Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Valladolid, Salamanca & Placensia - Days 67 to 70

Despite Burgos not being particularly exciting we stayed two nights, the first the last blog was posted and we didn’t go anywhere except to the churros and chocolate van at the end of the car park, a lovely man, 6 churros and some butchered Spanglish. It seemed very busy, and a little noisy, was that really the bin lorry at 02.30? The lady opposite thought so too.... Almost we stayed because it was busy, we hadn’t actually looked at the town, and we were in an official parking space, unlike many others. When we walked to get churros on Saturday night (12, but that was all we were having for dinner having been out to lunch) we counted 79 vans through the auto-caravanes parking (poor Ted is having quite an identity crisis, he’s gone from a motorhome, to a camping-car and now he’s an auto-caravan) and the regular parking on a site that’s meant to hold 30!

Queuing for churros and hot chocolate in Burgos
The very busy campite in Burgos (42°21'02.5"N 3°40'49.9"W)
So, Saturday morning we wandered into town and met our first tourist information man, still very helpful. Saw all the sights, weren’t that impressed so decided to have lunch, a simple portion of paella, a large plate of lamb chops and chips, and a flan. 1/4l wine, very full!

The impressive Burgos cathedral from the castle on the nearby hilltop
Impressive hey? And the bull statue isn't bad either!
We got back to Ted wondering if the weak sun would have worked on the solar panel to boost his battery, to find him down at 84%. In theory nothing to worry about, but not quite right. The battery volts and the percentage charge have been a bone of contention between us ever since we got the van, it charges to 100% when on Electric Hook Up but then gets a ? And then starts dropping, still with ? If left on the solar panel in storage it's just at 100% Brian says I overreact and I hate that it makes no sense! Anyway, with looking at why it hadn't charged up on the solar panel, we still don't know, though it's possible that the outside light, which does seem very inefficient, may have been knocked as we went out, BUT it appears that the control panel may think it's got one 80Ah battery as opposed to two 110's could this be the cause of all our strangeness? We decided to wait till we are on a campsite in a couple of days and reset it, see if it can get its life sorted out! All we've proved so far is we don't know what to believe.

Plaza Mayor panorama in Valladolid. It was the first plaza of its kind in Spain , originally laid out in sixteenth century, and became the model for plazas all over Spain and in South America. Columbus lived in Valladolid as did King Ferdinand and Isobel. The city was rivalling Madrid in the seventeenth century to become the capital city of Spain, but much of the city was destroyed in the Peninsular War with Napoleon's France, where the UK's Wellington came to the aid of Spain in 1804-14 
The likeable city of Valladolid
Anyway, we parked up in one of the 15 legal spaces in Valladolid aware that it had been as hideously busy as Burgos, there were vans all over, half parked in the dividing grass, all sorts. What a difference as towns go, there were Christmas lights, happy families, a lovely atmosphere. So much so we went out again after dinner to look at the lights in the dark.

Valladolid. L is Santa Maria la Antigua church, R is the cathedral
Red squirrel in the park
We heard from David and Linda, our Ozzie mates, who confirmed that bad luck does indeed go in threes, their ferry crossing had been cancelled, from Saturday to Thursday, but they were seeing the silver lining as they were doing some beautiful drives. I emailed back telling them how their story had made friendly ferry lady decide their problems were nothing, so they’d improved someone’s life without even being there, and how horrible the crossing into Spain had been according to a guy who had pulled in beside us about 5 minutes earlier.

Lots of happy people in Valladolid's Campo Grande park
The beautiful San Pablo church in Valladolid
Another day, another city, off to Salamanca (you know, him, the James Bond villain - I knew Brian was wrong but it took me such a long time to remember Scaramanga....) bright and early as the carpark was free till 09.00 and we had a little drive before bus messing about and you never know how long that will take... Actually not very long, we checked into a fairly basic and mostly closed campsite, but all clean, and lots of hot water before hopping on the bus. Campsite location: 41°00'00.9"N 5°40'42.3"W 

Jackie said she looked happier after I'd cuddled her! As you can see, it was cold!
As we left Valladolid we reset the control panel, telling Ted he had 220Ah of battery not 80, this obviously confused him as he decided he was 50%? charged, we were expecting this but it’s still horrible! On arrival at the site he decided he was 100% charged and we could breathe.....almost..... despite being on EHU he decided 99% was as high as he was going, so we’ll just have to see how we get on.

Tapas and beer in a Salamanca bar
We liked Salamanca and were very pleased with the trip we took up to the bell tower of the Old Cathedral, only €3.75 but everything seemed to be €3.75 and they could have soon added up. The lady in the tourist information had said it was her favourite, so glad she did. We saw into both new and old cathedrals from above and had some amazing views over the city, saw some very scary cracks that were probably caused by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755. It’s not fallen down yet, but we didn’t hang about in that doorway! Lunch was a 3 tapas and small beer for €4 deal, can’t be bad, except don’t have rabo de cerdo, pigs tail, I can’t recommend it, but you have to try something new.... the other 5 things were great.

