October 15th, 2023
This is quite a long post, so get comfortable!
Spain or the Kingdom of Spain (Reino de España), is a country located in Southwestern Europe, with parts of its territory in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Mediterranean Sea and in Africa. It is the largest country in Southern Europe and the fourth-most populous European Union member state. Spanning across the majority of the Iberian Peninsula, its territory also includes the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in Africa. Peninsular Spain is bordered to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; to the east and south by the Mediterranean Sea and Gibraltar; and to the west by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Spain’s capital and largest city is Madrid. In size, Spain is smaller than Texas but slightly larger than California.
In early antiquity, the Iberian Peninsula was inhabited by a mixture of Iberian and Celtic tribes, along with other local pre-Roman peoples. With the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the province of Hispania was established. Following the Romanization and Christianization of Hispania, the fall of the Western Roman Empire ushered in the inward migration of tribes from Central Europe, including the Visigoths, who formed the Visigothic Kingdom centred on Toledo. In the early eighth century, most of the peninsula was conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate, and during early Islamic rule, Al-Andalus became a dominant peninsular power centred in Córdoba. The dynastic union of the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon in 1479, often considered the formation of Spain as a country, was followed by the conquest of Navarre and the Iberian Union with Portugal. The Crown of Spain, through the Spanish Inquisition, forced the Jewish and Muslim minorities to choose between conversion to Catholicism or expulsion, before most of the converts were also expelled through various royal decrees.
The leading country of the Age of Discovery in conjunction with Portugal, Spain conquered territories across the world and formed one of the largest empires in history; Spanish expeditions of this period include the beginning of colonization in the Americas in 1492 and the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1522. The empire’s need for financing and the transatlantic trade underpinned the rise of a global trading system fueled primarily by precious metals, and the reforms of the Bourbon in the 18th century centralized mainland Spain. In the 19th century, despite the victory in the Peninsular War, the following political divisions between liberals and absolutists eventually led to the independence of most of its American colonies. Political instability reached its peak in the 20th century with the Spanish Civil War, giving rise to the Francoist dictatorship that lasted until 1975. With the restoration of democracy under the Constitution of Spain and its entry into the European Union, the country experienced an economic boom that profoundly transformed it socially and politically.
Spanish art, architecture, music, poetry, painting, literature, and cuisine have been influential worldwide, particularly in Western Europe and the Americas. As a reflection of its large cultural wealth, Spain has one of the world’s largest numbers of World Heritage Sites. It is the world’s second-most visited country. Its cultural influence extends to over 600 million Hispanophones, making Spanish the world’s second-most spoken native language and the world’s most widely spoken Romance language.
Spain is a secular parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with King Felipe VI as head of state. It is a major advanced capitalist economy, with the world’s sixteenth-largest economy by nominal GDP (fourth of the European Union). Spain is a member of the United Nations, the European Union, the eurozone, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a permanent guest of the G20, and is part of many other international organizations.
The lively colors are a tribute to the values that the country and its people hold dear. The red represents strength and valor, while the yellow symbolizes generosity. The coat of arms pays homage to the original kingdoms that united to form Spain in the 15th century.
Currency: The Euro
Diesel price: 1.50 a litre and up – around $6 USD
License Plate Letter: E (for España)
We enter Spain! But this part of the country is referred to as “Catalonia”.
Catalonia is an automous community of Spain, designated as a nationality by its Statue of Autonomy. Most of its territory lies on the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula and is administratively divided into four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. The capital and largest city, Barcelona, is the second-most populated municipality in Spain and the fifth-most populous urban area in the EU. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish.
In the late 8th century, various counties across the eastern Pyrenees were established by the Frankish kingdom as a defensive barrier against Muslim invasions. In the 10th century, the County of Barcelona became progressively independent. In 1137, Barcelona and the Kingdom of Aragon were united by marriage. Within the Crown, the Catalan counties adopted a common polity, becoming the base for the Crown’s Mediterranean trade and expansionism.
