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  1. 2 points
    Wednesday. The drive from Merida to Seville was only 130 miles and since I did it without a break, I arrived at the site in time for an early lunch. Camping Villsom is a wooded site laid out on a red sandy ground, consequently the sand is easily transferred from shoes to car or caravan. It does however drain quickly after rain. There’s only the one toilet block to one side of the site which has obviously been refurbished to a quite high standard. The electric bollards are situated in the centre of the site, so some pitches will require an extra long mains lead. The water points are very decoratively tiled illustrating the adventures of Don Quixote. However, without a useful length of hose, the taps are not Aquaroll friendly. The last time I was here – around five years ago, the site was without lights at night-time. Street lighting has now been installed. Camping Villsom seems to be the only site open in the winter months, consequently there is no ACSI discount and it is the most expensive site I’ve used on this present tour. For one person with car and caravan+electric the fee was €39.50 for two nights. With water and electric connected, and a nice sunny afternoon ahead of me, I decided to drive back up the motorway for 16 miles to take a look at Italica. This is a large area where the Roman City of Italica once stood. For others wishing to visit this attraction it’s worth mentioning the fact that like most archaeological sites in Spain, the complex is closed on Mondays. Admission price is a modest €1.50, however I presented my EU passport, so I entered without charge. The modern town of Santiponce is built on just part of the ruins, so much of the excavations are in an area which has never been developed. The port and city of Italica was founded around 200 years BC and was the first Roman settlement to be built in the south of the Iberian Peninsular. It began life as a settlement for soldiers who had been wounded in battle against the Carthaginian Armies. Hadrian spent his childhood here whilst Trajan, another future Emperor was born in the city. When Hadrian became emperor much of the town was rebuilt with new temples and public buildings. Although the house walls have long gone, the mosaic floors are left. Wide streets were laid out in a grid pattern which were paved. Curb stones gave a raised porticoed pavement along each side. Under the main streets is a system of arched drains to carry away household sewage. Also the town benefited from public toilets. A water supply was brought to the city in aqueducts where it was stored in cisterns. Lead pipes fed water to various fountains and public bath houses in the town. Just outside the city walls was the amphitheatre. The one built at Italica had seats for 25000 spectators, making it almost as big as the Coliseum in Rome. The arena floor had a basement beneath it which housed animals and other equipment used in the activities. The city’s demise began from the 3rd century when the Guadalquivir river changed its course, leaving the city’s docking area silted up. At the same time the new, nearby city of Seville began to gather importance. Thursday. I had a long day planned so I made an early start by leaving the site by 8.40. I joined the commuter traffic heading up the motorway into the city centre. I found car parking impossible so I briefly parked illegally and went the 100 yards or so to grab a couple of pictures of the Plaza de Espania. The complex was built in 1928/29 as part of the Spanish/American Exhibition. Unfortunately, the function wasn’t quite the success it had been hoped for because the financial depression in America coincided with the opening of the exhibition. With my pictures taken, I hurried back to the car and decided to head back to the motorway. This time the A4 for my next stop 25 miles away at the town of Carmona. I found a parking slot in a street close to the Alcazar. Being 11am, it was just about to open. The castle was started in the 7th Century as a Palace for the Islamic Governor of the district. It was extended and improved in the 14th Century by King Pedro 1st. Later still at the end of the 15th Century it was used by Ferdinand & Isabella. Being situated on the highest point, there is a wonderful view from the tower walls. Knowing that it might be difficult to park, I decided to walk to some of the other buildings of interest. A few streets away I visited the Santa Clara Convent. The community was created in 1460 with one of the main benefactors being Beatriz, the Duchess of Arcos, the same benefactor that supported the convent at Tordillas. In present times, the nuns’ workshop specializes in the production of pastries. From the convent I moved on a couple of streets and called in at the town museum where several rooms are given over to different periods throughout the ages. For a town which attracts visitors from all over the world, it’s a pity that descriptive notes are confined to just Spanish text. A few hundred yards down the road brought me to the Puerta de Córdoba, a huge triumphal arch built as one of four entrances to the town during the Roman period. Over the years the appearance has changed with modifications being carried out. Originally it was built with a three arched entry but later, the two outer arches were built up. From this point, I turned about, walked the length of what used to be the Roman high street and arrived at the second entrance to the town, the Puerta de Sevilla. Although this is the site of the Roman entrance to the town, the building is from the Moorish times when the Alcaza was also built. It underwent major alterations in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t a clue how to get back to where I’d parked the car. I walked backwards and forwards trying to find streets that I thought would take me in the direction I needed to go. But to no avail. Eventually I decided I would have to return along the route taken from Puerta de Córdoba. I stopped once again to rest in the Plaza de San Fernando. By following signs to the Museum and thence to the Convent, I began to recognize roads I’d walked along earlier in the day. One final bench on which to rest and I knew I would find the car just around the corner. Gratefully, I got in to have a late lunch. The time – just coming up to 4pm. I’d had all the walking I needed for one day so just one more stop before heading for the motorway. This next one could be seen from the roadside – the undeveloped site of the town’s Roman Arena. Tomorrow is moving day again. To read this blog with several more pictures see HERE 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0
  2. 1 point
