Flora&Fauna Spanish countryside

Touring green Spain part 1

The ferry 4th & 5th June

Early on the 4th June we drove down to Portsmouth to board the Brittany ferry Baie de Seine for an overnight crossing to Bilbao in Northern Spain. We found our cabin, but quickly went on deck to enjoy the sights of the port. We have enjoyed holidays in the area and it was quite a trip down memory lane, travelling past quayside old pubs and the historic dockyards, HMS Warrior clearly seen. We have often sat on Southsea seafront enjoying the views. We followed other ferries out into the English channel, skirting the Isle of Wight. Back to the cabin, our home for a while, we enjoyed an evening meal in the restaurant then settled down to a gentle rocking sleep. The next morning followed by a “full English breakfast” we were by now heading South through the Bay of Biscay for our first views of Spain.

Cangas de Onis, Asturias 5th/6th June

We arrived in Zierbena the ferry port in mid afternoon and after disembarking safely were soon on the road, the Spanish lorry drivers were a little impatient, but we were heading west along the coast and quieter roads. The car has an excellent satellite navigation system on board, fortunately we were re-routed from the coast and busy bypasses inland through the valley of the “Parque Nacional de Los Picos de Europa”. The roads were quieter and the mountain views, green fields with cows and wonderful wild life. We arrived at Cangas de Onis in early evening, we managed to park right outside the Hotel Imperion which was our first stop. We were shown our room, which was luxurious, with a large balcony, with view over the Roman bridge. We set off to stretch our legs, we went in a Dia supermarket, a shop we always used and felt quite at home there, so after buying a few provisions we then found an interesting friendly bar for a couple of beers and tapas.

Over the road was a pizzeria, which looked welcoming and already busy despite that it was early for Spanish habits. A salad, garlic bread (I misunderstood the menu), two large pizzas and a bottle of wine later, two weary, merry travellers wandered back to the hotel. The next morning after a lovely breakfast in the hotel, we had a short walk round the town, it had rained and the clouds were low, we took more photos of the Roman bridge, shopped again in Dia and set off for our next hotel, as we joined the motorway towards Ourense behind us the beautiful snow capped mountains were a stunning backdrop.

Flora&Fauna Spanish countryside

Touring green Spain part 2

Parador de Santo Estevo, Ourense, Galicia 6th/7th/8th June

As we got nearer to our next destination, the satnav showed we had a short journey which would take a long time, as we turned left off the main road as directed to the parador, we realised the road was steep, narrow and with many bends. Fortunately, there was little traffic as we climbed up through the trees, with views over the Sil valley being revealed. We parked our car in the underground carpark and ascended by lift to enter this large imposing building. Everything about this Parador is imposing, from the ancient cloisters, the artwork, the rooms, the dining room and especially the view.

We had our meal in the dining room that evening, which was quite an experience. The waitress was telling us the area is known as the Ribeiro de Sacra, the wine has a  Spanish Denominación de Origen We ordered the pulpo or octopus, a regional speciality and merluza or hake, pictures below. it was delicious.

When we arrived the receptionist gave us details of three walks from the hotel. As we had sat a lot on the ferry and in the car, we decided to take on the challenge of the longest walk of 5 miles. The walk basically was a meander down to the valley, with a hermitage to view, along the road, not as low as the river, then a climb back up to monastery. The day was fresh, it had rained over night, there were some shower clouds about. We walked for about 10 minutes when to our dismay we saw a sign, saying the path was closed and sorry. Undaunted we thought we would continue to see what the problem was. We did have to clamber over some pipework, but the rest of the path continued and so did we. We had views across the valley to the railway line and saw an occasional train, as we descended we could see the monastery amongst the trees above. We followed the signs as we walked along the road and as we started climbing again back up the hill, we had a heavy shower of rain and we got soaked. Fortunately we had bought new cagoules in England, it was a case of head down, keep following the path, it will get better. Slowly but surely we got higher, we were teased with glimpses of our target, until we came out in a clearing, we were actually higher than the monastery, so got some great views actually looking down on it.

After a rest and another lovely meal and another good night’s sleep, we set off to our next destination. As we went out into the car park it was filled with Ferrari and Porsche cars.

Flora&Fauna Spanish countryside

Touring green Spain Part 3

Portugal & Parador de Tordesillas, Valladolid 8th/9th June

As we set off from the parador de Santo Estevo , I was quite anxious about the journey back down the twisty narrow road, actually it was fine. We had decided to divert from our original route and go into Portugal, if only briefly. So we reset the satnav to Bragança, (Braganza) and set off along the motorway. At the Spanish/Portuguese border we turned off from a trunk road onto a country road following the contours of a very hilly area. We love these type of roads and eventually arrived at a village Parâmio, where we had a (very small) cup of coffee at a Taberna do Capelas. We then travelled on to Bragança, we found a supermarket (Intermarche) and bought fruit, cakes, drinks, wine and other things. We then reprogrammed the satnav and headed back into Spain and the parador. What did surprise us, was that on the country lanes and the motorways with wonderful viaducts over large valleys there was hardly another vehicle to be seen.

Mid afternoon, we had arrived at the parador de Tordesillas Valladolid. The location of this hotel was such a contrast to the last as it was situated in an industrial area on a busy road. The hotel was surrounded by pine trees, we found a place in the carpark near to the reception. The room was very attractive and overlooked an inner courtyard. This parador had an indoor heated pool, as well as a large open pool area, the toe test proved that the indoor pool was the correct option. We enjoyed a swim and luxuriating in jacuzzi. We had an evening meal in the restaurant of suckling pig and lamb overlooking the garden and pine trees. We spotted an azure winged magpie, flitting around.

The next morning Sunday, we walked along the road towards the town of Tordesillas, situated on the river Douro (Duero in Spanish). We had followed the river from Braganza in Portugal.

The birds here included, azure winged magpie, swifts, swallows, white stork, male and female linnets and a short toed eagle. We checked out of the hotel and set off along the Duero valley, with mile after mile of vines of the Ribera del Duero, one of our favourite wines. We stopped at a roadside restaurant and enjoyed a “menu del dia”, we bought three bottles of wine there too.

Parador de Lerma 9th/10th June

We arrived at Lerma later that Sunday afternoon, it was very busy with Spanish families enjoying the fiesta atmosphere, the Parador in the province of Burgos was a Ducal palace, an extraordinary building. We found a place to park and checked in, our room was on the side overlooking, what was the gardens, now a steep slope and trees with expansive vistas beyond. John threw open the window and the birdsong from below was amazing. We heard, but didn’t see nightingale call, perched close by was a melodious warbler, a black redstart landed nearby a real treat. As we had eaten earlier, we had a walk around the narrow streets, we stopped at a bar, filled inside with couples watching a bullfight on the TV, we sat outside enjoying a beer for John, ice cream for me. It was good to soak up the atmosphere of the sounds of Spanish life and culture. The Tapestry is on the wall of the parador, it’s a modern piece called “Emblems of love”.

We set off the next day, we only had a short drive to the next hotel, so we decided to leave the motorways and find a more interesting route. Find out in Part 4.