We cycled to a very famous place today, although I had no idea until a couple of days ago that the location for the battle of Trafalgar was in southern Spain.
We had a nice cycle along very quiet roads to the turn off to Trafalgar lighthouse. There is then a little road that leads out onto a narrow spit of land, which suddenly disappeared under the sand. We had to push the bikes quite a way over sand dunes until the road reappeared again as it gained a few metres in height up to the lighthouse.
It is a beautiful area with lots of surfers trying to catch the rather large waves. We had a good look around and stared out to sea.
Being very ignorant of English history, I had heard of the battle of Trafalgar, but knew very little about it. If you are also vague on the details then this is a short outline.
On the 21st October 1805 a naval battle took place between the English navy and a combined force of the French and Spanish. The English were lead by Horatio Nelson and were heavily outnumbered by the opposition.
Nelson flew the famous flags that instructed that 'England expects every man should do his duty' and then attacked. It was a very brutal battle, Nelson was shot and died later that day, but won a great victory.
Over 3,000 French and Spanish sailors were killed, compared to 449 British dead, and thousands more were wounded on either side.
Then before the survivors had chance to return to their bases, a huge storm blew up and thousands more sailors were shipwrecked and drowned.
Nelson's body was preserved in a barrel of brandy and returned to England for a heroes funeral.
I said it was a brief outline!
Sunday, 30 November 2014
We cycled to a very famous place today, although I had no idea until a couple of days ago that the location for the battle of Trafalgar was in southern Spain.
Saturday, 29 November 2014
Another dramatic beach walk today.
We went in the opposite direction to yesterday and found an interesting cliff top walk. There was a lot of erosion and Daz is looking quizzical in pic 2. It turns out that I was standing on a cliff edge where the underneath had been completely washed away.
I didn't know, he didn't tell me, but I survived!
It was a very nice viewpoint and we read on a noticeboard, that at the right time of the year, 10,000 European spoonbills pass by on their winter trip to Africa.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the right time, so that fact is completely irrelevant.
We carried on to the pretty town of Roche. It had a beautiful beach, and lots of fancy clifftop houses, and some of them were definitely a little too close to the edge.
We made it a round trip back to the campsite, 14k and almost 21,000 steps.
Friday, 28 November 2014
Massive storm overnight with rain hammering on the ceiling until about 5am.
We have moved about 30 miles down the coast and are near a little town called Conil de la Frontera.
The campsite was soaked and full of enormous puddles this morning, so we got out the walking boots, waterproof trousers and jackets and headed for the coast.
It reminded me of our trip around Scotland in August, except that Spain at the end of November is much warmer.
The sea was rough and sounded fantastic and we found a seafront bar that was open. We sat outside, enjoyed the view with a little glass of wine and watched a storm heading our way.
The lightning strikes on the sea, and the thunder was very dramatic, but it seemed to be passing us by.
We managed to reach the town while it was still dry, then we sheltered behind a closed cafe while the tail end of the storm hit.
Afterwards, we had a quick wander through the mainly closed and deserted tourist town, then headed back home in brilliant sunshine.
On second thoughts, it was nothing like Scotland at all.
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Honestly, the beautiful port around the corner from our campsite is called Port Sherry.
We cycled around it yesterday at the end of our day trip. It would have been a standard harbour if it wasn't for all of the enormous artwork surrounding it. The best bit is the concrete walls, some with archways in them, that are painted with landscapes and sea scenes.
Today we went for a run around the port. We started quite slowly as I am not very fit and I moan a lot about various injuries. However, part way round the wind got up, the sky turned black and raindrops started falling.
I upped the pace, almost sprinting home as I had left the washing out and there is nothing worse than a steamed up van full of wet clothes, especially as they were all mine.
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
We got the bikes out today and cycled a very round about route to Sanlucar de Barrameda. Our planned route would have taken us through a Spanish Naval base, and we got as far as the barbed wire fences and military checkpoint before having to turn back.
We then followed a road and got to a warning sign saying that it was closed. We didn't want to even further retrace our steps, so we ignored it and ended up on a closed dual carriageway that was being resurfaced. It was nicely done, very smooth, and we managed to avoid the workmen. We finally crossed back onto the carriageway, and after 44k we arrived at our destination.
At first it was very disappointing, our leaflet said that we couldn't leave without savouring three things:-
Horse races on the beach - no sign of any today.
Wineries - we have possibly tasted too much wine and sherry recently, so we didn't go to a winery, but tried a glass with item 3.
Famous prawns - tick.
