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Winter Sun Part 3 – Aranjuez to Santa Elena

Winter Sun Part 3 – Aranjuez to Santa Elena

Thursday 30th

Paul had a particularly long meeting this morning. Very boring for me and also for the boys. I pushed off for a shower – and please – just because I don’t mention it every time, take it as read that we do keep ourselves clean when we are on the road !! Overcast 15C

Eventually the meeting drew to its agonisingly slow close and lunch was on the menu. Time for a trip into Aranjuez – capital of the Las Vegas district of Madrid (cue song!) and a fine upstanding town in its own right. In fact, until 1752, only royalty and the nobility were allowed to dwell in the town.

We stopped at the river just by the campsite, where there is big goose and Muscovy duck enclave. I drifted off to sleep last night listening to them clanking away!

So – to Aranjuez. The Palacio Real – a stunning building – has been, for centuries, the spring residence of the royal family. It almost looks new, to be honest, built in the old style.

The Palacio Real

Another impressive feature of the town is the Plaza de San Antonio, surrounded by many arches. The large Plaza is also known as “la Mariblanca” – presumably because of the large expanse of compacted white stone that it sits on? The church of San Antonio de Padua sits at the top of the square.

Aranjuez – pronounced Arran-hweth – is also famous for its many gardens, which were built in the style of Versailles. We chose one – the Jardin del Principe – in which to take the boys for a stroll. Unfortunately, no dogs allowed. Bill immediately showed his opinion in a really quite embarrassing manner, which involved collection and a bag for that purpose. Ya git me?

He did it pretty much slap bang in the middle of these gates!

This being Spain, one of the main features of the town is the Plaza de Toros – the bull ring. I was quite curious as to how the Spanish people feel about bull-fighting these days. Research shows that it is a political hot potato and also that there is a generational split, with the older population defending it as a cultural and historic part of the Spanish way of life and the younger generation who feel that it’s time to call it a day. I’m with the youth. This statement perfectly sums it up for me ““It is the 21st century and unthinkable that a spectacle where someone mistreats and kills an animal is officially a cultural event,” said Chesús Yuste, spokesperson for the Parliamentary Association in Defense of Animals (APDDA). “The time for bullfighting has passed.” “

It was soon time for Paul to go back to work – although he had been taking calls all the time we had been out and about. So I and the boys made ourselves comfy, them for a snooze and me to blog. And so we continued until around 7:15.

We had popped in to the on-site restaurant to enquire about a meal earlier and they were happy to serve us outside with the boys, so dinner out tonight.

It was as all a bit of a palaver as they (bless them!) insisted on setting up a table especially for us. We ordered drinks and then the menu arrived. Oddly, we both fancied the same thing. I doubt it’s very traditional Spanish – although they can’t possibly eat Paella every day, surely? It was Chorizo, bacon, egg, and chips! And it was bloody lovely! Served with an excellent mixed salad. Top grub!

One for the tourist trade I suspect?

Friday 31st

A day I hoped would never come. The day we leave the EU. I have friends who are very pro leaving and I have friends that are very anti leaving and I’m glad we have found a way not to let Brexit affect our friendships. But – for me – today is a very sad day.  I hope those that are glad enjoy their celebrations and allow those of us who did not want to leave to be sad without rubbing our noses in it. Que sera sera. 

Our lunchtime visit today was  the town of Chinchōn – pronounced “Cheenchon“. Chinchon is famous for its Plaza Mayor, surrounded by buildings with wooden balconies. As we edged our way through the narrow twisty streets of this hilltop town, we hoped it would be worth it. And indeed it was. There are bars and restaurants all round the circular plaza and they looked very tempting. We parked next to another guy in the centre of the “square” and all seemed fine and then suddenly, out popped a policeman, with his pad. We apologised in English and he let us off. No parking there. Phew. I managed to bash off a couple of pics though. 

That zealous policeman!

As we were leaving we saw a sign for the Laguna de Don Juan. I quickly looked it up and it seemed like the perfect place to give the boys a good run off lead. 

We turned off the main road, following the sign posts, onto a dodgy looking track – full of potholes. Progress was slow but we eventually arrived at the viewing point. I guess you could say it was much like Farlington marsh? 

The first thing we saw was a couple of those big raptors – not sure which kind, but big. And impossible to photograph. How do those BBC guys do it?Wait for hours I guess.

The boys had a really nice game of chase and we took a few photos and then popped them, panting and watered,  back in the car for the journey home to the campsite.

We took a quick detour on the way home, lured by the price of gazoile. At just under a pound for a litre, it was the cheapest we’d yet seen. 

When we arrived back at the site, it was evident that more people had arrived – presumably for the weekend?  But we had a lovely solitary spot with loads of vacant pitches all around us. Until now. Loads of empty spots and what had happened? Someone had sited themselves immediately next door.  Why do people do that? 

Empty pitch after empty pitch
Could they BE any closer?

Paul returned to his work while I did a bit of tidying up in preparation for the off tomorrow morning. 

