What I’ve been dreading arrived earlier in the week……………….Having to think about heading for home. I’d spent the morning cleaning then removing from the awning the oven, the microwave and all the furniture. Most of it went in the car but the microwave went on the floor in the end bathroom. It’s useful to have it there to use it on the journey home.
After lunch, I did what I do most days, I took a ride down the hill, along the main road to the prom,
picking up a few bits of shopping on the way back. It was sad to think that this was the last visit for this year. With the awning still to take down it was worrying to hear the rain pattering on the roof during the night, But it didn’t last long and it quickly dried as the sun came up. About half nine, Willy and Paul arrived to lend a hand with the taking down, cleaning and packing away of the awning. They are good neighbours and it was a relief to reach the stage where it was all done and we could open the lagers.
By 9.30 next morning, with the van turned, hitched on, lights checked and I was ready to start. Willy, Paul, Michael & Peggy came down to send me on my way and very soon I was heading east on the A7. This would be my route back to Bilbao.
After 75 miles I pulled in for a coffee break and to my dismay, discovered my off-side indicator on the van had stopped working. However, I managed without it and reached Santa Elena in time for a late lunch. Reception was closed and it took some time to find the owner, but finally I check-in and paid €18 for the night. I’ve stopped at this site several times over the years and I’ve written reviews in previous blog editions.
Briefly, the toilets and showers are very good, although toilet pans are lacking seats. Each plot has electric, water and waste water disposal, however the electric points are antiquated and in need of attention. The supply to each pitch is turned on at reception so if you inadvertently trip the breaker, getting the power restored could be difficult. Reception is rarely open and the owner is not readily available. To avoid any delay when I wanted to leave, I paid when I checked in however, the following morning at 9.30, reception was closed, the barrier was down and owner was not to be found. He appeared 10 minutes later having been off site.
For six or seven years a new viaduct has carried traffic over the gorge, and to join the motorway requires a left turn from the site road and a drive through the village. A right hand turn takes you on the drive through the gorge. Since I was in no great hurry, I decided to go that way. Without the nose to tail convoys of HGVs that once used the road, it’s become a lovely drive.
After four or five miles I rejoined the motorway and did 100 miles before stopping to refuel and take a coffee break at N4/Km98. Back on the motorway, I didn’t stop again till I reached La Cabrera on the N1/Km57. To negotiate Madrid I left the N4 at Junction 17 to join the M50 and stayed on the M50 till the exit for Burgos/Junc. 21 of the N1.
I handed over my ACSI card and paid €20 for the one night. Only after check-in was I informed that the toilet block on the tourist section was closed for renovation. It was a long walk to the nearest block. I was able to pitch without unhitching. To reach Burgos I only had 100 miles to do, so there was no great hurry to leave. It also allowed the thick coating of ice to melt from the windscreen. Within five minutes, I was on the N1 and heading for Puerto de Sommosierra. It’s a five mile climb to the top but a very well engineered three lane motorway with only gentle curves. I didn’t stop until I reached Camping Fuentes Blancas at Burgos at around mid-day. Again, I presented my ACSI card but the guy rejected it, telling me it would be €2 cheaper if I booked in at the single person rate. That set me thinking – maybe I don’t need an ACSI card!
I don’t have to be at Bilbao till Monday evening, so I booked for two nights. I spent the afternoon first by changing the indicator bulb in the o/side rear light. That made no difference. A check on the pin at the socket showed no power when the car’s indicator was flashing. To investigate further will require the car to be unpacked – so I’ll have to manage till I’m home. Instead I took a walk along the outside of the site boundary fence and down to the river bank.
Next day I packed some lunch and a beer and set off in the car for Burgos. My first stop was on Castle hill. I parked quite close to the Castle entrance. In the 12th Century, during the Arab occupation, the hill had a palace and fort built on it
As the town gradually increased in size, so did the walls surrounding the town. At the same time the Castle increased in size and the defences were made stronger. It was during the Peninsular War that the English army arrived here under the command of Lord Wellington who after his victories at Badajoz and Salamanca, thought to capture Burgos and drive away the invading French. Consequently he laid siege to the castle on the 19th September 1812 and after more than a month, had to face defeat and retreat back towards Portugal. A plaque close to the entrance commemorates the appalling loss of life on both sides. Nearly 2000 seriously wounded and more than 800 killed.
