Hola Espana!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Grand Tour has begun. We handed back the keys to our London flat on Saturday and motored down to Weymouth for the night. On Sunday we had a clear run until Exeter where an accident brought the motorway to a standstill. We had time to spare though and made it last on to the ferry.

The 20 hour crossing was completely smooth and the morning weather in Santander was sunny and warm. Mark quickly adapted to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and we paused by Sardinero beach to collect our thoughts and plan where we might go; left? right? Actually we knew the general area we were heading, Picos de Europa national park.

Following the coast westwards we stopped briefly in the inland medieval town of Santillana del Mar which has a recommended campsite and might be somewhere to stop on our way back. Down by the sea Comillas was a very sunny lunch spot. The van was the centre of attention on the sea-front car-park with locals coming from a bar to point and a family stopping for photographs! We haven’t seen any other bay or split window VW campers so far, which might explain the apparent novelty.

Within clear sight of the coast are the Picos de Europa mountains where we headed next. The views from the winding road are spectacular and we’ll be surprised if we find a driving road to better it anywhere on our trip. The temperature cooled and we climbed higher and when we reached our first site Camping Picos de Europa at Avin it was misty. Inside the bar of the site an open fire kept it cosy and we had a beer and used the free wifi.

The next morning was drizzly and misty but atmospheric. Onwards and upwards in to the mountains our first stop was the shrine at Covadonga. Wedged in to a cave crevice the shrine to the Virgin Mary hangs over the waterfall filled pool below. Beyond Covadonga the road climbs precipitously 12kms to two lakes. We decided to risk the strain on the engine going up and the brakes coming down but need not have bothered as it was a white-out when we reached the plateau. The van fared well, but Mark’s nerves less so!

Lunch in Cangas was a typically Spanish late one and came in at a very good value €10 for three courses and a bottle of vino tinto; more like that please! Flagging a little after lunch we set out to find a coastal campsite between Ribadesella and LLanes. Noting lots of tent symbols on the map we had hoped to find our kind of low key campsite, but they were all filled with statics and tourers that had not toured anywhere in years. We decided to turn to the Alan Rogers best sites guide that we found the Picos site in and it turned out to be a good move. With a little help from the iPhone maps we found Camping La Paz across a railway and through a half constructed new motorway junction. Doesn’t sound like a great approach but once there the site is one of the most picturesque we’ve seen. Laid out on man made terraces with views from the Picos mountains down to it’s own sandy beach, it’s a remarkable spot.

So that’s where we find ourselves today relaxing and enjoying the panoramic views perched high up on the cliffside. We’ll stay another night and then start our journey back east to Bilboa and San Sebastian in time for Easter.

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