Month: June 2018

18 to 21 February 2018 – through the sierras to the sea

Still in history-viewing mode we left our lovely parking spot in Seville and headed south-east towards the mountains and the ancient town of Antequera. It has been occupied by Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and and Moors in its time but it is the remains of the even older, third millenium BCE, population that I wanted to see.  I had found a reference to dolmens on a search – which to me means standing stones.  Those in Antequera are apparently also burial barrows which I would expect to be mounds of earth.   So – it would be interesting to see these hybrid monuments.

Again we just followed the main road but this time the passing scenery got more interesting as we approached more mountainous territory. Once we reached Antequera some really high sierras could be seen in the distance. The aire is free and nicely placed in the lee of the wall of the football stadium a short walk from the centre of town.  I knew the dolmens were at the other end of town, but I had not realised quite how hilly it was.  _DSC4198 Why did we not get our e-bikes out for that distance in this heat? Not sure – we certainly should have – but, joy of small joys, there was a little tourist tuftuf that did a circuit of the town and you could jump off at the far end to look at the dolmens.   _DSC4193 Disappointment followed joy as the tuftuf driver explained the dolmens were shut on Sunday afternoons:-( Not to worry I said, what time do you start in the morning? They are shut on Mondays as well it seems:-(((  How do you shut a bronze age burial barrow-cum-dolmen in a field?  We decided to walk over anyway to see what we could see.

The streets wound up and downSatsuma in Anteq, many lined with satsuma trees covered in bright ripe fruit. Many were lying on the ground – why did no-one harvest them we wondered? When no-one was looking I picked a low hanging fruit and shuffled around a corner to taste it. Wow – what a mistake! So sour and sharp it was like an electric shock. Spitting in the street is so inelegant:-(  So now we know why the enticing fruit just hang there and fall unwanted to the ground. A pity they did not plant edible varieties. This is the tree that nearly killed my taste buds.

dolmenIt was hot by now and there was a long downhill drag to the dolmens. We plodded optimistically on and reached the seriously unfriendly fence surrounding this UNESCO Heritage site of mounds and stones. The panels were so arranged that you could not get a good look at the monuments until you were quite far away. My photo shows this. The photos below show what we could have seen thanks to an anonymous camera person who was lucky enough to be there on an open day and kind enough to post them on the internet.  Definitely not what I had expected and definitely one to go back to. Mid-week to be on the safe side!

Monday morning and on again down the motorway heading for the town of Velez-Rubio – for no particular reason than it was on our route and had a free aire. Now we were passing over and around some big mountains – the (original) snowy Sierra Nevada loomed in the distance. Lovely scenery with acres of almond blossom just coming into bloom and intriguing dwellings cut into the cliff faces.  Many houses were just a normal looking house front built up against the rock – presumably with caves hollowed out behind for rooms. The photos snatched from a speeding van do not do justice to the place. Another area to come back and explore rather than just pass through.

Velez-Rubio was a pleasant, well looked-after town with a historic centre where we had a quick walk around, ate, slept and left the next day. Good aire though – positioned on the outskirts of town with a nice countryside view. Several other vans joined us for a chat later on – thanks citizens of Velez-Rubio!VelezIt’s now 20th February and we were pretty much just focussed on getting to the Med. We could have done it from Velez-Rubio but the campsite near Denia was booked for 21st so another night in a free aire was called for. There is one in Castalla that, like many others, is sited next to the town sports complex. This one was great as it had a few electric sockets in the periphery wall – free if you were sneaky because there was no-one around – or €3 if you waited until the gym and pool opened later on.  Being good little motorhomers we went and paid. Our reward was to be offered free showers in the changing rooms if we wanted! With all this sun the solar panels keep us all charged up but having the electricity saves gas on water heating and lets us use the microwave to easily heat up lasagne, for example. It can be a slow and messy job in a pan! We gave up using the oven some time ago considering it a bit wasteful, but it makes a handy extra cupboard.

Castalla is aptly named for its castle. This towers above the town on a rugged pimple which pretty much demands to be climbed.CastallaIt was hot. We would make a start and allow ourselves to give up if necessary. As it happens we kept going right to the top! Castalla viewOn one pinnacle was a burnt cross with a view.IMG_1532There were water tanks cunningly cut into the rockface fed by other channels cut into the rock to gather rainwater in time of seige. Or maybe just to save trekking up and down to town every day for a wash.IMG_1536

Information panels related the now-familiar story of successive waves of occupants in the town. Culminating in a line of diverse motorhomers quietly spending  the night and enjoying the sights. A nice visit – thank you Castalla.

Tomorrow – one of our favourite campsites on the Med. Fingers crossed for a sunny spot!