In the second third of the 19th century, it experienced industrialization. As wealth from the industrial expansion grew, it saw a cultural renaissance coupled with incipient nationalism while several workers’ movements appeared. With the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931–1939, the Generalitat was restored as a Catalan autonomous government. After the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist dictatorship enacted repressive measures, abolishing Catalan self-government and banning the official use of the Catalan language. After a period of time from the late 1950s through to the 1970s Catalonia saw rapid economic growth, drawing many workers from across Spain, making Barcelona one of Europe’s largest industrial metropolitan areas and turning Catalonia into a major tourist destination. During the Spanish transition to democracy from 1975–1982, Catalonia regained self-government and is now one of the most economically dynamic communities in Spain.
Since the 2010s, there has been growing support for independence. On 27 October 2017, the Catalan Parliament unilaterally declared independence following a referendum that was deemed unconstitutional by the Spanish state. The Spanish Senate voted in favour of enforcing direct rule by removing the Catalan government and calling a snap regional election. The Spanish Supreme Court imprisoned seven former ministers of the Catalan government on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds, while several others—including then-President—fled to other European countries. Those in prison were pardoned by the Spanish government in 2021.
The senyera, the official flag of Catalonia, based on the arms of the Crown of Aragon, is made up of nine horizontal stripes of equal width, five yellow and four red. The blue triangle signifies the blue sky of humanity, and the white star symbolizing freedom. The story goes that it was created by Frankish king Charles the Bald for count Wilfred I the Hairy of Barcelona as a sign of gratitude.
It’s Sunday morning and we want to get to Barcelona for Monday night so we have plenty of time to drive the 200 km / 124 mi or so. We found a parking lot outside the low emission zone of the city but it offers no service so rather than spend 3 nights there, we decided to find a place enroute with power for a night.
Fran found an aire near a village about 10 km / 6 mi off the highway that has power for €2 a day. We arrived around 10:30 and there were only two of the six spots left so we nabbed one and it turned out to be the one right next to the power outlets. The post had signage that said €2 a day with a phone number to call between 8 and 8. We weren’t sure how this works because even if you phone, how do you pay? Doug knew how to open the box with the breaker switches and got us powered up.
The weather today is partly sunny and the temps are in the mid 20’s with rain coming for tomorrow; so not a good day to explore Barcelona anyway. We have made a reservation to tour the Sagrada Famillia midday on Tuesday so we think we’ll have plenty of time to explore the city before and after that. We did consider staying at a hotel but then where would we park since we cannot enter the main part of the city with our older vehicle and the prices were ridiculous.
We both went for walks in this little village which seems to be quite old. As it’s Sunday, not much is open but the town plazas is where the residents seemed to be; either in cafes, parks or watching kids play “futbol” in the parks.
Fran came across this old church:
The town had lots of quiet narrow alleys and streets.
Fran came across this old church:And a small park with a fountain and a rock cross in it called “Creu de terme de la Font de les Canelles” (the Cross of the Counts). It dates back to the 15th century and is dedicated to Santa Maria.
Today was an eight tunnel day.
We awoke to cloudy skies and rain; pretty hard early on but afterwards there were a few sprinkles and then it pretty much stopped. Doug had noticed am electrical mechanic on his run this morning and we went over to see if they could help with the rearview camera; apparently no workers were in yet and the woman recommended the Ford place around the corner.
Doug was a little reluctant to go to a dealer, but it turned out to be the right move; a fellow came out; fussed around some and after cursing the wiring in the dash and sorting through it he got the camera working! Cost us €20 cash and we were on our way.
Fran had found a rest stop on the highway A2 towards Barcelona that had free showers so since the water where we are parked is no potable, we decided to make it shower day and took advantage of the rest stop.
You had over your vehicle keys and they give you the shower keys. They were super clean and very hot; always nice to be freshened up again and not have to use our own tiny shower.
We only had about 80 km / 50 mi to drive today to a parking lot just outside the low emissions zone where others had parked.
It’s near a large Spanish futbol field for the RCD Espanol team.
