroyed step. The plan was that we would get back to the campground by mid afternoon so we could get a rest before our late night of dinner and flamenco dancing and music.

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Rest and repair day (Granada, Spain)

Journal entry for Sunday 16th Apr, 2017 (day 33, miles 71658)

We stayed in the campground today having a bit of a rest and I took the opportunity to make some crude and temporary repairs to damaged step area. It goes without saying that once back in the US when I have time I will get the problem professionally repaired.

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Alhambra (Granada, Spain)

Journal entry for Monday 17th Apr, 2017 (day 34, miles 71658)

Well today was the big day, we are off to see the famous Alhambra, a large structure sitting on a hill overlooking all of Granada. It is a combination of fort, and a series of palaces built both by Moors and Christians. The last Moorish occupant was Boabdil and it was he who surrendered Alhambra to Isabella and Ferdinand in 1492 as the last step episode in the reconquest of Spain by Christians.

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The new bridge (Ronda, Spain)

Journal entry for Tuesday 18th Apr, 2017 (day 35, miles 71781)

It was a shortish drive of 200km today to the pretty little town of Ronda. Another day of easy driving on lightly traffic roads through gentle and picturesque countryside. The campground we chose (Camping El Sur) is a little south of the town and there was no bus service, so after settling in we walked the 3km into town. The town is famous for its "new bridge" (newer 1751-1793 than the one built by the Romans) and we had to see it. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around the town with lots of tourists from all parts of the world doing the same.

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Gibraltar (La Linea, Spain)

Journal entry for Wednesday 19th Apr, 2017 (day 36, miles 71837)

Our day started with a a slow, twisting drive through green mountains dotted with white villages hanging to the sides of, or sitting on top of, the hills. Though this section of the day was somewhat testing on the driver it was very picturesque. Eventually we dropped down onto the coast where the fierce wind we had been feeling all day had whipped up a dense haze and very large white caps on the sea. As a result the massive rock of Gibraltar which should have been easily visible during our decent to the coast was only occasionally seen.

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Wind!! (Valdevaqueros, Spain)

Journal entry for Thursday 20th Apr, 2017 (day 37, miles 71868)

This morning the wind was, if anything, stronger than yesterday which had caused a change in plans. On our original schedule we were intending to camp tonight in a campground called Valdevaqueros, which is near the port of Tarifa, from where ferries go to Morocco. And then tomorrow visit Tangiers. But due to the high winds all ferries had been cancelled indefinitely.

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Escape from the wind (Sevilla, Spain)

Journal entry for Friday 21st Apr, 2017 (day 38, miles 71985)

The wind was STILL strong this morning and from online weather forecasts did not seem it would lessen until at least Sunday (today being Friday), so another change of plans was required. Rather than stay at Valdevaqueros or follow the coast we decided to make for Sevilla for the night.

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Sevilla's cathedral (Sevilla, Spain)

Journal entry for Saturday 22nd Apr, 2017 (day 39, miles 71985)

We spent a bit more time today exploring the older part of Sevilla and in particular admiring the Cathedral which is advertised as the "largest in Spain". It really is a monster building. One of the more novel features is an internal courtyard that is also an orange grove. The town center was very busy with people everywhere and a good number dressed in their best formal wear for some kind of celebration.

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Portugal and road tolls (Cap St Vincent, Portugal)

Journal entry for Sunday 23rd Apr, 2017 (day 40, miles 72179)

We had to drive 140km this morning before getting to the start of the Portuguese toll road, and all that we had read about it being confusing was to some degree correct. Just after the border there is a place for foreign vehicles to pull off the highway and go through a set of "gates" which accept credit cards. When we got there another motorhome was already parked there with the occupants trying to figure out what was required. While we went through the same process a number of other vehicles arrived and their passengers were also more than a little confused. However it turned out to be pretty simple. At one of the gates, the electronics read the vehicle license plate, once recognized the credit card slot flashes blue and at this point one inserts a credit card. The toll system has now linked the credit card to the vehicle license plate. Thereafter on electronic only toll roads the toll charges are applied automatically to your card. You get a printed receipt from the card machine to verify you have registered which you may have to show at some point. This registration lasts 30 days. So why was it confusing? Because there are at least 3 other options that a foreigner could use to pay tolls, there are two different sets of toll roads and some of the automatic payment mechanisms work on both sets of toll roads. And finally the official websites are hard to find, and even harder to find English versions of them.

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Gum trees (eucalyptus) (Evora, Portugal)

Journal entry for Monday 24th Apr, 2017 (day 41, miles 72333)

Our destination today was the town of Evora (another world heritage listed town). It is inland about half was across the country (east to West) and somewhat north of where we were last night. For a bit of a change we chose a route that consisted entirely of minor highways and NO toll roads. The first 60 kms of the route was through or along the edge of a forest, and through out the day the country side varied between open farm lands and forests.