A bit further down the hill I stopped to look at one of the entrances through the medieval town wall. This is the San Esteban gate.
My next stop was to be at the Cathedral but finding a parking place proved impossible. Since, I’d visited the Cathedral two or three years ago, I gave up on the idea and moved on to my last port of call. The Cartuja de Miraflores.
Cartuja is the Spanish word for a religious house of Carthusian Order and Miraflores was the name given to a 14th Century royal hunting lodge which once stood on the site. Carthusian monks maintain a code of silence and live cut off from the outside world. Even family members are only expected to visit once each year. Their habit consists of a fawn hooded gown which ensures they only see what’s in front of them.
The monastery was founded in 1442 by King Juan II of Castile.
Once inside, the eye is drawn to the vaulting in the roof. Then to the stained glass. Unfortunately it is so high up that it is impossible to fully appreciate. Apparently it was made in Flanders in the 15th Century. Whenever I visit an ancient religious house my interest always lies in the woodwork and carving. Here there is plenty. The forty choir stalls –
twenty on each side were carved from walnut in 1489 by a craftsman from Valladolid. Just beyond the choir stalls was a small door each panel depicting one of the evangelists. Here is a closer view of just one panel.
Next I came across a book of chants which would have been laboriously written and decorated by hand . The style of musical notation is plainsong which is always written on a stave of four lines instead of the modern five.
Tomorrow is the final stage. The drive down to Bilbao.
I was in no great hurry to leave since it was only a drive of 110 miles, so I delayed leaving until 11 o’clock. Within a few miles I’d reached the AP1. The first thing I thing I noticed was the removal of the toll booths. On this stretch of motorway tolls charges ceased 18 months ago. The Spanish government’s policy is that once building costs have been recovered, the toll charges are removed. So, since my journey was done on the AP1 then the AP68, only the latter section was charged for. The toll charge was €10.25.
Before entering the dock area, I took the second exit just a short distance away to buy diesel. This filling station must sell the cheapest diesel in the whole of Spain. I paid €1.10 per litre. My previous fill-up on the A4 had cost me 1.28 per litre. Check-in had just opened as I arrived at the port, so I was booked in, given my windscreen label and cabin key and proceeded to the boarding lanes. This was the view at 4pm
By the time check in closes at 7pm no doubt there will be several more units joining me to spend the night on the dockside.
For whatever reason, I slept really well parked in the boarding lanes. I didn’t even hear the rain which had obviously fallen during the night. Cap Finistère arrived in Bilbao on time and unloading seemed to take for ever. Eventually I boarded and got parked on deck 5. My cabin was on deck 9 and I didn’t have too far to walk to the nearest lift. As I parked the outfit, a deck hand pulled on my caravan’s handbrake, at the same time swivelling his outstretched hand. I got his message!
We eventually left the berth about 30 minutes late. At first, moving about the ship could be done without difficulty, but by afternoon the sea had become rough so I kept to my cabin and watched a dvd. My bunk was aligned with the length of the ship and at times during the night I thought I was going to be rolled onto the floor. Not until we were well up the Channel did the sea moderate. Because of the reduction in speed during the night, instead of arriving in Portsmouth at 9.15, we arrived at 12.30.
Border Control at Portsmouth has become a nightmare. Of the eight available lanes, only three were open. Each vehicle driver hands over their passport(s). They are scanned, then the pictures compared with the occupants of the vehicle. Then the Officer leaves his cabin and proceeds to examine the interior of the caravan or motor van. As most vehicles consist of a motorvan or caravan with several outside lockers which are all examined, the inspections take for ever. Although the ship docked at 12.30, as I joined the motorway outside the dockyard, the time was 2.45. That’s two hours and 15 minutes to embark and pass through Border Control. Ninety minutes later I was home.
This blog together with my travel costs may be seen with several more pictures HERE