Also nearby is a very large mall called Splau and after parking and taking extra caution to lock away valuables etc. (it is just a large dirt parking lot outside a big city with no security), we wandered over to the mall to get Doug a SIM card for his phone. Vodafone offered a tourist plan of 140GB including 19GB of roaming for €20 for a month.
Fran has been using our last Europe data pack from Airalo since we returned to Europe and since the first four weeks we were in hotels, always have Wi-Fi and Doug could hotspot off her phone when we weren’t, we didn’t bother getting him one until now. We’ll be in Spain for up to two months more or less, and since we are camping and not hoteling, it’s more convenient for us to have separate plans.
Fran went for a walk around the mall area and Doug returned to Minou as he already had his steps from his morning run. She returned with a fresh loaf of French bread to have with our pasta tonight and we spent the afternoon relaxing.
It was only a three tunnel day today.
After a pretty quiet night (some highway noise behind us but ear plugs helped with that), we awoke to clearing skies and no rain in the forecast – perfect for our day exploring Barcelona. While Fran is 90% over her cold, it seems Doug is now catching it as he had a scratchy throat.
We left Minou around eight o’clock after locking up and securing our valuables (and we left a pair of Doug’s older flip flips on the step outside the door as a sign that maybe, just maybe, someone was inside…… We caught the local train to the Plaça Espagnol where we caught a subway downtown to the waterfront.
We spent the morning walking mostly around the La Rambla area and the Gothic part of the city until our reservation at the highlight of the day: The Sagrada Famillia.
First we saw the statue of Columbus in the roundabout by the port supposedly pointing towards the “new world” but in fact, he’s not!
On the waterfront we strolled down a ways and saw the expensive W hotel (over $11K a night!).
“La Rambla” is a lovely wide pedestrian street that we really enjoyed. We veered off it many times to see things only to return.
We saw Gaudi’s Palau Güell – not all that impressed:
Then we stopped for brekkie at a restaurant on La Rambla only to be told, it was cheaper to eat inside! Okay, we like to spend less money!
We checked out the Boqueria – a large under cover market like Granville Island an many others:
Then we went to the north a bit and saw the Basilica de Santa Maria and its square:
We walked around the square where the city hall is located as well as a large Catalan government building:
When we heard from a passing tour guide that this used to be a Roman city, we found out that there were 4 columns of the Temple of Augustus nearby so we went to check that out:
We also walked by some Roman Walls:
During all this time, we were strolling the Gothic area of the city with its many alleys, shops and old buildings:
Next was a little off the Rambla where we found the Catalonia Square which was under some major renovation but the monument to Francesc Macia was not involved and was interesting looking:
The description online reads: This unusual monument is the work of Josep Maria Subirachs and was inaugurated in 1991. The mostly abstract statue consists of a bronze bust of Macià in front of an inverted concrete staircase. The unfinished staircase symbolises the ongoing history of Catalonia which is being constructed day-by-day.
Then we were thirsty so we stopped for a cold soda at the McDonald’s across from the Casa Batllo – another Gaudi creation:
And as we headed towards the Sagrada Famillia where we had a reservation, we passed another Gaudi house: La Pedrera Casa – also a little strange….
It was a long walk to the Sagrada and first we walked most of the way around it taking photos before our entry time and we found our Spanish souvenir here.
We entered at our time and then it was the hassle of downloading the audio app – this took forever! We had paid for tickets without a guide and using the app we were able to tour the place in about 30 minutes using the app and getting information. Then we strolled around it once more without it just taking it all in. It was pretty overstimulating to be honest.
It was well worth it and the highlight of the day.
By now we’re exhausted and decided to head back using public transit. As we are further away, it took 3 metro trains (one of which we had to take SIX escalators down into the bowels of the earth to get to!) and then the same train we took this morning back.
We got back about 3:15 and decided that we’d spend a second night and leave in the morning.