Views from the splendid cathedral at Salamanca
Today was a scenic driving day, (though actually not as scenic as the drive from Cabarceno to Burgos,)to Plasencia, a nice enough town, though we weren’t going to bother with the town except it was a longish drive. So, no Aire here, but a carpark on Searchforsites and on Park4night, so we decided to give it a go, just randomly park in a carpark. It’s all legal, as long as we are only parked and not camping, so no chairs, washing, bbqing etc but we arrived and were the only ones here. It’s stupid, but when three other vans turned up about 16.30 we decided perhaps we would be ok to have a glass of wine after all... Tomorrow (which might be today when this gets posted) we are going to a national park, just down the road as we are a bit citied out, do a bit of a walk and stay on another campsite.

The old cathedral at Salamanca
Near the top of the bell tower
We normally do ‘things’ in the morning and chill in the afternoon, today however it’s very foggy, so chilling this morning and hopefully walking this afternoon, after a fine night in the carpark, except for the bin men at 04.00!

Salamanca cathedral and Roman bridge
The cathedral at Placensia
The Trujillo gate at Placensia
Another driving video. This was was part of the scenic drive along the N110 road towards Placensia. It last just over 2 minutes:

Friday, 7 December 2018

From France to Spain, Donostia San Sebastian, Lekeita, Biblao, Cabarceno & Burgos - Days 62 to 66

2 beers on a sunny afternoon in Lekeita
In answer to my question at the end of the last blog, was the cat still here when I got out the shower? No, I saw her walking away, so opened the window and called to her, asking if B had been ignoring her? Obviously the answer was yes, she came running back and spent another couple of hours with me, and again in the morning when she was most surprised that we were carrying cat biscuits, that’s not normal, but anything to keep her out of the yogurt, though she did lick the bowls clean! She was passed round a number of vans in the morning, and I left her perched on the knee of a Spanish lady....
The very cute cat who wouldn't go away!
Crashing waves at Donostia San Sebastian

We did a last French shop, though not a very good one, forgot all sorts of things, but there are shops in Spain..... which leads on to “are there? Really?” Not in the same way we are used to, on the outskirts of towns with big car parks. We arrived in Spain on Monday, by Wednesday we still hadn’t managed to shop, ok, so, Thursday on our route between Bilbao and Cabarceno, there’s a big Mercadona with a LIDL and an ALDI just close by, Doris, sat nav, did her thing...... but no, all shut, that’ll be Constitution Day then, so that leaves today, with tomorrow being Immaculate Conception day. Read the Aires book for where we are going, just happens to be in the car park of a big supermarket, hurrah, we have shopped, but it was chaos. We didn’t really need much, but got the feeling that everyone was deprived from yesterday, then two shut days for the weekend. So we have meat and bread, and I’d already worked out I could do 10 meals without repeating myself with what was already in the van, though the Fray Bentos pie is the fallback of fallbacks.....
Beachside view at Donostia San Sebastian
Casco Viejo at Donostia San Sebastian

Anyway, we left my cat and headed west though decided not to stay in St Jean de Luz but cross the boarder, into Spain, which we did, with no ceremony, or quite knowing where it was, just suddenly aware it had happened, looks like we dug the passports out for nothing! Our first stop, in the rain, was Donostia San Sebastián, a bigger town than expected, so more of a driving challenge, to a tiny, close packed Aire by the university, still we got parked and wandered into town. Campsite location: 43°18'29.1"N 2°00'51.3"WFor some reason I had actually looked in the Rough Guide, so made him turn left at the sea rather than right to the Casco Viejo, or old town. At the end of the beach is a sculpture of ‘hands’ clawing at the sea, but it wasn’t them that did it for me, it was the blowholes, that breathed and blew and spouted as waves crashed underneath. Absolutely wonderful, if that’s all we see, I’m happy. We then went to Casco Viejo, and another lovely tourist information lady. We had a good look round, but then rather than get the bus back which I was sort of hoping for we stopped for a drink, and pinxtos, the tapas that the area is famous for, fab. So better do it again, amble a bit further and have another drink and snack, life’s hard. Well it was for the rejected sausage and bean casserole, a little bacon and mushroom sandwich was all we needed.... tomorrow!