Actually, lunch was quite a revelation. I was completely stuck as everything on the menu was fishy, and the waiter spoke no English.
I am usually frightened of anything in it's shell, with legs, eyes, skin, bones or anything that resembles it's original shape. However, I had to be brave and ordered the menu of the day with Daz, but I did say 'no little fried fishes for me, por favor'.
Our first course of prawns, white fish and salad was fantastic. Second of prawns and noodles was also good. Third course, Darren got a plate of whole fried fishies, but mine was good and not scary at all.
The waiter excelled himself with the desert and gave us the choices in English - tart, pudding or lemon something or other that we couldn't quite follow.
Great meal in a brilliant location.
Picture 3 is supposed to be similar to the El Bulli exhibition from a few weeks ago, and puts you in my seat for lunch.
Ps, the other famous thing about S de B is that 'in 1519 the first voyage around the world set out from its shores, showing that the earth is round'. Not sure if I believe that one. (Not that the earth is round, but the other bit.)
Monday, 24 November 2014
Cadiz is quite a small city that is crammed onto the end of a peninsula at the head of a large bay. We can see the city from the beach outside our campsite and we caught a ferry there for the day.
Cadiz is famed for the way it glows white in the intense southern light, and it didn't disappoint us today, as the sun shone brightly all day.
The city was busy with tourists because three cruise ships were already docked by the time our little ferry dropped us off.
We had to muscle our way through the crowd to get a very quick shot of the Plaza next to the port, before they closed in all around us.
We then went for a wander around the coastline, and within 10 minutes it was quiet and calm again, with no sign of the other tourists.
I did manage to find a new friend though, who was keen to photo bomb my landscape shots.
To finish off the day we sat outside a bar with a glass of Tio Pepe, admired the cathedral and listened to the buskers singing Flamenco.
Friday, 21 November 2014
We caught a train for the 12 minute ride to Jerez de la Frontera today. We were very keen to visit as Jerez is home to some of the best sherry producers in the world.
We decided to go for a tour and tasting at Tio Pepe.
Unfortunately, my instructions to Darren were not very clear so only me and the sherry bottle posed correctly, while Darren did his own thing.
Tio Pepe actually means Uncle Pepe and was named after the founder's uncle, who gave him lots of advice when he was setting up the winery in 1835.
Uncle Pepe was also given his own private door and key to one of the cellars and a huge barrel with his name on it.
We weren't quite so lucky, but we enjoyed an interesting tour of the cellars and bodegas. One of the buildings was designed by Gustav Eiffel, of Tower fame, and there was a beautiful street that was completely shaded by vines.
There have been a lot of famous visitors over the years and dozens of them signed the bottom of the barrels. My favourites were Queen Victoria, Picasso and Bobby Charlton.
Finally, we reached the tasting area and we tried dry Tio Pepe, sweet sherry and an amazing super, duper sweet one that tasted like liquid sultanas - gorgeous!
Thursday, 20 November 2014
We drove to the south coast today, straight into sherry country, passing the huge road sign for Tio Pepe on the way.
We have settled next to the sand dunes in El Puerto de Santa Maria. It is blowing a gale and the sand is whipping across the beach. Surprisingly, there are palm trees on the beach and it looks like the Sahara Desert. All it is missing are the camels.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
We first saw this amazing structure a couple of nights ago, but it took us until today to return for a closer look.
It dominates the Plaza de la Encarnacion in Seville and was completed in 2011.
The building has many layers, firstly directly beneath the building is the remains of a Roman town. It was discovered ten years ago when the city wanted to install an underground car park. Once the ruins were found the car park idea was cancelled, and the ruins are now restored and open to the public.
We had a good nosy around and there are some excellent mosaics and displays.
The next layer has a partially underground market, then a plaza area with bars and restaurants.
Finally, we caught a lift to the cap of the mushrooms and it found a windy walkway that meanders all over the top.
The mushrooms are honeycombed so you can look over the railings straight down to the Plaza below, so it was a little scary.
The views were great, right across the city in all directions. We also made a quick stop at the hidden bar right in the middle - from our angle it was sort of like a stuffed mushroom.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Tim and Vicky left us this morning, but not before trying to help us navigate the maze of backstreets in Seville with a customised map. It was made of dry biscuits with the Coke bottle representing a museum that we wanted to visit.
On our way there we stopped off at the Fabrica Real de Tabacos for a guided tour. The Tabacos was originally a cigar factory and is world famous as Carmen - made famous in the Opera - worked there.