It was very warm and humid when we woke up Wednesday morning: 20C / 71F at 7:30 am – we left around 8 and had a few things we wanted to get done: find propane and diesel, and grocery shop. While we found another cheap gas station, propane didn’t pan out. We did get our shopping done and made our way south to Miami Beach where we joined about 7 other RV’s parked next to a beach. We met a Belgian fellow, Stefan, who advised that from here south, we can expect to encounter many others escaping the European winter. Ugh! We got the second last spot of eight here and we were here early in the afternoon! Some smaller vans could fit into the regular parking spaces.
Despite being the latter half of October, everything here in Spain is still very green; no trees are changing colour and lawns are not brown. We are beginning to see vineyards and olive groves.
We went to check out the beach; it’s very nice and got out our umbrella and chairs and spent a few hours there. The sand is a nice colour but little gravelly in places, there are waves and it’s a nice colour. The water is cool, nothing like our time in Cyprus, and although it’s quite warm out 26C / 79F, it’s not quite feeling hot enough to venture in although there were others who did.
We enjoyed the shade of our bright yellow EU umbrella and chilled. Neither of us actually went into the water.
We had a very quiet albeit warm night and it wasn’t quite so muggy this morning. We could hear parakeets in the nearby trees.
As we head south towards the city of Valencia, we cross the Greenwich Mean Time line and are now on the negative side of it. We are definitely seeing more and more motorhomes as we continue south like Stefan said. With this in mind, we’ll have to travel again like the way we did in Norway: early so as to get parked early to get a spot.
Valencia is the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia and the third-most populated municipality in Spain. It is the capital of the province of the same name. It is located on the banks of the Turia, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula.
Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. Islamic rule and acculturation ensued in the 8th century, together with the introduction of new irrigation systems and crops. Aragonese Christian conquest took place in 1238, and so the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Valencia. The city’s population thrived in the 15th century, owing to trade with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, Italian ports, and other Mediterranean locations, becoming one of the largest European cities by the end of the century. The city became a major silk manufacturing centre in the 18th century. During the Spanish Civil War, the city served as the accidental seat of the Spanish Government from 1936 to 1937.
The Port of Valencia is the 5th-busiest container port in Europe and the second busiest container port on the Mediterranean Sea. Its historic centre is one of the largest in Spain.
The Turia River is notorious for its floods. The flood which occurred on 14 October 1957, known as the Great Flood of Valencia, flooded large parts of the city of Valencia, and caused a great deal of damage to both life and property. To prevent this from happening in the future, a diversion project was devised (Plan Sur de Valencia), completed in 1969, and the river was divided in two at the western city limits. During floods, most of the water is diverted southwards along a new course that skirts the city, until it meets the Mediterranean. The old course of the river has been turned into a central green-space for the city, a cultural attraction known as the Garden of the Turia.
Fran found a propane station along the A3 that we were travelling on today and we filled up before reaching the free aire she’d found with water and dumping services. There are twenty spots and as we pulled in, we couldn’t see one so the plan was to use the services and parked in the grassy lot across the road where there were already several others parked whom, we guess, also didn’t make it in. However as we rounded the lot to get into the line to use the dumping station, a campervan pulled out and we backed into his spot! We parked between a Danish couple and an English couple.
After having brunch, we decided to go for a walk to check out the nearby beach (1 click away). We chatted first with our Brit neighbours, Angela and Rob, and then took a walk over. We are parked in the town of Platja de la Pobla de Farnals – north of the city of Valencia. As Valencia has a “residents only zone” in the city (as opposed to a low emissions zone), we don’t want to drive into the city so the plan is to take the bus tomorrow and there’s bus stop very close by.
We found the pedestrian street that runs between the two beaches – in between the beaches is a large marina full of boats, skulls and seadoos. There were hardly any people around; the beach was nearly empty and not as nice as where we were last night. Also the weather although still rather warm, is cloudy. There are no bars/restaurants on the beach and the one that was across the street and raised up some, did not appear to be open.
