Tag Archives: Wellington

Ciudad Rodrigo

Ciudad Rodrigo lies only about a hundred miles to the south and west of Salamanca.  We could have followed the excellent motorway that runs directly from one to the other but chose instead to stray slightly off the beaten track.  This part of central Spain is vast and largely empty, which is to say that towns are few and far between and the distances from one village to the next are much greater than in other parts of Europe we’ve visited.  I don’t know whether or not the land is fertile, but very few crops seem to be grown and where the land is put to use it seems largely for beef production.  Many of the ‘fields’ we saw were literally hundreds of acres with a few cattle finding shelter under isolated oak trees.

Our arrival in Rodrigo brought back vivid flashbacks of our Portugal experience.  I don’t know if we put the wrong numbers into the satnav, or perhaps the  coordinates given on the website were wrong, but as the directions took us further and further into the narrow lanes of the walled city we started to have one of those conversations that starts “this doesn’t look right ……..” and swiftly turns into “how the hell do we get out of here”.  Fortunately, being British we were able to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and I’m sure we’ll be fine once the nightmares stop!

The narrow streets of Ciudad Rodrigo Just look at those narrow lanes (shudder)!

The campsite, when we eventually found it, is just across the River Agueda from the city – a short walk, if you don’t mind skipping across a few stepping stones and a long pull up a fairly steep hill.  The city itself is lovely and, at this time of year at least, fairly tourist free.  Some of the buildings, especially the tower of the cathedral, show signs of the battering it took in January 1812 when Wellington’s army laid siege to the French garrison and gave the walls a ‘damn good thrashing’ before their succesful, but particulary bloody, assault. 
The River Agueda

The cathedral at Ciudad Rodrigo You can still see some of cannonball impacts on the cathedral tower

We enjoyed a coffee and some churros in the warm spring sunshine; all-in-all a very nice place to visit – but don’t take your motorhome into the city unless you want to be in therapy for quite some time!
Ciudad Rodrigo

Segovia to Salamanca

One of my ideas when we originally started (not) planning this trip was to visit the sites of some of the Peninsula War battles (Wellington’s campaign in the early 19th Century to throw Napoleon’s armies out of Portugal and Spain).  I’d recently read Mark Urban’s book ‘Rifles’, which follows the 95th Regiment of Foot through that period, and am currently part-way through Peter Snow’s ‘To War with Wellington’ which also covers the campaign.  As one of the major battles of the campaign it was obvious that Salamanca should be included in our visits.

Our route west from Segovia took us along the road from El Espina to Avila, which passes through some of the most open and sparsly populated countryside that Europe has to offer.  We’d caught glimpses of the area while watching ‘The English’ a TV series supposedly set in the US mid-west but actually filmed in this area of rolling grasslands and near-desert in the heart of Spain.  As it turned out the countryside wasn’t quite as desolate or ‘desert-like’ as I’d expected, but if you’re looking for the ‘great outdoors’ you couldn’t do much better that this.

The countryside between El Espina and Avila
The wide-open-spaces betwen El Espina and Avila

As we arrived in Avila we realised that we’d passed this way on our travels back in 2003, though on that occasion we only stopped long enough to take a couple of photos of the city walls which, having been ‘sympathetically restored’ a number of years ago, are distinctive and impressive  This time we lingered long enough to stroll though part of the old city and walk around the walls, which provide great views both of the city and the surrounding countryside.

City walls and cathedral of Avila
Avila city walls and cathedral

We arrived at the Don Quijote campsite on the  outskirts of Salamanca at around 3.30, which experience has taught us is about as late as you can leave your arrival at a campsite if it’s a) any good, and b) you haven’t booked in advance.  Just in time – we nabbed the last pitch with electricity just a few minutes before half the population of The Netherlands polled up in our wake. 

Wellington and a visit to the Dryburghs

A five minute walk from our overnight campsite took us to Mana railway station and 30 minutes later and a couple of $8 fares we were in Wellington – parking the van in the centre of the city would have been a nightmare so this turned out to be a really good move.  If you come from Europe you probably don’t go to New Zealand to admire the country’s historic architecture, but as it happens Wellington has some real nuggets tucked away and has done a pretty good job of conserving them.  First stop was the Old Government Buildings which at first sight appear to be constructed of a cream coloured stone but actually turn out to be wood  – for some time it was thought to be the world’s largest wooden building, but, wouldn’t you know it, the Japanese have something bigger. (Not a lot of people know that).


A three minute trip by cable car from the heart of the central business district lifts you up a couple of hundred metres to a great viewpoint with views out over the harbour and out to the Cook Strait.  It also takes you to the highest point in Wellington’s excellent Botanic Gardens which must rank as one of the most interesting and best presented of all the public spaces we’ve seen in the many cities we’ve visited over the years. An hour spent sauntering down through the gardens and back into the city was time very well spent.




The evening was spent with Jim and Heather Dryburgh, 3/5 of their lovely family and a couple of friends Paul and Tracy.  Jim and I worked together in Blandford about ten years back and we last got together during my brief stay in Wellington in 2007.  It was good to catch up on the missing years and to make new friends in the process – thanks Heather for a lovely meal and great West Coast hospitality.

Picton across to Wellington

The ferry from between the South and North Islands runs from Picton to Wellington and is pretty much like any cross channel ferry, but without the duty free and fewer French.  The journey takes around 3 ½ hours and we were fortunate in having a calm, sunny day for our ‘cruise’, so for the first hour or so we sat ‘topsides’ and watched as the ship manoeuvred itself up the narrow Queen Charlotte Sound and even narrower Tory Chanel and out into the Cook Strait.  The route passes dozens of isolated houses and tiny communities which appear to be completely inaccessible other than by boat; although some were obviously holiday retreats the majority were clearly homes – presumably if you live somewhere as inaccessible as that you really don’t want your neighbour to pop round for a chat or calling in to borrow a cup of sugar.


Our arrival in Wellington coincided with rush hour and a traffic jam, but once we were out of the city we had an easy journey up to the freedom campsite we’d chosen on the west coast at Mana which is about half an hour out of the city.  Whether by discerning selection or sheer good fortune we once again stumbled on a nice quiet site with great views, (fairly) clean toilets and, as luck would have it, within five minutes walk of the railway station which we used the following day to pop back into Wellington for some sightseeing.  The campsite was also on the edge of a large and very well organised recreational area which was evidently the focus for just about any sport and outdoor activity you care to name – everything from dog obedience classes and Sea Scouts to kayaking  and cricket.  All part of the New Zealand lifestyle thing and very impressive.