In the 1800's 6,000 women worked there rolling the cigars on their thighs. (I thought that was just a myth.) They were a fun loving bunch who earned very good wages for the time, and were very proud of the independence that this gave them.
The factory is very ornate (pic 1) and is an enormous building, surrounded by a large paved area, a wall and a moat. These were there to stop employees throwing tobacco to their friends outside, and to spot people trying to get into the factory to steal the expensive tobacco. There is also a prison next to the factory for workers caught fighting or stealing. They were allowed out in the daytime to work, but then had to return to the prison to serve their sentence.
It was an interesting tour, but mostly in Spanish with only brief explanations in English, so it did drag at times. Note to self - must try harder with the Spanish tapes.
We then carefully followed the Coca Cola map, but we spotted a street sign leading to the museum, so we did cheat a bit. We were delighted with our success, although once there we decided that after spending so long inside the cigar factory, we couldn't be bothered to go around it.
Instead we decided to go to the Casa de Pilatos, a beautiful 15th century courtyard building.
Our entry ticket included audio guides so we switched them on and headed inside. The commentary was truly appalling, it sounded as if someone had translated the original Spanish into maybe Chinese, then into Welsh and then finally in to English. The result was just about unlistenable as there was so many words in completely random orders that seemed to go on forever.
The commentary was read by an English speaker and I can't imagine how he kept a straight face as he did it.
We eventually left, feeling bamboozled.
Monday, 17 November 2014
Tim and Vicky borrowed bikes from their hotel, we had our own, and we set off on a cycle ride along the Seville canal. The route was particularly beautiful, starting at the park next to the Plaza de Espana, see picture one.
We cycled about 10k to the end of the canal where we found a gigantic egg containing a statue of Christopher Columbus.
We followed the canal back on the other side of the water and I took over the navigation as we had to go inland because the riverside cycle path came to an end.
I confidently took us along various streets, with the plan of making headway inland while gradually heading back to the water.
After a while we rounded a corner and we were indeed back by the canal, unfortunately only a few yards past where we had left it but with a few extra kilometres under our belts. Fine for me and Daz, but not so good for Tim and Vicky's bottoms,
I rounded it off nicely though by then finding a route right along the waters edge that suddenly came to an end at the bottom of a large flight of steps.
Eventually we made it back to our car park for a quick look around our van, and then a siesta for some of us.
Early evening saw us on a walk around the Santa Cruz area with some interesting sights.
Picture three shows where I would like to live if I moved to Seville and picture four is an amazing mushroom building that we are going to explore further tomorrow.
Sunday, 16 November 2014
Good day out today in gorgeous sunshine. We joined a walking tour and tramped around with a big group of English speakers, including Tim and Vicky. Unfortunately, they look as if they are trying to creep away from us in the photo, but they didn't escape and we stuck with them all day.
We learned a lot about Seville and maybe the local guide was a bit biased, but it was a very, very important city, with loads and loads of history. Hard facts escape me at the moment, but it was all very interesting.
We enjoyed yet another excellent tapas and wine lunch and then spent the afternoon looking around the cathedral.
The tower used to be a Muslim tower that was over 100 metres tall and was used five times a day to call the faithful to prayer. At one time the caller was very old and struggled to climb to the top, so the stairs were replaced with a ramp so that he could ride up and down on a donkey.
It was a very busy ramp, with no sign of any modern day donkeys on it, and we joined the throng heading to the top and got some great views of the city.
Back down in the cathedral we found the tomb of Christopher Columbus, who appeared to be carried by four large warriors. It seemed to be the tradition to pat the front two soldiers feet, so not wanting to miss out I gave one of them a good polish - hopefully for luck.
Saturday, 15 November 2014
We met our friends Tim and Vicky for wine and tapas at lunchtime, and then we were off for a march around the Alcazar - a huge castle in the centre of Seville. We had a rubbish map that no one quite got to grips with, but had a lovely time looking at the grand rooms, enclosed courtyards, exotic gardens and fancy tile displays.
We then had a stop for more wine and tapas before heading to the highlight of the day - a top rated flamenco show.
We were very keen so got there nice and early and bagged front row seats, although we thought it strange that everyone else was avoiding them.
The show started with just a guitarist and singer, and within a few seconds the guitarist looked in great pain and the singer was wailing at the top of his voice and looked ready to burst into tears. We were only a few feet away from them and I started to giggle. I was trying to hide my mouth behind my hands, but fortunately they both had their eyes screwed tightly shut, so I think I got away with it.