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A tour of Evora (Evora, Portugal)

Journal entry for Tuesday 25th Apr, 2017 (day 42, miles 72333)

We ventured into the town center of Evora today for a look around. Unfortunately the bus service that usually takes campground residents into the center was not running as today is a Portuguese national holiday. April the 25th is the official celebration day for the Carnation Revolution of 1974 which eventually resulted in democratic government in Portugal and ended the colonial wars whereby Portugal was trying to hold onto its African colonies.

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Storks (Nazare, Portugal)

Journal entry for Wednesday 26th Apr, 2017 (day 43, miles 72461)

So you might be wondering abut the first photo in todays blog entry. Well we have seen many many Storks in their nests on top of electrical poles while driving in Spain and Portugal. But today we saw them for the first time in actual trees and also for the first time more than one nest in a single structure. This got us curious about why so many Storks? Google provided the answer. Traditionally White Storks have migrated across Spain and Portugal to Africa from Scandinavia. But in recent decades have discovered that the unprotected landfill trash heaps in this part of the world to be a reliable source of food and hence they have been able to spend the whole year here in this mild climate. As a result numbers have boomed. However there is a question over the future of these newly non-migrating Storks as there are plans afoot to do away with the landfills and hence deprive the Storks of their abundant food supply. So those that study Storks are awaiting developments. Will the Storks discover an alternative food supply in this part of the world, will they return to their traditional migratory pattern. I would say .. stay tuned .. but this development is likely to be a long process, one that Nina and I will not be watching closely.

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Students and Sanctuary (Lamego, Portugal)

Journal entry for Thursday 27th Apr, 2017 (day 44, miles 72583)

Our first stop today was the city of Coimbra and some what unusually we planned on doing some sightseeing around the town and then moving on all in the same day. A bit more energetic than my usual pace. Thus we needed a place to park within walking distance of the city center and in our Aires guide we found an area along the river near the rowing club listed. When we got to it we discovered that this was a very popular spot as there were already over 50 other motorhomes parked there. Coimbra is famous for its University, the third oldest in Europe. We were particular fortunate in the timing of our visit as the academic year was at its end and graduating students were out and about in their traditional dress. For the men black suits and cape, with accent colors to depict their course of study. For the women white shirts, black skirt, black stockings and cape. One of the traditions we read about but did not witness is the burning of the ribbons. Students traditionally tied their books together with ribbons to make them easier to carry, these ribbons are burned at graduation to signify that the students are no longer studying. Today of course the ribbons are purely symbolic and have become part of the traditional dress, we saw many student ribbons for decoration. The old city and University are built on quite a substantial hill and so during our hour long stroll through the narrow old streets we also got a change to ride the public elevator and public funicular that offer resident and students a slightly less energetic means of ascending that hill. We were blessed with a bright sunny day, and in that light the city looked really spectacular when viewed from across the river at our parking spot.

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Douro Valley (Lamego, Portugal)

Journal entry for Friday 28th Apr, 2017 (day 45, miles 72583)

We discovered during last evening that the hosts of the campground also provided a kind of tour service. So this morning we were driven by our host, in the campground mini van, to the railway station in Peso Da Regua where we caught a train that would take us up the Douro Valley to the very small village of Pocinho and return. The round trip (including the mini van to and from the station) took about 5 hours. The train line follows the Douro River, sometimes, only being a few feet from the water, and for all of its length the line passes through terraced vineyards intermixed with the occasional terraced patch of olive trees. The only downside to this excursion is that photographs are difficult to take through the glass of the train windows.

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Pilgrimage city (Santiago de Compostela, Spain)

Journal entry for Saturday 29th Apr, 2017 (day 46, miles 72811)

Today we made a short visit to Santiago De Compostela the end of the famous pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago, and the location of the shrine to St James the Great the reason for the pilgrimage in the first place. We arrived in Santiago mid afternoon and walked into the heart of the old city to find the place alive with people. Many were clearly "walkers" completing at least part of the Camino others just tourists like us come to look at the place and the walkers. The feeling of the place was definitely "if you are not a walker you are on the outer". But thats OK, many hiking towns and mountaineering towns have that same vibe.

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Viaducts in the rain (Colunga, Spain)

Journal entry for Sunday 30th Apr, 2017 (day 47, miles 73046)

Today we started our trek along the north coast of Spain. It took a few miles out of Santiago but eventually we were traveling along the north coast on a relatively new motorway (built since the early 2000s) most of the day being spent on the A6. As it turns out much of the terrain along the coast is mountainous (or at least hilly) with valley followed by hill being a continuous pattern. The terrain was clearly a problem to the designers and builders of the new motorways as a new road that dropped down into these valleys and then climbed out again would not be the modern high speed road that was their goal. So the solution was ingenious and we presume expensive. Valleys are crossed by large, high and long bridges and often the hill on the other side is pierced by a tunnel, thereby creating a relatively level roadway out of very up and down terrain. We have not been able to find a reference to how many bridges (viaductos in Spanish) there are on this road but we did see a reference that claimed in one 16 mile section of the road there are 20 bridges and 7 tunnels. This is between Villafranca del Bierzo and Pedrafita do Cebreiro.

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