Then it was the weekend!!! No more work for a couple of days – although in reality I sure there will be some.  In celebration we decide to take the boys out on the bikes. We had spotted an area we could cycle to and then let them off the lead to cycle alongside us. 

Starting off was a bit iffy. What with Bill breaking his leg and preparations for the move, we had pretty much not managed to do any cycling with them since they were very small in the lovely Forest of  Dean.  But they eventually got it and we rode happily to the spot where we felt it would be OK to let them off. They loved it! Haring up and down and chasing and fighting. You could see the joy on their faces – and probably on ours too. Lets hope this is the first of many?

The evening brought supper and stowing stuff in their proper places and a bit of telly too. We have started re-watching Sharpe, which we are thoroughly enjoying and are just plunging in to The Stranger, a new Netflix series. Pastures new and an earlyish start await us tomorrow. Outside the EU……….

Sat 1st Feb

Since our next destination was a relatively short  drive, we set off a little later than usual at about 08:40. Our route to the motorway took us straight through town, which was interesting! Driving slowly along the cobbled streets round the Plaza attracted quite a queue of traffic behind us. It was overcast  and around 12C as we set off. 

Our route took us past many classic windmills and there seems to be a Quixotic flavour to the area, with lots of cartoons of the famous Don and his sidekick. 

We made our first stop at around 10:00 – just a quick coffee stop,  as the boys didn’t seem interested in rousing themselves from their slumbers.  It may be whimsical, but as you drive along, you quite often see a Spanish Bull, by the side of the road. We are not really sure why they are there, but they are quite attractive and leave you in no doubt that you are in Spain.

The A4 or Autovia del Sûr enters the Despeñaperros National Park via a series of dramatic viaducts and tunnels. We loved it – even though we were in low clouds which marred the view a little. 

Pretty soon we saw the turn off for Santa Elena, home of our campsite Camping Despenaperros – for the next three nights. In the instructions provided to help you find the campsite, it warns you that access is tricky. And by gum it is!!! Challenging for anyone except the cool-as-a-cucumber Mr Sumpner. He took it nice and slow and triumphed again. 

We checked in and were allocated our pitch, so off we went, promising to return with our passports at 1 pm. 

The pitch was pretty level but we had more fun with the flipping electricity again. It wasn’t too long though, before but we had power, thanks to the persistent and patient Sumps. 

Note that the water taps are very low to the ground, making it rather difficult to fill the water barrel. It was done more easily at the facilities block but renders null the convenience of having a tap in each pitch. 

The site is in a wood overlooking olive groves and is very quiet indeed with lots of birds to watch. We think we are going to like it here. 

I popped back with the passports at the agreed time and had a very long wait. Senor had computer troubles. Quite a queue had built up by the time we got sorted! 

We had a spot of lunch and then went out exploring. Reader – I know you will find this a little hard to comprehend, but we had not had the foresight to provision ourselves for a trip into such a wilderness! Please don’t panic or contact the Red Cross, we WILL be OK, although our meals may have an unusual composition! Not that there is anything wrong with sardines in tomato sauce and Ambrosia creamed rice? We thought we’d try and find some odds and ends at a supermarket, just in case.

I digress. As if we had not had enough of driving, we went for a drive in the park. Paul wanted to seek out the old, pre-Autopista road through the park, which we soon found and were very swiftly rewarded with some stunning views. 

We stopped at a viewpoint and climbed up to the top of the lookout to get pictures of the “Los Órganos Natural Monument”, which is  a rock shaped – they say – like a giant church organ. Wind and rain have eroded the cliffs, resulting in spectacular scenery,  with the appearance of giant vertical pipes. 

As we stood there and marvelled, a (I think it can only have been) shot rang out. All the raptors (which we think were Griffon Vultures) were actually nestling and possibly nesting in the nooks and crannies in the cliffs took flight! What an amazing sight. And they had just settled when another shot came and they were spooked again. As ever, our pics just don’t do it justice. 

Spott the Vulture – three to find!
A viaduct from below

The road we had chosen led us back – by chance I’d say – to Santa Elena and our van, where we all had a jolly nice siesta. And found the supermarket – closed.

After our siesta and a cuppa, it was ablutions all round – including a quick haircut for Mr S and then we went out in search of dinner. On the way out of town we spotted this! We think it’s a nightclub, maybe? Couldn’t resist the pic!

My fame has spread!

We dined at Restaurante Asadore Navas de Talosa in La Carolina, the next town up the valley. And very nice it was too. we had a delicious starter of some potato, onion, cheese and egg with green peppers. Yes – that’s right. Green peppers – and they were actually not bad. Those who know me well know that I abhor and detest peppers of all colours. But these hardly tasted like peppers at all! We had eaten most of it before I thought to take a pic but here are the remains!

This was followed by a pork steak in a roquefort sauce for me and a kind of chicken/ham/cheese escalope for Pablo. We ate well for around £20 per head including drinks and coffee, and then returned to the van, ready for bed.

PS – I said it was quiet – I hadn’t allowed for a house party who were playing their music VERY LOUDLY INDEED until gone midnight. It didn’t stop us falling asleep very quickly!

Miles travelled: Day 130 / Cumulative 1315

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