16 to 18 February 2018 – near to the walls of Sevilla…

Time to say goodbye to Portugal. Having neglected to write the blog up any sooner (it is May 2018 at the time of writing!) I now don’t remember much about the journey out of Portugal to Spain. We went east along the coast road as far as possible then cut up to the motorway which leads to the bridge across the river into Spain. We hoped that the 10 euros we had put on the Tollcard had not run out. (Checking online weeks later we discovered we still had a balance of €1.21.)  Once in Spain the trip was mostly through scrubby, but not unattractive, countryside on the toll free motorway – which is the only road that actually goes this way. Stella let us down as we approached the turn to the aire.  It is a “Spanish” left turning off an urban dual carriageway which means to turn left you have to move into a distinctly dubious-looking third lane on the right and wait  for a separate light to turn left across all the lanes of traffic. Stella picked the turn before the one we needed and stranded us in a builders yard with no way out other than driving all the way back to the last roundabout and trying again. This time we determinedly ignored Stella when she tried to pull the same trick – she does not learn! Fortunately, we do. Mostly.

There is a choice of three aires in Seville and I had selected the small one furthest out of town in the river marina at Puerto Gelves. It is a secure place to park with a regular bus to the centre of Seville. We had a lovely spot on the banks of the Guadalquivir.Gelves viewThere were boats to watch coming and going and the marina had all the facilities to look after itinerant sailors and landlubbers alike  – chandlery, low key restaurant, clean toilet and hot showers.Neil gelves

After wandering off site to check out the bus timetable and location of the bus stop to get into town on Saturday we spent a quiet afternoon footling around the marina in the sun.

The bus came on time and for a couple of euros delivered us close to the centre of Seville. I had chosen two things to go and see if time permitted, the Cathedral and the Alcazar. Before that though we needed to acquire a local sim card for the wifi.  We took passports, birth certificates, inside leg measurements etc as we knew from last year they did not part willingly with sim cards in Spain. Forty-five minutes wait in the Vodaphone shop and we were fully equipped to go! On the way to the phone shop we had seen the queue to get into the Cathedral – this is mid-February and yet the city is pretty full of tourists – and mostly not retired people like us. How does this happen? We withdrew into a narrow side road full of restaurants to eat before we queued. The platter of fried fish for two came with a jug of sangria and olives to start. A lovely meal of different types of fishy delights (which I forgot to photograph). Neil lunch seville

The queue for the cathedral moved quite fast – probably because it is immense and so can accommodate many people. It is so wide that until you get your bearings, it is difficult to recognise the traditional shape of a church. It was built on the site of a huge mosque and despite remodelling and rebuilding over the centuries some elements of it still remain.  The courtyard with the merciful shade of many orange trees was part of the mosque and the magnificent bell tower actually incorporates the original minaret. GiraldaI cannot do justice to all the things to see in such a renowned historic building so these  few photos will have to do. Other pictures are available all over the internet.

The tomb of Christopher Colombus may or may not contain his bones: he seems to have travelled about as much after his death as he did in his lifetime, crossing the  Atlantic at least twice. DNA testing against the known bones of his brother in 2006 proved he definitely may be lying at peace here.

Seville had become even hotter while we wandered around the cathedral and loitered in the shade of the orange trees so we were in two minds about going on to tackle the Alcazar, the Royal Palace. My mother remembered it fondly from a trip many years ago so I wanted to see it if possible. We joined the queue with a view to ducking out if it moved too slowly. Persistence was definitely rewarded in this case! If you can only face one major historic building per city, the Alcazar is the one to choose in Seville. It has cool arcades with  delicate moorish decoration and  courtyard pools,IMG_1478

tiled walls where rooms adjoin other rooms and pass into corridors leading from one phase of the building to another.

Pass the semi-subterranean bath room of Lady María de PadillaBath room

…to reach the  elegant gardens and streams. Our pictures do not do the Alcazar justice….

We finished our tour with a cool drink in the garden cafe in the company of a regal  peacock.PeacockA gentle stroll under the trees on the avenue back to the bus stop took us past the third UNESCO Heritage Site in this quarter – the splendid Archivo General de Indias.  This holds the records of the Spanish empire east and west and is apparently “an unusually  serene and Italianate example of Spanish renaissance architecture”. (Thanks Wikipedia.) Pretty splendid too. There is much more to see so we may need to pass this way next year.IMG_1426

The bus came right on time and whisked us back to the relative cool of the riverside. Where a surprise awaited us – no sooner was the kettle on than there was a knock on the door. Louisa had arrived! She was on her way back to Portugal after a trip around the coast south and east of here and stayed for a cup of tea and catch up. Always great to see old friends for an exchange of news and to hear about good places to stay in the vicinity.  Later we popped into hers for a gin as the sun went down – a nice way to end our Seville visit.

Tomorrow – a couple of hours south east for some even older history – bronze age burial mounds and dolmens in Antequera.