    Camping El Astral is a large site situated alongside a wide and fast-flowing River Duero. The town of Tordesillas is built on a hill and is situated on the far side of the bridge The approach to the site is along an unattractive, potholed, dirt road, leading into an open space in front of the reception building. I entered the office where I was greeted warmly. My passport was copied but my ACSI card was rejected. I booked in for two nights with electricity. I was given a code with which to raise the barrier; also a plan of the site with instructions to park where I wished. I suggested paying immediately and was asked for just €23 – for two nights with electricity!. Although the site runs parallel with the river, it’s not possible to approach the water since a high wire fence surrounds the site and is fixed about 30 yards from the river bank. The toilet block is situated centrally on the site and is fitted out to a very high standard. Laundry sinks are fitted outside the block but under cover. Three pay-to-use washing machines are also installed. Electric bollards are shared by six or so pitches, so a full length mains cable could be required. Water taps are situated at the road sides about 100 meters apart – as are the waste bins. Four foot high hedges separate each plot, many of which are drive through. When I arrived, seven other units were also parked. With electric and water connected, I removed a chicken chasseur from my freezer compartment, and after several minutes in the microwave, dinner was ready. I find that well-frozen food from the home freezer, still stays quite solid after the crossing from Portsmouth if the fridge is packed with care. As I prepared for bed, there was that familiar sound again. The rain had caught up with me! It rained for most of the night and continued into the morning. By ten thirty all my neighbours had packed and moved on. But having booked two nights, I stayed in the caravan taking advantage of the site’s very good internet connection. By lunch time the rain had stopped and the clouds were showing signs of brightening so I got ready to go out and explore. Just a couple of hundred yards along the river bank is the bridge crossing over into town. It’s known that there was a bridge here in the 10th Century, however the present bridge which is built on ten pointed arches dates from the 16th Century with further repairs being carried out at later periods. Because the river is wide and fast-flowing, repair work is even now being undertaken. On the far side of the bridge, at the entrance to the town is a monument – the Toro de la Vega. I drove up the hill, through the old part of the town and arrived at the Plaza Mayor, a typical Castillian square surrounded by arcaded houses and big balconies. The surface is cobbled using two types of stone forming a pattern of squares. A road runs from each side of the square to where once was an outer wall, pierced with entrance gates for each of the four sides. In medieval times, the square would have been used for markets, festivities, bull-fights and religious processions. On all four sides of the square there are colonnaded walk-ways supporting the upper floors of the buildings and their balconies. I took one of the four roads leading from the square and eventually arrived at the Real Monasterio de Santa Clara. The building was originally built as a palace by Alfonso XI in 1340 but after Alfonso’s death, his son, Peter gave it to his daughter who turned it into a monastery in memory of Santa Clara who had previously founded a Franciscan order of women known as Poor Clares. Wandering about the grounds and buildings, one is reminded of the Alhambra at Granada. The weather had been kind for four hours but it was too good to last. On the walk back to the Plaza, the rain started again. Time to move on tomorrow. Saturday. The sun was shining this morning . First time I’ve seen it since I arrived in Spain. Before leaving the site, I went along to the bridge to take a few sun-lit pictures. Then in spite of a neighbour who wanted to Talk, I had every thing packed and ready to roll by 9.45. The drive to the motorway was along straight, traffic free roads and within four miles, I was heading south towards Salamanca. By now, the sun had left us and the clouds were taking on an unpleasant shade of black. A few more miles rolled by and I became aware of a head wind with the bushes along the central reservation tossing their heads and leaning towards me. And it wasn’t long before the rain started again. Together with an ever increasing altitude showing on the dashboard, my fuel gauge was falling rapidly. I’ddone 160 miles but still had another fifty miles to do before reaching my planned stop, but then I saw the turn for Caceres, I decided to call it a day and booked in at Camping Caceres. I’ve been here before so I knew I would not be disappointed. I presented my ACSI card, booked in for two nights and paid €36. The last time I was here was in beautiful weather, under cloudless skies. The site is situated on a slope but every pitch has been levelled. To one side of every plot there is a brick and tiled roofed building. These rooms are practically tiled on floor and walls and each contain a handbasin, toilet pan and shower. The hot water is supplied by instant heaters, so is always available. Each pitch is also supplied with a three metre hose connection, a plastic table and a couple of plastic chairs. Each plot has its own electrical socket. Not many caravanners were on site, so I had a wide choice of pitch. I was fortunate in that I got legs down, water plumbed in and electric connected in the dry, for not long afterwards, the rain returned and persisted throughout the night. Sunday. I didn’t need to raise the blinds to see the day. I could hear it. When I did raise them I was greeted by a grim view. It looked as though it was to be another ‘in’ day. But then the weather forecast for the district was showing some sunshine between 12 and 3, followed by thunder storms. On the strength of the forecast, I had an early lunch, then set out for the town – which is about two miles away. I’d already noted down the coordinates for a multi-floored car park close to the historic quarter. Being Sunday, I found a slot on the ground floor. I walked through narrow streets and down flights of steps towards the Plaza Mayor hardly believing what I was seeing. The sun was beginning to shine. By the time I’d reached the square, the sky had taken on a completely different aspect – providing I didn’t look behind me! I I walked across the square, up the steps and through the Arco de la Estrella to the square containing the Church of Santa Maria. As I stood looking across at the Episcopal Palace, then up at the bell-tower of the church, I was reminded of the passage of time. When I was here last in 2015, I’d thought nothing of climbing up the belfry to see the view from the top. Now, sadly, the first dozen of those steps would leave me struggling to breathe. I made my way back through the narrow streets and discovered that since my last visit, an escalator had been fitted alongside one flight of steps. What a welcome sight! Back in the car park, and I presented my ticket to the machine. A very reasonable 85 cents. I suppose it was too good to last. By the time I was back at the site, the rain had returned. Also another caravanner had arrived at this virtually empty site. What made him want to park outside my front window? Tomorrow is moving day again………And the weather is supposed to be changing… .for the better……….We’ll see! To read this blog with several motor pictures, see https://jondogoescaravanning.com/spain-nov-2019-feb-2020/
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