After a very long time the song came to a sudden end and then a lady dancer appeared. She was right at the front of the stage, so within touching distance of us. She stamped so loud and dramatically, sweeping up and down the stage at brakeneck speed, swinging her dress, swirling her arms and clapping her hands. She was incredible to watch, her feet were tapping so quickly that they were a blur, then suddenly she came to a dead stop.
When she started again it was really slowly, tracing circles on the stage in front of us with her red dancing shoes. It was up close and very personal, quite disconcerting really.
All too soon she had finished and then a tall, dark and handsome male dancer took to the stage. He strutted and leapt majestically, just inches from our noses.
After it was over we were all a bit gobsmacked, none of us were sure if we had enjoyed it, but it was certainly memorable.
Friday, 14 November 2014
According to mythology, Seville was founded by Hercules. Not sure if this is true, but it definitely is now the capital of Andalucia and the fourth largest city in Spain.
We arrived here this afternoon and have parked in a glorified car park about 20 minutes walk from the city centre. It is part of what looks like a car storage and delivery company and they have set aside a corner for campervans. It is popular though, as there are about 25 vans alongside us, and for £12 a night, who can blame them (and us).
After settling in we walked to Seville, and the first thing that caught our eye was a beautiful park full of orange trees - presumably the famous Seville oranges.
Just behind it was the Plaza de Espana. We didn't go inside, but admired the exterior of this very grand semi circular building. It had a fountain, semi circular lake with rowing boats on it and beautiful tiled seats all around the base of it of the building. Each seat depicted a different city in Spain and it made us realise how much more of the country that we haven't got around to visiting yet.
Looking forward to an exciting weekend as we are meeting some friends who are flying in from London in the morning.
Thursday, 13 November 2014
Firstly a correction from yesterday - Darren was outraged at my description of Merida as just any old 'Roman town'.
He pointed out that the town was founded in 25bc on the orders of the Emporer Augustus, and was called Emeritas Augusta. It became the capital of the Lucitania Province and was one of the most important towns in the Roman empire.
It was like calling London a town, and explains why it had such fantastic facilities. Please take note.
Today, we cycled into Merida to check out the sights that we missed yesterday. We saw some original roads and mosaics, but the best thing was the white stork on a nest on top of a ruined aquaduct pillar.
A friendly old Spanish man gave us a long winded explanation as to why it was here and not with its friends for the winter in Africa.
Unfortunately, he spoke very quickly and waved his arms about dramatically, but it didn't help me to understand what he was saying. In a break in the lecture I said 'si, gracias', which must have been the wrong answer as he suddenly realised that we weren't taking it in. We smiled each other and he started his lecture again, but fortunately some of his friends appeared and we made our escape.
So we are non the wiser, maybe it is a lazy stork, or perhaps poorly, but I was really chuffed to see it anyway.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Today we are in Merida, a town that was founded by the Romans over 2,000 years ago.
Their buildings were made to last and there are dozens of them, scattered all around. They are by far the finest in town and they crop up in the most surprising places.
The Temple of Diana, picture 1, is completely surrounded by shops and bars and has been used by many different people over the centuries. It now had an elegant townhouse from the 1,500's nestled amongst it's columns.
The beautiful aquaduct in picture 2 is approached through a dodgy subway under a railway and is amongst industrial buildings. It also has a couple of giant white stork nests on the top of its ruined arches.
The theatre and coliseum, pics 3 and 4 were right next to each other in the centre of town and have been reconstructed and repaired over the last 100 years.
There was a really interesting display that explained all about the different types of gladiators and their weapons, as well as the gate that the victors used to leave the building.
We also saw remains of Roman baths, a swimming pool and an enormous circus where chariot races used to take place - just like in Ben Hur.
Tuesday, 11 November 2014
'The rain in Spain lies mainly on the Plain.'
I don't know if this is strictly true, or even if we are on the Plain, but the area around the city of Caceres is flat, and the fields are all green and fertile looking.
They contrast nicely with all of the brown scenery that we have been seeing for the past few months.
It has rained a few times overnight recently, and it even wet the ancient streets Caceres this morning.
Caceres is an ancient walled town in South West Spain - not too far from Portugal. It is a completely walled city that is full of plazas, churches, museums and a few buskers.
We had a look around a beautiful church, a strange museum and underground Roman cistern full of pillars and water, but the information was only in Spanish so I can't tell you anything about them.
We also stumbled across two buskers, one with a guitar, who wailed through a very atmospheric tune at the top of their voices. It echoed around the old buildings and when Darren gave them some coins they smiled and ramped up the volume even more than I would have ever believed possible.