Category Archives: Spain & Portugal 19

Caminos and Storks

From León our route criss-crossed several of the Caminos de Santiago which are marked by signs in the shape of a scallop shell and by large numbers of pilgrims making their way westward along roads and paths, some of which pass through the centre of towns (including León) and along busy roads.  No doubt the journey brings peace and solace to those who complete the pilgrimage, but finding time for reflection must be a challenge when you have cars and trucks thundering past at high speed.
We stopped to stretch our legs at Hospital de Orbigo which is reputedly the oldest bridge in Spain.  As it’s on one of the Caminos we tagged along behind some groups of pilgrims deluding ourselves that our half-mile stroll had some connection with the somewhat longer pilgrimages being made by those around us.
This part of Spain is home to large numbers of Storks who have a habit of building their nests in the most inaccessible but obvious of places.  Presumably at the end of every season the locals have to get out their ladders and shin up to remove the remains of the enormous structures – if one fell on your head you’d know about it!


From Bilbao to Leon

We headed south-west out of Bilbao staying off the motorways as far as possible and sticking to the minor roads.  Driving in this part of Spain is a pleasure in that all the roads are in excellent condition (no doubt as a result of European grants) and the traffic is incredibly light.  Our original plan had been to head for Burgos but we opted instead to drive through the Cordillera Cantabrica which has mountains rising to a couple of thousand metres – a few of which still had traces of snow on their peaks.  We plan on visiting the Picos de Europa, which were just to the north of our route, on our return journey to Santander.

We spent Wednesday night on a municipal camperstop at Cervera de Pisuerga.   Perhaps not the most salubrious of locations being next door to the council dump, but it was convenient and quiet – except when the local cowman brought his herd through the site.  We met a couple in a Land Rover ambulance who were heading to Portugal to watch the Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship; if time allow and it’s not too far out of the way we might take a look.

On Thursday morning we headed off towards León sticking once again to the back roads.  Our route took us through Guardo and Almanza, much of the time following the sides of valleys that have been dammed to form lakes which feed hydro-electric projects.

We were fortunate to find an overnight space at the camperstop in the centre of León allowing us to walk through the old part of the city up to the cathedral which by all accounts has some of the most spectacular stained glass in Europe.

It’s art Jim, but not as we know it….

This year we decided that our ‘long’ trip in the ‘van would be to Spain and Portugal; starting off in Bilbao and then wending (one of the good things about having a van is that you can wend) our way over the course of about a month down towards the Duoro valley towards Porto, and then gradually making our way north around Spain’s northern coastline back to Santander for the ferry back to Portsmouth.  We last visited northern Spain about 15 years ago and were pleasantly surprised by the countryside, the roads, the architecture and the fact that everything seemed to be reasonably priced.  Hopefully we won’t be disappointed this time, though no doubt that the weakness of the pound against the euro (don’t mention the ‘B’ word) will have an impact upon how far our pocket money stretches.
The GuggenheimMuseumStarting in Bilbao it would have been downright rude not to have visited the Guggenheim Museum which, aside from being a wonderful piece of architecture, is home to some of the world’s best regarded modern art.  Now, I’m not renowned for my love of modern art (I tend to work on the premise that if I think I could have created it, it can’t be art) but I was prepared to be shown the error of my ways.  Suffice to say that with few exceptions the prejudices and narrow-minded opinions that I’ve built up and cultivated over many decades remain largely unchallenged.  The one exhibit that I did appreciate was Richard Serra’s ‘Matter of Time’ works which are astounding and well worth the visit.

The centre of Bilbao is a nice mix of largely early twentieth and early twenty first century architectures.  We were fortunate with the weather and enjoyed our walk along the Ria de Bilbao in the ealy summer sunshine.
Ria de BilbaoOur campsite is a fantastic location high on a hillside overlooking the centre of the city  – views to kill for, clean toilets and a regular bus service.  What more could anyone want?