Monday 27th January
Moving day. We were up and at it and tip-toeing around so as not to disturb other campers. We left the site at just gone 08:00.. Good preparation pays off!
Today we shall mostly be seeing trees, as we will be passing through the vast Forest of Landes which, at 3900 sq miles, is the largest man-made forest in Western Europe. To put it into perspective, our own New Forest is a mere 219 sq miles. It is huge!
Two hours of trees on a very straight road can be a little tedious, so we had a quiz. Each round had 7 questions and a boiled sweet was awarded each time we scored 7/7. Reader – the excitement was almost unbearable!
It was 13C and a fairly dull day. and then, just after 10:00.we got our first glimpse of the Pyrenees. More excitement. We last saw them back in 2011, when we holidayed there and saw a stage of the Tour de France.
We passed into Spain at around 10:45 and then it was time for our first stop, near San Sebastián. We immediately noticed that the Autservicios look somehow a little more tired than those in France. The roads are – so far – not as good either. Just two lanes mostly.
But the service station gave me my first challenge of the day. I can cope with just about any situation in France, but my Spanish is very limited. I ordered two coffees with milk to take away – and got them!!! Chuffed with that small victory.
We noticed that all the road signs were in Basque and all the place names too. It’s an interesting and quite mysterious language being a “language isolate” which is to say it has no roots in any other European language currently spoken. Visually, it is language with lots of x-es and zeds. I’ve never actually heard it spoken.
I’ve saved you the bother – this is a light-hearted video which illustrates just how different it is:
For the next couple of hours we drove through what I’d describe as the Spanish equivalent of Dartmoor. It started off quite scenically, with elegant bridges spanning ravines and gorges and lots of tunnels both short and long. But it soon became quite desolate plains-type country. And pretty wet and windy too. Scarily so if you’re me!! It was a bit of a white knuckle ride for me and my over-active imagination! I wondered whether we were on those plains in Spain where the rain mainly stays?
We stopped again for a leg stretch and a not very appetising roll at about 13:45 and then arrived at our destination – Camping Fuentes Blancos – in Burgos.
This is probably the most open of the “open all year” sites we have encountered, with a chap clearly on duty in reception, a shop and even a little restaurant. Quite a few units arrived after us.
We had arrived about 3pm and it was all a bit muddy. The pitches were on grass so we drove round for a while until we found a spot to our liking. The site looks much like a campsite in Winter, really, despite all the itinerants like us!
Before we finally pitched, Paul used his home-made European test-lead.
We had a choice of four electric connectors and the first one lit up two lights – meaning it wasn’t earthed. That’s apparently A BAD THING and potentially dangerous – normally the earth is there to protect electrical stuff. Or something ….
Anyway – no harm done, the next he tried was fine. We soon had the van warm and cosy and Paul was very quickly working away while I wrote most of this. Dinner was Spaggy Bog left over from yesterday. Paul worked all evening while I watched some telly.
We are sited next to a couple of tents. Rather them than me in this weather! Clearly they couldn’t sleep as – while we were dozing off that night – they were talking very loudly and animatedly. I woke up at 12:30 and they we’re still at it. I made a mental note to learn the Spanish for “please be quiet” – or similar. I must ask my friend Begoña for an apt colloquial phrase! Buenas noches a todos.
Miles travelled: Day 270 / Cumulative 1005
Another rest day – another lie in. For some. Well – one. Yes! Me!! It was me!! Paul, bless him, got up very quietly and got his nose to the grindstone straight away while I slumbered. I eventually arose and had breakfast. Suitably restored, I managed a little light blogging.
Eventually, Paul having worked for a good five hours , broke off for an extended lunch break. We drove into Burgos with the express intention of a visit to Burgos Cathedral – especially as it has a UNESCO World Heritage status.
Immediately we clapped eyes on it we could see why. I had looked on line and thought it looked big but – in real life – it is pretty amazing. Building commeneced in 1221, following the French Gothic style. We couldn’t go inside because of our canine encumbrance (we wouldn’t be without them!) so walked round the perimeter. The Cathedral’s full name is long and richly deserved. It is the Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos. Oh yes.
We saw our old friend the pélérin (pilgrim) again or – as we are in Spain, the peregrino. We would be parting company with him from today as his next stop is León to the West and we are heading South tomorrow.
There was an accordion player in one of the Archways – playing Jingle Bells! I suppose it’s actually about a sleigh ride and yet – in our culture – inextricably linked with Christmas, so seemed a bit out of place.
We drove up to the top of the hill, where there was a viewpoint. I had a chat with DIL2B while Paul walked the boys and then we stopped at the viewpoint for a pretty good overview of the town.