We decided to skip sitting here and returned to Minou via a different route stopping to get a couple drinks enroute. We had some route planning to do and flights to book for early next year – we are going to go to Kitojo (Uganda) in February along with our German friends, the other major sponsors of the school. We are hoping to fit in some Middle Eastern countries around that trip as we need to find enough to do to be out of the Schengen for 90 days after we enter Morocco.
Friday morning, the temperature had dropped quite a bit and the high today was only going to be 22C / 75F – so very pleasant with lots of sunshine and some cloudy breaks; a perfect day for sightseeing. Doug was feeling rather sluggish from his cold but we just took it easy.
We checked out the bus schedule and decided to catch the 9:15 am bus into the city; there was a bit of confusion about the location of the bus stop and even when we thought we’d found it, it was around the corner anyway! Cost of €3.50 for us both and the ride into the city was no more than a half hour. The route didn’t take us all the way into “el centro” so we had a bit of a walk (over a klick) but that was okay.
As we began to walk we came across a little cactus park with some of the biggest barrel cacti we’d ever seen:
Then we saw the Torres dels Serrans (Towers of Serran) – once one of the gates of the city.
Our first square was the Plaça de la Mare de Déu which had a lovely fountain and some nice buildings including the Valencia Cathedral and the Basilica of the Virgin of the Helpless on the circumference of it.
Beside the cathedral in yet another square, was a nice looking building with what looking like the statue of a pope over the door:
While walking to the Silk Exchange, we came upon this mural of a woman in a paella pan which is the photo at the top of this post.
We arrived at the Silk Exchange and paid €2 each to enter and it was quite something.
Built between 1482 and 1533, La Lonja de la Seda is composed of three parts (plus the Orange Garden – a walled courtyard). The main hall, Sala de Contratacion (The Trading Hall), is a large lavishly decorated space supported by gorgeous twisted columns – likened to a stone forest. This was the financial centre of La Lonja, where the merchants work out contracts.
The side-wing is named the Pavilion of the Consulate, and this was the seat of the Tribunal del Mar – the first marine merchant tribunal to ever be formed in Spain. The first two floors were the main function rooms, with the upper one hosting a richly decorated ceiling. These rooms are still maintained original furnishings.
On occasion, the Tribunal would imprison merchants for debts in the central tower of La Lonja – the third part of the structure.
During subsequent centuries, La Lonja functioned as a silk exchange. The honesty of its traders is honored by the inscription that runs around the main contract hall. In 1996 UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site. Its listing states that “the site is of outstanding universal value as it is a wholly exceptional example of a secular building in late Gothic style, which dramatically illustrates the power and wealth of one of the great Mediterranean mercantile cities.”
Outside shots of the silk exchange:
In both the Tribunal Room and the upper floor, there were films about the building and the fantastic ceiling which were very informative. It’s no wonder this is a major tourist attraction in this city.
Then it was on to see the Central Market across the square and the outside of the Church of St. John the Merchant.
It took a bit of time to sort out where it was located but we found the Palace of the Marquis of Two Waters – a very ornate building that now houses a national museum.
We were getting a bit peckish so we walked over to the big Plaça de la Reina and found a little bakery where we treated ourselves to desert before lunch – Fran had this Oreo croissant complete with white chocolate and Oreo ice cream:
After eating Doug felt somewhat better but was still tired. We wanted to have paella for lunch and had trouble finding a place that was open for lunch that served it. We ended up giving up and walked the nearly three kilometers to through the park that used to be a river (mentioned above) to the famous buildings built there near the port. They all are quite modern architecture and done so beautifully all in a pedestrian zone.
On our walk, down along the park, Doug found a Spanish restaurant called “Feliz” and we stopped in asking of they served paella – they did so we got some drinks and shared one – thank goodness as it was huge:
This one had chicken and Doug thinks some rabbit, as well as snails and vegetables (snap peas, artichokes and large lima beans). It was quite tasty but we couldn’t finish it all.