                                          Here's a little Youtube video of the blowholes

Views on the road to Lekeita
Bilbao was his next planned destination, but with a wiggly windy scenic route, I vetoed the full distance so we stopped 2/3 the way at Lekeito, a little seaside town with not much to offer, except the harbour, well, we’d better have a bite if something for lunch then. Shared a plate of little squid in their own ink, and a beer before walking to the lighthouse. It was a lovely village and a very pleasant Aire, so a good decision.
Campsite location: 43°21'29.9"N 2°30'26.2"W

It meant our journey to Bilbao would be relatively short which was good as the Aire was more like a campsite, WiFi, electricity, a guy on reception, but was €15 so we only wanted to stay one night. I was a bit dubious about even that, I have to admit, a big city, we need a bus to get into from the Aire, what about the drive.....? Campsite location: 43°15'35.9"N 2°57'50.2"W

                            Driving views on the road from Donostia San Sebastian to Lekeita

Big Ted parked up with amazing views of Bilbao
It was up a very long, very steep hill, definitely getting the bus, do not even mention the bicycle word, but the view over Bilbao was stunning. The reception guy was great, map, bus, probably does it 20 times a day, and off we went into the City. The main reason for the visit was to look at the Guggenheim museum, which I have to admit was a lovely building and I could even appreciate the art outside, though the big spider ‘Maman’ is the thing of nightmares! Back through the old town (they all have one) by which time he’d started going on about churros and chocolate, just as well I’d read the Rough Guide, again (a dangerous habit and one I will have to get out of or he’ll expect me to know everything....) and knew where to go, right by the cathedral, and jolly yummy they were too. As it happens though, I did know where to go, and we were very happy, but we were actually at the bar next to the one we should have been at, we discovered on leaving, which may explain why it was more expensive than I expected!
Bilbao at night, photo taken through our windscreen!
River walk in Bilbao

Lazy start the following day, to make full use of electricity, to heat some water, to shower and wash some pants, and WiFi to upload all the photos and check the bank etc. Still away at a sensible time though, to Cabarceno, via a supermarket, or that was the plan anyway. Cabarceno was lovely, we arrived by the lake, took a leisurely drive round to decide where to park among the other 4 vans and went for a little walk, to look at the elephants...... all Cabarceno has is a safari park and a lovely Aire. €30 each we decided was a bit steep and Ted was scared of driving through lots of fierce animals...... Campsite location: 43°21'29.8"N 3°49'08.8"W
The amazing Guggenheim building in Bilbao
The giant spider sculpture outside the Guggenheim

Instead we said Hola to the UK registered van with two Ozzie inhabitants and had a long chat before inviting them over for a wine, later. Or a whine which they probably needed, they are on their way back to the UK from Santander in their new van to get the window, safe and all the door locks replaced after someone broke in through the window having broken the drivers and habitation door locks. They stole the TV and hit the safe which sprang open revealing money, their passports (a UK and Oz one each), their kindles and the spare keys to the van. 
Dry docks at Bilbao
They only actually took the money and one of the passports, throwing the kindles and the keys back into the van! Could have been worse, but what a nightmare! They tried to get the work done here, but with the language barrier managed to get the habitation lock replaced without the guy understanding they needed it to be on the same key as the others, eventually in a huff he took the whole barrel out, so they now have nothing at all there. They contacted a place in France, the manufacturer of the van, but again it was all too difficult, so they are going back to the UK to where they bought the van, though good on the insurance. They are paying the return ferry fare.... We have just been told that they won’t be getting the ferry they were expecting on Saturday though, and have no way of telling them this, they have our email address but no WiFi, so till they contact us I can’t tell them that a lovely lady has just knocked on the door, to ask if we are heading to Santander, as all crossings have been cancelled due to weather.....
Churros and gloopy hot chocolate in Bulbao - fabulous!
Elephants at our campsite in Caberceno

We are now 2 1/2 hours away, so can’t pop back..... and anyway it’s probably full, when we got up this morning, there were 29 vans parked up, all making the most of two holidays so close together I guess, though you would sort of expect them to have arrived on Wednesday night.

It was a lovely scenic drive, I read about on the caravan club forum, just after Brian had done his route planning. He’s glad he built it in though, the scenery was amazing, so varied, and all on a decent road too. So now in Burgos, we’ve shopped and hoped for WiFi from the supermarket, but again our iboost has let us down and is receiving nothing! Ho hum, might send him back indoors while I prep dinner then! Campsite location: 42°21'02.5"N 3°40'50.1"W
Views into the safari park at Cabarceno this morning. The elephants have just appeared and are on the right (plus one more out on the left and there is a herd of deer up and behind the cable car pole
This was our van parked up at Cabarceno on Thursday afternoon. A huge car park and only four motorhomes. By midnight there were 29 motorhomes and we were hemmed in all round!
The lake and safari park beyond. You can just see the motorhome park (and Big Ted) in the centre
Just one view on the N623 road to Burgos today. Have a look at the short video below for a bit more of it

A short video (less than a minute) of part of the very scenic drive on the N623 road from Cabarceno to Burgos