We popped into our Mercadona supermarket (or rather I did) to get some fresh bread and some fruit for another late lunch and then back to the van, where Paul went back to work and I prepared lunch.
He worked on until around 8 and then we both agreed we were still too full for supper so he had cheese and biscuits and I had a banarnie sarnie. Haven’t had one for years and just fancied it. It was yummers.
We watched the end of the movie we had started a couple of (k)nights ago. The King – the story of Henry Vs ascent to the throne and Agincourt. Very realistic (one imagines) battle scene. Accounts of the battle say the five thousand longbowmen, each loosing fifteen arrows a minute, let fly a total of seventy five thousand arrows in one minute: an arrow storm that was said to have blocked out the light of the sun. It was a pretty good movie.
As we had driven in to town yesterday, we had admired the streetlights, which look like they are encased within some sort of transparent gloop. Very attractive we thought.
My quick review of the site. is that we probably did not see it at its best but it’s a useful stopping point. The facilities are good (seats and loo-roll) They are very clean and warm, too. There is a handy shop for basics but also big Mercadona in town. We did not try the restaurant as it was not dog friendly. In normal circumstances we’d probably be happy to leave them in their crates in the car, so that we could dine without them, but because they are spending quite a lot of time in them as we travel, it just does not seem fair to bung them in there, just for our convenience.
Heading South today. We were off just after 8 – as usual. It was grey and overcast and 8C as we left Burgos.
The Spanish interior is big, red and scrubby. Not sure it’s quite what we expected? I kept thinking about how Sharpe and his men would have found it. Especially in summer. I imagine it’s baking hot, with very little shade or cover.
As we drove along, some guy overtook us, waving at us and flashing his lights at us. We’ve heard horror stories of people pulling over and then getting robbed, so we drove on. You can see how people get caught out. It does feel a bit weird ignoring it, but was probably just that he was happy to see us because we are English!Might be a different story on Friday?
We pulled off for 2nd breakfast just before 10, near Milagro. Paul checked the van over (nothing untoward) and walked the boys while I went to fetch the refreshments. I’ve noticed already how much cheaper it is than in France.
We saw a couple of big birds of prey. One flew right over us, talons out. Really impressive. I though Golden Eagle but Paul thought Condor. We’ll never know – but either is possible round these parts.
As we continued our journey further South, we glimpsed some snow on some of the mountain tops. Happy to see it but happier still not to be in it!! Although one hears that the Spanish have it sorted and soon have the snow-ploughs out. We spotted a couple of areas where they shepherd you off the motorway if snow strikes.
It was as at his point that we experienced what we now call “a Gabby Garmin detour”. We were cruising happily along the road when she told us to leave at the next exit. Taken by surprise we obeyed, although I was quickly checking with our other navigation system, Via Michelin, which allows you to specify that you are towing.
Gabby was playing tricks, as she often does. She gets you off a main road, onto a lesser road and then – a little further on – returns you to the same road you were hitherto travelling. For no apparent reason!
This detour was along a quite twisty minor road with a narrow bridge. Luckily, no-one else was around and we were soon back on the Autopista. Fortunately, Micky Michelin saved us going down what was little more than a track by suggesting a different route to that which Gabby had suggested – although we would definitely have balked at taking it. See pics below!
Very soon, we were on the outskirts of Madrid and the traffic started hotting up. I am such a wuss. And I read and retain too much. I’d read a few articles about how crazy it was (although surely nothing could be worse than Palermo!). My heart was in my mouth as we journeyed through the city. The Motorway plunges straight through the heart of Madrid and it’s pretty confusing. And it seems that white van man (or le hombre de la furgoneta blanca!) also lives in Spain! But good old Paul! He is such a trooper. Cool, calm and collected, he powered through – although we did have both navigation systems running in tandem, just in case Gabby started any of her monkey business!
Pretty soon we were seeing signs for Aranjuez and then for our stopover for the next three nights – Camping International of Aranjuez. It was brighter, with hints of blue sky as we pitched up and the temperature was in the mid to high teens. Lovely. It’s the first time since we came away that we haven’t had the heating on, although it’ll probably go on tonight.
We needed some chicken so we popped to Mercadona and got a bit lost in what looked like a failed commercial centre project of some sort. Lots of half-built and abandoned buildings, complete with massive car park, all laid out but overgrown and cordoned off. There was a large hotel, which did seem to be open and and a large Casino again open, but half the lights on the frontage out. It all looked very sad indeed – presumably a victim of the big Spanish Depression? It looked about the right age.
Miles travelled: Day 180 / Cumulative 1185