First there at one of the bridges across the park, we saw four of the “Guardians of the Bridge”:
Down below to the north side of the bridge was a cool little children’s park called “Parque Gulliver” with big slides and stairs to climb to get up on Gulliver – very creative:
Then we strolled in the actual park that has lots of gardens, trees and a small stream towards the Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts theatre the building is shaped like a whale’s skeleton:
and here’s a night shot from online:
The theatre opened in 2000 and part of the movie Tomorrowland was filmed here.
Then it was the Hemisferic cinema:
Followed by the Science Museum:
With a stroll through the L’Umbracle:
Before crossing over to the next site, we came across a little display of sun dials and astronomy:
And in the following block the Oceanographic centre:
While we did not go inside any of them, they were all outstanding from the outside and that was enough for us. The park and water settings are fantastic and this area, in our minds, set this city above many in the world.
By now it’s about 2:45 and we’re ready to call it but the bus stop is over 3km / 2 mi away – we splurged and called cab with the Free Now app and were home by 3:20 to relax for the rest of the day.
Saturday morning, we hummed and haaa’ed about whether to stay or go; we were allowed by the rules of the place to stay for up to 72 hours so we could stay a third night. We opted to do so and take the time to do some planning of next steps.
We have wanted to visit a Spanish island – the question was do we done one of the ones off the east coast in the Mediterranean or do we do the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa? Seeing how we’d just done a bunch of Mediterranean islands, the Canary Islands won out. We did some research and it took us the morning to sort out flights and cars as we wanted to do more than one island but at this time of year, flights and ferries run less often and they are pricey. So we did get it sorted by lunchtime including finding a place to store Minou – that we found on iOverlander.
We both went out and got our steps. Fran took a few photos in the town:
On her way back she stopped at the grocery store to look for a few things we’ve not been able to find – didn’t find them but did get a few things. At the check-out there were two American girls trying to speak Spanish without much luck and she helped them ask the cashier for change for a ten. After she chatted with them a bit; they are from Portland, Oregon, backpacking around Spain.
Upon returning we met our Swedish neighbours (who arrived yesterday) and chatted a bit. When Fran was out, she’d run into Angela and Rob and arranged to meet up with them for a bit later in the afternoon. We were back before them and joined them in the sunshine beside their rig to chat for about an hour or so.
After our third quiet night here, it was time to go. After Doug’s run and Fran’s yoga, we showered, washed dishes, drove over to the services, dumped grey and black and filled with fresh water. About 3 km / 2 mi down the road we found diesel again at €1.497 and filled up. Doesn’t look that good heading inland for prices.
We began the drive inland towards Madrid in general passing hills, countryside and a reservoir: .
We began to climb up and down through rolling hills; made it to 1000m / 3280’ at one point. It’s definitely cooler with a good wind and the sky looks like rain but not like a heavy downpour. At one point we crossed the Rio Cabriel which is damned and has a reservoir.
We drove a total of 171 km / 106 mi to the small town of Almodovar del Pinar where Fran had found a place to spend the night on park4night. It’s a concrete parking lot to a sort of community centre. There’s a pool, tennis courts, a soccer field, a park and a bathroom which was closed this time of year.
Fran went out to get her steps and had to put on socks and shoes and change into a jacket from a light vest. The wind is pretty biting. The high today is only 15C / 59F so a big chance to what we’ve become accustomed to.
She walked through this old village that has three churches – one seemed no longer in use:
And get this: a bull fighting ring:
Very few of the buildings here are new but there seems to be a good number of homes. Many people have these hanging in their doorways – they let in air without people being able to see in and some have this metal “mini walls” that probably stop dogs/cats from entering?
This is sunflower country and we saw man fields as we approached. There were three fields on Fran’s walk into the village:
Here’s a mural on the main drag:
Upon returning to the rig, we spent the rest of the day/night indoors as it began to rain on and off all night. It was pretty windy overnight as well.
That night Fran seemed to loose connection to the internet with her Airalo package on her Esim – she had 4 bars of 4G but couldn’t get online. We hoped it was just the town we were in.
By morning it was only partly cloudy and we left pretty early, hoping to get to the laundry in Cuenca before others did.
