Getting Underway.

Week 1

Monday 13th October 2014

At last we can relax - can’t we? Well we are now in Spain and goodness, after the last two weeks, we hope so!

Everything came good in the end with the eventual arrival of genuine SsangYong coil springs and a set of spring assisters for the rear end of car. These were fitted on Thursday last and the coveted MOT gained. Now I am afraid I must go into grumpy old man mode for a moment or two (you are always in GOM mode - Editor), the price quoted by the garage for replacing the springs was £230 a side plus VAT, a grand total of £552, Those genuine SsangYong springs cost me £45 + VAT each, the spring assisters £45 inc. VAT and the garage fitted both sides (including the assisters) for £90 plus VAT, thats a total of £261 , so a quick calculation puts the pattern springs at £185 plus VAT each, a whopping £280 plus VAT more than the genuine parts - me thinks that someone doth extract the urine.

The last two weeks, when we should have been visiting friends and relatives, were as reported above, spent faffing about trying to get our equipment in a state fit to spend up to seven months on the Iberian Peninsular, so if you were expecting a visit - sorry, we simply ran out of time.

Friday we repacked the car and got the washing and housework done and Saturday drove to the Exeter Racecourse Caravan Club Site ready for our trot into Plymouth and the ferry to Spain. When you arrive in Plymouth you follow the Ferry signs which is the same way as the city centre signs then the ferry route splits in two, one for cars and one for HGV/caravans/motor-homes, the latter continues to follow the city centre signs and follows a very tortuous route. Fortunately the traffic on a Sunday is lighter than say, Friday afternoon, because there are lots of necessary lane changes which in a busy period would be a nightmare.

The MV Pont-Aven is the latest in the Brittany Ferry fleet, what they call their “flagship cruise ferry” and a very comfortable ship it is. We had a four berth ‘club’ cabin which was very spacious with berths three and four folded away in the ceiling, berth two folded up against the wall and berth one folded up behind a comfy sofa that itself folded away when that berth was needed. On our last overnight ferry we were advised to avoid the food and so took cheese, biscuits and a bottle of ruby port to our cabin which we enjoyed so much we decided to do the same again although when we went and looked at the food being served we thought we may have made an error, until we went and had a full English breakfast next morning. It was served on cold plates so by the time you had paid and found a seat it was a greasy congealed mess. The continental breakfast looked good though.

The morning quickly passed and spot on time the ferry docked in Santander. Having been among the last to board the ferry we were one of the first off, customs took a very cursory glance at our passports and with the Guardia giving boat traffic priority we were on the road away from Santander in no time. I don’t often comment on roads but the road we used leaving Santander the A67 was an absolute stunner - think Switzerland and that will give you an idea of how picturesque it was.

 We have been on this site, Campsite Fuentes Blancas Cat.1, before for just one night last winter. I see from my diary I wrote :-

“ . . . Sue and I took an instant dislike to the place. We don’t know why, the pitches were large and we were able to  tow straight on and, on leaving, tow straight off our pitch. The staff were friendly and helpful, the facilities were heated, reasonably clean, and the showers had lashings of very hot water whooshing forcefully from the shower head.

Hated it. Hated it. Hated it . . . we will not be returning . . . “ 

It did nothing to earn that damning report so here we are giving it another go. Probably because it is very close to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites we want to visit, otherwise, would we be giving it a second try? - not a hope in hell.

Although we take a few items unobtainable in Spain or Portugal, for instance pearl barley, we generally buy all our needs as we go, so asked in the campsite reception where the nearest supermarket was so we could buy something for dinner etc, “it’s a bank holiday everything is closed” we were told, can you imagine Tesco closing for a bank holiday? Oh well the camp restaurant is open at eight o’clock we will eat there.

Tuesday 14th October 2014.

We ate in the site restaurant last night, the bar was crammed full with locals but the restaurant was empty - we hoped that wasn’t a bad sign and it wasn’t.

Shopping day today, it was good to be back in a Spanish supermarket. We bought ribs for tonight’s dinner and when we got home found there was so much there we put half in the freezer for another day. The other half we roasted on the BBQ - fab!! Many readers have commented on how much of this blog revolves around food so we have decided to have a page dedicated entirely to eating and drinking, on it we will detail our favourite recipes and details good and bad of the restaurants we visit. To have a look click HERE

Wednesday 15th October 2014.