We did arrived early, just as the supermarket beside it opened (it’s one of those outdoor ones that is open 24/7) and managed to get the big machine and the dryer in a timely fashion. Fran still had no data connection so she began a chat conversation with Airalo with no satisfactory response. They kept saying the same thing: your phone is not compatible with our products (despite using the for over a year!) and it must be the Esim; but contacting Esim, we were told Airalo had to have cut us off – it was not them. Since data is cheap here in Spain, we’ll just her a local sim.
We then drove to what is supposed to be the only place motorhomes can park in town, by the paleontology museum, but the gate was only partially opened and we couldn’t fit (maybe the museum is closed on Mondays?). So we drove a little further and found side of the road parking in the dirt where Doug maneuvered us in.
The sky looked like the weather could go either way and it’s barely 14C / 57F out. Fran grabbed an umbrella just in case (if nothing else, it’s insurance that it WON’T rain!) and we set off into the old town.
Cuenca is known for it’s “hanging houses”. We walked over to the San Pablo bridge but didn’t cross the bridge as we ended up walking right underneath them.
The Casas Colgadas (Hung Houses) is a complex of houses located in Cuenca, Spain. In the past, houses of this kind were frequent along the eastern border of the ancient city, located near the gorge of the river Huécar. Today, however, there are only a few of them remaining. Of all of these structures, the most well-known is a group of three with wooden balconies.
Their origin remains uncertain, though there is proof of their existence in the 15th century. Throughout their history they have been refurbished several times. The most recent took place during the 1920s.
They have been used as individual homes, council houses, and in the past hosted a mesón, a type of restaurant, and the Spanish Abstract Art Museum.
They’re not that many which was weird but this old town is a UNESCO site partly due to them.
We got a good view of one of the two gorges that parallel the old town.
We walked over to the Plaza Mayor to see the huge cathedral on that square and there is a convent and the city hall located there as well.
Then we moved on to a viewpoint to see the other gorge:
Before heading to a third viewpoint over the city:
We returned to Minou and went to look for a Vodafone shop to get Fran a new sim. The three we found on our mapping apps didn’t exist so we stopped and asked two young men who said we should go south to the mall. That made sense. We drove over, parked, had brunch inside Minou first and then went into the mall. Like when Doug got his SIM card it took quite a while to set up – even longer because the clerk couldn’t get Fran’s passport number to be accepted and after she suggested that maybe he could call someone (he was the sole employee in the shop), after ten minutes it got sorted. Fran ended up with the same plan as Doug.
We left Cuenca and wanted to find a place with electricity. It should be said here that since we’ve begun driving inland, we are seeing hardly any other motorhomes; it’s cooler up here and most people stick to the coast. As a result, finding campgrounds is harder as they all close by the beginning of October it seems. There are of course, aires but they don’t all have power. We reached up to 1200 m / 3937’ today at one point and there are plenty of pine trees up here.
We went to two campgrounds in Sacedón with no luck although the second one said the reception would be open at four but that was over an hour way and we didn’t want to chance not finding something else. Two British motorcycles pulled up beside us, saying they were also having trouble finding camping (in tents) and pointed out on their map, a site they’d driven past back a ways and they were going to head there. We waited ten minutes to see if they’d return and when they didn’t we figured it had to be open.
It was 6 km / 4 mi back and when we got to where we thought it was, it didn’t look like a campground and the road was quite rutted so we turned around and Fran found us a parking spot on park4night with no services next to a logging road a few kilometres further up the road. We had a bit of a view of the reservoir and the only sound was birds!
It will do; it’s disappointing we couldn’t get power as we had hoped for popcorn (with our air popper tonight).
Today we passed through one solitary tunnel.
Tomorrow night we get to the place we’ve arranged to store Minou while we fly to the Canary Islands and we do not believe we will have access to power there as they really didn’t even want us to sleep there but when we explained we had an early morning flight and a very late arrival on our return, they consented.
We awoke Monday morning to cloudy skies and wanted to go see somewhere to see something before storing Minou and it felt like the best option was to go and see the small city of Segovia north of Madrid as it was pretty much all we wanted to see up in that area and then we’d come back north of Madrid to Prado Norte to leave Minou.