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Our first tourist drive of the trip, sort of followed the pilgrim road from Burgos to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. We stopped at the small village of Belorado where there was a village square with a circle of shady trees and a bandstand, just right to enable the weary pilgrims to rest and gather strength for the long journey ahead. The web site “All About Spain” suggested a visit to a place called Redecilla del Camino, but why? It was a long way from the main road down, no not down - up a no through road to a village that looked as it had been undisturbed for many years. We felt as if we were in a spaghetti western as we drove slowly up the main street and an old man stood in the middle of the road staring at us as we drove up to and then past him. He was still staring as we turned around and went back down the high street and out of the village. Santo Domingo de la Calzada was built as a resting place on The Way of St James and has a cathedral, building which was started in 1158. We didn’t visit the cathedral (short of time) and hope to do so at some time in the future but we did climb to the top of cathedral bell tower, this is the fourth tower and is not physically connected to the main cathedral building. The first tower, built at the end of the 12th century was destroyed by lightening in 1450, replaced in 1560 the second tower collapsed during the 18th century that was replaced by a third which had to be demolished when the foundations where found to be sinking into an underground waterway. The fourth and final (so far) was built away from the main building in 1761 on a solid foundation of lime, sand, small stones and crushed cattle horns. The view from the top, after you have climbed the 120 steps is magnificent, not quite so magnificent is the loudness of the bells which are housed at the top. If they ring when you are up there look out for your hearing. Fortunately for us only the 1/4 hour bell was struck while we were up there, it is the smallest and so, I suppose, the quietest. I hate to think of the effect on our ears of the biggest being rung at such short range.

For us the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada will be remembered not for it’s architecture but for it’s shops, OK they were for the tourists, we know, but they were selling local delicacies that we had wanted to try but had not been able to find elsewhere. There was also a superb wet fish shop where we bought a large Salmonete or Red Mullet for our dinner and in a little deli a couple of bottles of local wine at €2.50 (£2.00) each that turned out to be very good indeed and apricots the size of peaches.

Thursday 16th October 2014.

More shopping today, we bought a fish that the lady in the shop filleted for us which, when we managed to translate the name, turned out to be turbot and at only €10.99 (£8.80) a kilo. I looked up on t’internet and it sells in UK for £32.00 (€39.95) a kilo. Talking of rip off expensive Britain we got a full for empty gas bottle today, the 6 kg Repsol Lite cost €13.00 (£10.41) while the last 6 kg Calor Lite we bought at Go Outdoors cost £21.37 (€26.80)…

We came to Burgos specifically to see the cathedral and with the site just a four mile walk along the riverside from the town centre, we thought it would be nice to walk in even if we caught a bus back, that was until we took a short afternoon walk along it. It is dead straight and although the river is just yards away for much of the walk it can't be seen. Boring, boring, boring. We will go to town tomorrow but on the bus.

At odd times of both night and day can be heard a bell, I’ve counted the number of times it’s struck and it appears to be around sixty times per session (a hundred and ten one night), and it can take a long time to whack a bell sixty times and even if it is rung quickly at before and after midnight and 6 o’clock in the morning it seems to take for ever. The daytime tolls go largely unnoticed.

Friday 17th October 2014.

We took the bus into town today, well we thought it was a bus, the driver thought it was a racing car. When we arrived at the city centre we found we hadn’t brought a map and had no idea where anything was, still we eventually happened upon a tourist information centre where we were given a city map and directions to the cathedral.

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Burgos Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded in 887 (the cathedral not UNESCO) and is a stunning display of the skills and talents of those who built and decorated it. Sadly the audio guide, provided as part of the entrance fee is dry and dusty spewing out a long list of dates and names that meant nothing. After a while we gave up on it, sad, as in other places audio guides have been a great resource.

Burgos has played a leading role in Spain's history, as the capitol of Castile and León from 1073 until losing the honour to Valladolid in 1492, and growing rich from the wool trade in the 15th and 16th centuries when that great wealth was used to finance the superb art and architecture that can be seen in the city today. Less auspicious - it was Franco’s headquarters during the civil war fought between 17 July 1936 and 1 April 1939.

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On the way back to the bus stop we happened upon a deli selling another local speciality we had been looking for, Morcilla de Burgos. There are many types of black pudding in Spain but Morcilla de Burgos is probably the best known of the regional varieties. This black pudding is made with rice, giving a dense texture which slices easily. Sweet with a hint of cumin.

We have discovered the source of the bell bonging, it is a local monastery where the monks are called to every service by the bonging bell, which starts one minute before the event is due and continues until all monks are present. The local who was telling us about it said that sometimes in the summer (when presumably they are spread over the grounds gardening or something) the bonging seems to go on forever and drives them loopy.

Saturday 18th October 2014.

Didn’t wake up till 10.45 am this morning and by the time we had had tea and got up it was around lunch time so we cooked breakfast, the first we have cooked for over a year, yes I know we have been to Morrisons a couple of times when we had to take the car in early for service but actually cooking one ourselves? We had eggs laid by Pam’s chickens, tomatoes grown by Kate and Vernon and Morcilla de Burgos made by the nice Spanish lady in the sausage shop. Well I had the lot but Sue managed with just eggs and tomatoes on toast. By the time we had had a couple of cups of tea and a sit down to allow the breakfast to settle it was time to fire up the BBQ and get the veggies and lamb on for dinner - it’s hard work this travelling 😎.

Sunday 19th October 2014.

We managed to get up in time to get the washing done this morning, and when it was all done and on the line toddled off to what we thought was Archaeological Site of Atapuerca. Well it might have been, we read on the web site it was open all day Saturday and Sunday but this place was most definitely closed. We had only paid site fees till today and had intended to move on tomorrow but there are still things we want to see so we will be here till at least Wednesday.

Last updated Sunday 21st June 2015                                                                                © S W Ghost 2015