First order of business was to dump and fill so Fran found a free aire in Guadalajara where we did all that and then we got diesel for €1.51 a litre.
We skirted the north east side of Madrid by the airport and made our way north but we were stopped at Puerto Navacerrada at 1900 m / 6233’ – the road was closed! There had been no warning about this at all that we saw and there were at least two other vehicles there with us who were also surprised. Fran got out and asked one of the workers how to get to Segovia now and he explained how and she figured it out so we back tracked a bit and went a different want – it added about 40km / 25 mi to the route.
At the summit of the pass where we got stopped we took these shots of the ski area:
The weather stayed dry with a lot of sunny breaks and was reasonably comfortable with long pants and light jackets.
We passed through some towns we hadn’t expected to and made it to Segovia after stopping to breakfast at a rest stop.
The reason to come to Segovia was to see a huge Roman Aqueduct.
The Aqueduct of Segovia, located in Plaza del Azoguejo, is the defining historical feature of the city, dating from the late 1st or early 2nd century AD. Like a number of other aqueducts in Spain, Segovia’s Roman-built aqueduct receives attention for being one of the “extraordinary engineering accomplishments” existing in the country, wrote Alejandro Lapunzina in Reference Guides to National Architecture: Architecture of Spain. It is still used to deliver drinking water. “The aqueduct of Segovia is – because of its long span, architectural beauty, uncharacteristic slenderness, and dramatic presence in the center of a dense urban fabric – the most impressive Roman structure in Spain, and one of the most famous among the numerous aqueducts built by the Romans throughout their vast Empire,” Lapunzina wrote. It consists of about 25,000 granite blocks held together without any mortar, and spans 818 meters with more than 170 arches, the highest being 29 metres high.
The aqueduct legend:
There are several legends about the construction of the Segovia aqueduct; the most popular and widespread tells that a girl went up to the top of the mountain every day to collect water with a jug. 11 Her One day, fed up with that, she asked the demon to build some means so that she would not have to go up and down every day. Then, at night, the demon appeared to her and granted her wish in exchange for the fact that, if she managed to finish the aqueduct before the rooster crowed, she would have to give him her soul. The girl accepted and the demon began to build the aqueduct, at which point the girl regretted having wanted it. Just when she had one stone left to finish, her cock crowed causing the demon’s pact to fail and the girl not to lose her soul. 12 In the hole that she left is where the statue of the Virgin of Our Lady of Carmen has now been placed.
This was well worth the detour! It’s quite amazing and impossible to get in one photo as it doesn’t run in a straight line – it actually has turns in it. It was still in use by the city until 1973! Boy they don’t make many things that last that long any more, do they?
On our way to Segovia we passed a cool roundabout at Navacerrado and forced our route to take us back that way in order to get a photo of it.
We call it the “world’s largest weather rock”. If it’s dry, it’s not raining, if it’s swaying it’s windy:
We were making good time on the way to Prado Norte where we were going to leave Minou and we made a stop for about a half hour so as not to arrive too early. We did out packing and got that out of the way.
This was a 354 km / 220 mi day with three tunnels.
We arrived at Mar & Luis just before six. Luis met us and got us parked. They are a Spanish former overlanding couple who spent three years touring Africa and have settled for a bit here north of Madrid to have two children and hope to get back on the road in 3-5 years to overland Asia.
They let us plug in for the night (so we got our popcorn night!) and we were going to arrange an Uber for the next morning to get to the airport for our 6:45 am flight but Uber didn’t seem to come here. Luckily, Fran had the FreeNow taxi app and we were able to reserve a cab for 5:15 in the morning.
Since we had power we charged up a few things. Our batteries are doing well (they are new from December 2022) but the days are so short now that it’s hard to keep them topped up. The sun comes up around 8:30 am and is gone by 7:30 pm! The poor weather conditions of being inland don’t help either but we are managing to keep above the minimums we like.